"How would you like to volunteer for the Senior Citizen Commission ... there's an opening coming up soon?" Mac asked me at Life Story class one day.
"Do you think I could do that? I've always been a 'behind the scenes worker ... I'm not sure I qualify."
"You'd be good on the commission .... you're full of ideas, I know that from class, and you volunteer for many projects at church and with drug and alcohol groups ... why not get the prestige of sitting on the commission? My Life Story Writing teacher was a very persuasive man.
"O.K. What next?" I asked.
"Show up at the next City Council Meeting and give a two or three minute pitch on why you'd like to volunteer for the position. There will be many people doing this for various CAB's and the Commission."
He gave me the date and time. I had a few days to sweat it out, prepare my notes and decide on what to wear for the momentous occasion. I decided on my jade pants suit. This was uncharted territory for me and it started the adrenalin flow like you wouldn't believe.
We check our calendars each night before we go to bed to see what appointments we might have on the following day. Whether we have to set the alarm for an early meeting or we can sleep in. I saw the City Council Meeting at 6:00 p.m. and made a mental note. I had a full day, a medical appointment in the morning, lunch with Norma followed by shopping at the mall. Then my debut at the City Council. Whew! I did not usually put so much stress into one day, but it had already been charted when Mac told me the date to appear before the Mayor.
The phone rang.
"It's almost 7:00 p.m.," it was Mac.
"So? Oh, my gosh! I forgot!"
"Get yourself over here, there's more people than they expected, so you can still appear. Give your name to the City Clerk, sit on the back row and wait for them to call you."
We only lived six blocks, so it was feasible for me to get there in a hurry. What Mac did not know was that I was talking to him wearing my grubbiest outfit, barefooted and no make-up since the morning.
l looked in the mirror. No time for more than lipstick. I grabbed a red-white and blue necklace to throw over my head. It would help make me look as though I might possibly have had a plan when I put on my blue T-shirt and pants after shopping.
I was out of breath by the time I reached the city clerk and spouted out my name. I sat down and did some deep breathing to calm myself. That's when I remembered that I had left my copius notes about my personal qualifications at home. Yuk!
Just then they called the lady in front of me. She was dressed in a real suede pants suit, her hair professionally coifed and she looked like Mrs. Gotrocks from the rings on her hand. There went my self esteem.
I blocked out her words oozing in dulcet tones from the microphone while I mentally went through my best attributes:
I'd been an Optometric Assisstant running one girl offices. I'd raised a large family and now had nine grandchildren and seven great-grands. I'd written and sold a book. I'd facilitated a drug and alcohol recovery group at church for the past five years. I had been co-owner of a fast-printing business, plus I was successful in real estate sales and investing. I'd lived in this area for eight years, having helped in the re-model of an old house and was now ready to give something back to the community. Whew! I hoped I could squeeze all that into two minutes.
I have no recollection whatsoever of my visit to the microphone before the City Council and the Mayor. None. Except that I was wearing grubbies and would not be chosen!
"Thank you," I said and sat down.
You did fine," Mac said after the meeting, "but why were you late?"
"I must have had a mental block about it .... I just totally forgot it!"
A few weeks later I was notified by mail that I had been chosen to be on the Senior Citizen Commission for a period of two years. A personal interview was scheduled, followed by indoctrination meetings and educational videos followed that.
I had expected round table discussion group meetings. Sleeves up...let's get to work. Boy was I surprised! I went to my first meeting in the formal City Council Chamber. We were assigned seats at the council desk, a raised, semi-circular model with closed circuit TV monitors for each member, with private microphone, vacuum-type water pitcher and massive leather chairs to sit at. A name plate identified where I was to sit. Spot lights highlighted the entire twenty foot desk. I was impressed!
From there it went down hill! Roberts Rules of Order reigned supreme, it took months of tedious, detailed, sub-committee work to get anything done, and I realized very early on that the City Council was not all that thrilled with our presence. We were an advocacy, advisory group and very little of what we said got anywhere.
I worked on projects in sub-committee for Encinitas Days at Moonlight Beach where we displayed a small architects model of the proposed new Senior Center to be built in Oak Crest Park. At Christmas time we rode in the Poinsettia Days Parade in an old "woody" station wagon waving to the crowds. The Senior Information Fair in the Spring brought all agencies for the aging together to give out informational brochures and counsel. For me, it involved helping to decorate tables, tieing-up balloons and serving coffee and cookies all day. Hardly the kind of work I expected to do. The senior information video "Searching for Golden Treasure" was the most prestigious project we did, but we couldn't even get the City Council to come and view it at our premier! It was my 15 seconds of fame, as they filmed one of our meetings in action. I felt like a star. I looked impressively great in my teal colored pants suit, sitting at my post on the docket of the Encinitas City Council. It was later shown on Cox Cable and PBS and we took turns taking it to local clubs, churches and organizations to promote senior activities of Encinitas.
We were also involved in developing Project Care, along with Scripps Hospital, the Post Office, the Fire Department and the City of Encinitas in checking on the well-being of seniors. This project involved computer generated phone-calls in the morning, and a Vial of Life medical informationkit to attach to their refrigerator in case of 911 calls so that the emergency crew has access to crucial life saving information. This has met with some success.
If I sound disillusioned by my first and last term in the 'first rung of government' position that I volunteered for, it was because I found it to be frustrating, time consuming to the max and a thankless job. I'm sure not all city councils are like this one, but I felt my qualifications had little to do with the job .... they needed more muscle than creative minds. Maybe that's what all volunteer work is like, but I at least wanted to be thanked profusely. Instead they were rigid in their rule of three absences to meetings per year and you're out. Besides the regular meeting, there were many months that I gave twelve hours or more to committee or projects which didn't account for anything as far as my attendance was concerned.
I found I didn't have as much free time to pursue my first desire, and that was to sit in front of the computer documenting our family's life on this planet.
I can chalk this one up to 'Big Learning Experience'. Prestigious, but not my cup of tea! I am still a great behind the scenes worker. I just don't like my hands tied while I'm doing it!
Besides that, I hated Roberts Rules of Order. Still do!
Copyright © 1996 - Thelly Reahm - Tidbits of Time