Monday, October 22, 2007

First snow

There's something special about the first snow of autumn with the soft fall of crystals glinting when the sun peeks down from the leaden sky, the flakes getting bigger and bigger until it looks like a celestial pillow fight with the sky full of downy feathers. I don't know if it's the cold air rushing through the open windows or the watery sunshine or just the smell of freshness in the air that makes my synapses fire faster and with more creative force, but whatever the reason I have been on a writing roll the past few days. I'm not getting much reading done, but the writing is going so well words invade my sleep in a tangled, twisted heap and wake me with a nearly finished article or story I can't wait to fire up the laptop and write. Makes it a little tough getting any rest, but the flurry of words will die down just like the rain that turned to snow and then to big downy clumps yesterday and I will be able to huddle beneath my blanket, warm and snug and breathing snow-freshened air while surrealistic dreams whisk me away into fantasy lands.

This morning, a metaphor about the electricity going out and the people who keep the lights on kept swirling through my mind until I had to write it down. I've been thinking about writing an editorial in the ham club newsletter about the people in the PPRAA who keep the lights on -- so to speak. These people have suffered two major defections by past members who took a big chunk of the membership with them and the remaining core of hard-working people kept things ticking along -- and no one noticed the lights flickered and almost went out. And all of this rumination started because the retiring treasurer wrote a message to the board members about paying for my dinner at the Christmas party because of all the work I do to get the newsletter out every month, a task I have done for nearly two years. Then he said they should also pay for the membership committee head's dinner, too, because no one notices what we do or how much time and effort it takes to do our jobs.

Let's face it. Buying me dinner is a nice gesture -- as far as it goes -- but it's not really that big a gesture, and there are other people who have been keeping the lights on for years that go unnoticed and unrecognized, people who step up to the plate every year and do the work. I do one small task; I edit and put out the newsletter. It's not the same. I suggested the club spring for plaques (really nice plaques like the ones they gave away for the recent nationwide contest) for the retiring club officers: president, VP, secretary, and treasurer. A cold wet fish in the face would have been received better. The counter proposal came that we could give them coffee mugs or a certificate -- and then the debate started. Coffee mugs were useful and didn't cost much, paper certificates even less. (Did I mention these people tend to go for the cheap?) I said coffee mugs were nice, even with a little printing on the side (about $5.99 in bulk), dinners would be eaten and forgotten, and certificates (even framed by the recipient) didn't really say how much a person's efforts were appreciated, and I don't drink coffee and already have a very nice mug for tea. Yes, but you can't take a plaque or certificate to work and hang on your wall because it would be showing off (what's all that wall space for?) and a coffee mug used every day at the office might excite a little curiosity and offer a chance to talk about the club. Yeah, right! Like a plaque or certificate wouldn't get more attention and even more questions. It always comes down to dollars and cents. No wonder no one wants to help out.

And that's the thing, people don't volunteer because they expect a reward; they do it because it's in the nature. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be rewarded in a significant way. A coffee cup or piece of paper isn't all that significant, but it sure says (at least to me), "Thanks for your help. It means so little." Even with a person's name and call sign or "thank you" on the side, it still screams, "Oh, yeah, thanks," in the same tone a cashier or salesperson says, "Have a nice day." It's insincere.

Things did get a little out of hand when it was suggested we thank everyone who does anything with something. That would cost too much. I countered by saying only those people who went above and beyond the call of duty (like the club officers) should be honored and a simple thank you was enough for the rest of the people. At least they embraced that idea quickly (it's much cheaper to thank four or five people than it is to thank ten or more).

My idea was to get the focus off me, but that didn't last long. One person thought a plaque for marking five years of service as newsletter editor was too long (no one has lasted that long yet) and then he went on to talk about all the things the editor does quietly behind the scenes (I prefer the quiet) and that more should be done. There I was back in the spotlight again -- not that I mind the spotlight (I've done many a turn on stage and love the spotlight), but that made me uncomfortable. If I say nothing, they'll do something stupid -- like buy my dinner at the annual Xmas party -- or, worse yet, they'll force me to go to a meeting and miss work, just to give me a coffee cup. I guess they don't understand what it's like to be a single woman with no support other than what I make (and I could certainly use a raise). I really hate that idea. The club will give everyone a chance to win a gift card from Wal-Mart, so if they really want to honor me, give me a $100 gift card or pay for my time. If I had a choice, they could pay me for my time. At $65 and hour (even at $55/hour), that would cost them a whole lot more than the gift card or a plaque, and I don't see them going for that, but that would say, "THANK YOU," in a meaningful way. I could afford to take time off work to go to the Xmas dinner or the membership meeting for that kind of recognition and that would let me know how much they really appreciate me helping keep the lights on.

After all, when the electricity goes out, the electric company pays their workers very well for venturing out in the middle of the night or in the teeth of the storm that dumped the first (and every subsequent) snow to makes sure the lights get back on, and they get noticed for every five years of service.

The first snow of autumn made me anxious to start writing, but I wonder how anxious the members will be to thank me when they read what I wrote with all that fresh air blowing through the galleries and halls of my mind.

That is all. Disperse.

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