The Launch

Backpost for Tue and Wed:

Sorry I’m a bit behind – it’s been a long few days. Basically, we all loaded ourselves into cars Tues afternoon and headed out to Raleigh to get officially sworn in as Americorps members, and to pick up some disaster preparedness training in the process. The trip up was pretty good right up until we ran into a band of torrential rain, which slowed us up a bit (visibility was, like, the next bumper if that). Anyway, we made it in time to check in and head out for dinner – Indian! There had been a previous vote for Thai, but we managed to swing it around after some vociferous lobbying (and the fact that the Indian place was easier to find for unfamiliar drivers). I was pleased. Indian food has an effect on my body not unlike mood elevating drugs. So I get dinner and a lift in one tasty package. Mmmm…spicy!

When we got back, everyone but me went out for a night of jigging and jugging at a local Irish pub. I’m officially an old fart, it appears, since the last thing I wanted to do after a filling meal of Indian food was jump around and drink cheap beer. Instead, I moseyed down to the fitness center and walked a few miles on the treadmill while hurling sarcastic remarks at MSNBC newcasters (along with my fellow walkers). This all sounds far more fitness oriented than it really was. I simply love to go for a walk after a big meal and being unfamiliar with the area around the hotel, I settled for a leisurely stroll on a conveyor belt instead. I just love to walk. Not for fitness or health, just out of a joy of doing so. So it was, by comparison, a virtuous activity. But not one predicated on virtue. LOL!

I was worried about sleeping with a roomate (I am not a heavy sleeper, nor one that tolerates noise, light, loudly-falling dust, unfamiliar smells or other disturbances. But even though she came in after I was almost out and rumbled around a bit doing the night-time bathroom thing, I actually got a good night’s sleep. Score!

Which was good, because it was a long day. As part of my team’s disaster response team, I spent the day learning important disaster response stuff. Like always bring a sweatshirt to seminars (which I did), because they set the AC on “polar bear” and leave it there all day. I also learned that yet again, vegetarians are second class citizens when it comes to group events. I saved myself from sugar shock by purchasing my breakfast of eggs and grits from a conference-center cafe, in lieu of facing diabetic shock due to excess consumption of micro-muffins and cold fruit (the carnivores had hot meat biscuits).

On the subject of disaster stuff, I learned that whatever you do, never ask for clothes at a donated goods drive, because you end up with piles of closet-cleanings that you have to allocate valuable resources to sort (by size, gender, age, season and so forth), store and distribute. After the Florida hurricanes, people were sending fur coats and stuff, all of which were piled into mountains of steamy, wet, mildewing trash that sat out for weeks due to lack of people to do anything with them, before being shoved into local landfills. What a waste. Also, we learned to always sort your goods before shipment, to prevent massive slowdowns and resource drains at the delivery point, was all that was covered (repetitively and exhaustively) during the first part of the day.

Lunch yet again reaffirmed my feelings about corporate feeding of veggies. We actually got the consideration of an eggplant option that was pretty decent, but they made so little of it that some veggies went without. That’s another common veg-food mistake – assuming that veggies somehow eat like birds. Actually, what probably happens is that a good percentage of the carnivores were eschewing the chicken and going for the yummy veggie option, a common-enough occurance (if you give people a choice, they usually take it) which is rarely accounted for in the planning of veggie options.

During lunch, we listened to some speakers and were sworn in by some muckity-muck who looked and talked like every central casting politician from every comedic movie. He kept calling us “America Corp” and doing the cheesy-joke-seque thing between his speech topics. It was like someone had secretly hired a “political parodist” to do the job. (Note to organizational leaders – if you’re going to have people doing important stuff like swearing in a state’s worth of Americorps members, make sure they know how to pronounce the name of the organization they’re swearing them into.)

In the afternoon, we returned to our conference room, which had in the interim been transformed into a “volunteer registration center.” Some of us got jobs (I was a runner) and the rest were volunteers. After we set up shop, with an intake table, interviews, training, ID center and a phone bank stocked with walkie talkies, the volunteers started trickling in. Some of them were given special instructions (you’re deaf, you only speak a foreign language, you’re drunk, you’re obnoxious and so forth), which made the whole event a real hoot to go through. One of my colleagues, who is one of the nicest, calmest people I know, was given the obnoxious volunteer assignment and went at it with a vengence. What a riot! Another colleage was a drunk who got argumentative when asked to leave, and was immediately homed in on by the “media.” I did what any sane runner would do – I pawned the situation off on the center director and left the area! LOL!

Then the phone bank (which was taking real “calls” from some folks out in the hall for volunteer needs from fictional organizations as part of the process) got a bomb threat. Holy cow. What was weird is that, as a runner, I was going table to table trying to get the stations to quietly evacuate their volunteers but no one was paying me any attention. In the end, our “obnoxious” volunteer heard the whispering and did the “Oh my God there’s a bomb in the building!” thing, which set everyone off at a run. It was funny at the time, but I wonder whether that would happen in real life – if people would just assume you were either making it up or otherwise not serious and ignore the warning.

Anyway, I’m now a bona fide Disaster Response Team member (I sooo need a power move), so if hurricanes hit and so forth, I can be called in to man phone banks and handle volunteers and so forth. I also get a spiffy windbreaker at some point. And those of us in the training got special disaster gear included in the lovely-parting-gift backpacks everyone received (along with binders, Americorps service results in a surfeit of packpacks), special disaster gear meaning a cheap plastic carabiner radio thingy, a mini-first-aid kit and a plastic water bottle (which didn’t even have a logo on it). I feel special.

On the upside, disaster stuff runs in the family (not like that, silly). My grandfather was the head of the Red Cross and the Civil Defense department. He did trainings, organized and coordinated rescue efforts and so forth. I grew up in that environment, so I feel right at home being a part of this. I’m actually hoping to be involved in the CERT (community emergency response team) thing they’re trying to set up here in conjunction with this training. We’ll see.

The ride home was better than the ride up. The four of us listened to rap music and made fart jokes the whole way (often prompted by actual farts – don’t ever let anyone tell you a group of girls can’t out-do a group of guys in the raunchy and juvenile behavior arena.) And after being teased relentlessly for my non-gangsta cred in response to my honkey dance moves to Chamillionaire’s Ridin’ Dirty, I come home and find this on my nightly blogsweep. I think I hurt something. Hollah!

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One response to “The Launch

  1. Pingback: NC Americorps Spring Summit 2007 « Getting Things Done: A Year of Service

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