I used to be yogurt and drinks. Not alcoholic drinks, mind you. We are talking the Food Bank after all, and I can’t imagine handing each client a bottle of Jack Daniels, or even a six-pack of Bud Light. The beverages I was in charge of distributing were more along the lines of orange juice or cranberry drink, with a pomegranate kombucha or coconut water/green tea combo thrown in a time or two to liven things up.
Then the multi-millionaire bumped me. Such is the way of the monied, isn’t it? Thems that has, gets? To be fair, I understand the Food Bank manager’s decision to bring in ol’ Ritchie Rich — the quest for funding is a constant challenge in the world of non-profits, and it sure doesn’t hurt to have someone with overflowing pockets on your side.
This particular well-heeled fellow is the very one who purchased the old cannery building on the waterfront and turned the entire thing into a condo for himself and his wife. Fortunately, they left the exterior pretty much as it was so it continues to blend in with the other historic downtown buildings. That’s it there at the lower right corner, the pitch-roofed structure just on the other side of the pier.
I’ll bet he has one hell of a view. And now, every Wednesday, he also has my yogurt and drink station at the Food Bank.
Truth is, I was a temporary fill-in at that spot anyway. The regular yogurt and drink person is spending the winter in Southern California and I knew all along that when she returned, I’d be reassigned. To which station, I don’t know. The manager will find me a permanent place somewhere, though, that much is certain. See, for some crazy reason, she’s thinks I’m the greatest. The Rolls Royce of volunteers. She decided as much the first day I walked into the joint, before I’d done a lick of work or uttered maybe a dozen words.
That she has no real basis for placing me on a pedestal (or in the case of the Food Bank, a cracked fold-out table) is something I don’t intend to argue with. I’ll take all the accolades I can get, warranted or not.
When Mr. Money Bags arrived on the scene, I bid a silent adieu to my yogurt and beverage table and spent the work day substituting for the vacationing computer check-in lady. It’s an easy gig — you sit at the front desk and on an Excel spreadsheet, type a “1” beside the name of every person coming to get food. (Even I’m enough of a computer wizard to handle it, and that’s saying something.) At the end of the day, the computer totals up how many clients came through.
Sharing the desk with me was 92-year-old Grace and her stack of paper print-outs with the exact information as on the computer. Every time I typed a “1,” Grace thumbed through the pages and felt-tip penned a red splotch beside the same name on her list. Why the duplication of effort? From what I gathered, simply to give Grace something to do.
Which would be great if her final total agreed with the one on the Excel spreadsheet. It didn’t that day — my tally was 273; hers came out to 256 — and Grace was convinced it was the fault of the computer (in other words, me). As all the other volunteers slowly filed out of the building, Grace and I sat firm while she recited the name of every person on her list who visited that day and one-by-one, I double-checked the computer to make sure I’d entered them all correctly.
I had. As Grace once more began scratching her numbers onto a piece of paper to try to find the error, my resolve wore thinner and thinner until I finally reached over and snatched her tally sheet, grabbed a calculator and added them up myself. When I showed her the total — 273 — she declared, “Yes, see? That’s what I had written down.”
It hadn’t been, of course.
I realize I should have been more patient. Yet patience isn’t one of my strong suits and besides, Grace talked pretty much nonstop while we shared that desk, meaning I had my head turned her way for a neck-breaking six hours with relief coming only in the seconds it took to search a name on the computer and enter the corresponding “1.” Still, once the aspirins I dry-swallowed as I exited the Food Bank took hold, I was able to appreciate how the experience maybe wasn’t all that bad. Maybe.
Next week I’m being moved to the bread table. It’s in the adjacent room, out of sight from my beloved yogurt and drinks, and I have to get to the Food Bank an hour earlier in order to sort the various bread products and arrange them on the shelves. At least I won’t be the front desk again, however, for which I’ll be most grateful.
Regardless, when Grace arrives and settles into her chair, I’ll sincerely bid her a fine good morning. At 92 years old, and having volunteered at the Port Townsend Food Bank every week since she was 78, it’s she who deserves the real accolades.
So thank you Grace, very much. There needs to be more people like you in this world. Could I ask you one little favor though? If I ever work the front desk again, do you think you could maybe take a few minutes beforehand and learn how to use the calculator?