Monday, January 16, 2012

I Don’t Even Play a Doctor on TV

I like to volunteer, but there is a problem with how I go about doing it. I think it has something to do with my being a know-it-all who constantly wants to correct things because I am always right. There are other factors involved. I like being in charge, and my ultimate goal is to be a benevolent dictator with unilateral authority over a tropical island country with nothing but pretty people as my loyal subjects. I read The Secret, so this is attainable.

My volunteer history works something like this. I join an organization. I do a couple of things for them, then I offer my unsolicited opinion on how something should be done, then I do it myself because if you want something done right, do it yourself, then they ask me to serve on their board, and then I become president of the board for longer than anyone else in the history of their organization. The amazing thing is that all the above steps leading to my unanimous election as president usually take less than six months. I am not kidding.

If your organization needs a newsletter editor or booth designer, that is my favorite pathway to your leadership. Be warned.

Lucy in the Peanuts comic strip once said while sitting in her psychiatry booth, every eleventh person is a natural born leader. That means the birth order is ten followers, one leader.

Once I become president, everyone complains about how I act like a dictator, try to do everything myself, and offer my unsolicited and unfiltered opinions, but for some reason, they keep asking me to run again. I offer to let any one of them have the job, then they tell me how much they appreciate what I do. Whatever. I totally understand how all the Kim Thisses and Thats have stayed in power in North Korea for so long. No one else wants to run things. And they say democracy is the preferred form of government. Hah!

I wonder what Lucy says about the ratio of dictators.

Even a dictator gets tired. After five years as a synagogue president, I was burned out. Less than a year into my volunteer retirement, I was the newsletter editor for the Straight Eights, the oldest gay car club in the United States (for those who don’t know, straight eight is a type of engine and sort of a play on words). Within a year of that, I was elected president of the car club, and I am still in that position today.

In case you are wondering, this sort of thing happens at work, too. When I first entered publishing, I was working as an $8.50 per hour part-time proofreader. In six weeks, I was running the department, and this pattern has continued to this day as well, except in the corporate world there is a glass ceiling for dictators, but I aim to break that.

This year, I have made a pledge to continue volunteering without becoming part of the leadership. Let’s see if I am successful.

The way I intend to achieve my goal is to volunteer for small tasks, go in, do my thing, keep my mouth shut, and leave. There are people who know me well who just did a spit take.

I belong to the Scleroderma Foundation. My mother died from complications of Scleroderma, an autoimmune disease in the same family as Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. The name means “stone skin” in Greek. With Scleroderma, your body attacks itself by overproducing collagen, and your skin and internal organs turn to stone. The actor, Jason Alexander, whose sister has the disease, is a national spokesman. Bob Saget’s sister died from the disease, and he produced a movie of the week about it several years ago. For some unknown reason, the majority of Scleroderma sufferers are Jewish women and Black men.

As a member of the foundation, I get emails with opportunities to volunteer. Recently, they had a booth at the NBC4 Health Expo at the Washington Convention Center, and they needed booth staff for two-hour intervals. I decided to volunteer, and I made up my mind just to show up, do what they ask, and leave.

The NBC4 Health Expo is free to the public and huge. They have a kid’s soccer field, aerobics demonstrations, vision and hearing screenings, blood pressure testing, HIV testing, etc. Since it is free, it attracts a diversity of attendees, so you know with me there staffing a booth …

I arrived ten minutes early, and the couple staffing before me, gave me the run-down of which pamphlets to give out first, and what to tell people. Surprisingly, I was the only one volunteering alone. Well, not surprisingly. This happens to natural born dictators as well. We get assigned solo tasks by people who don’t even know us. I have never met the man who was in charge of the booth, yet he made me the only one in two days of slots to work alone. For me, that is not a problem. I do my best work alone.

Once left on my own, I studied the booth design. The gods were testing me. The pamphlets were neatly stacked, but the display, a four-by-two tri-fold, was a disaster. It was set off center, had no central focus, and it was visually unappealing. Now, old Milton would immediately have contacted the organizer and offered to redesign their display and stage all their future booths, and we all know how that would have ended.

New Milton took two aspirins and did not say a word.

People came up to the booth and asked about Scleroderma, and I explained what it was and forced them to take brochures. Interestingly, the only ones who knew what it was either had a friend or relative with it or were health professionals who had witnessed its effects.

Then the other aspect of my wonderful life took effect. My crazy magnet went into high force field. They all found me.

Crazies love two things: free stuff and an audience.

You should have seen all the people with their free canvas tote bags carting around more pamphlets than a Jehovah’s Witness. Being stuck behind a booth, I had nowhere to hide. And being at a disease booth, I suddenly became a diagnostician. Who knew there were so many hypochondriacs in the world?

Once I described Scleroderma, 75 percent of the crazies thought they had it. At one point, I had an audience, including one well-dressed woman whose wig was pushed back too far. It took everything in me not to adjust that thing.

The coup de grâce was the morbidly obese woman who lifted up her pants leg to show me a spot on her inner thigh and asked if I thought she had it.

I looked right into her eyes and said, “Honey, I don’t even play a doctor on TV.”

Thanks to some small mercy, my shift was finally up, and my replacement came to relieve me. She took one look at the booth and said, “That display needs work.”

I said to myself as I walked away, “She must be a number eleven, too.”

If you like what you just read or attracted to me because you are crazy, follow me get on my list, tell your friends.

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