Thursday, March 19, 2009

Flipping Burgers at the Ball Park

This evening I “volunteered” at our little league’s snack bar for a couple of hours. It was kind of surreal, being nearly invisible behind the counter, flipping burgers. In some ways, it felt like I was back in high school, working at Wendy’s .

Of course, back then they didn’t let me use the grill. I spent most shifts wiping tables, refilling the ketchup dispenser, cleaning out the little disposable ash trays. (Ahh --- the smell of cigarette ashes mingled with old ketchup. I’m sure it’s half the reason I never smoked.)

Back then the closest I got to actual cooking was running the french fry machine. I perfected the art of staring into a vat of bubbly oil and waiting for each fry to swivel and flip. I didn’t exactly put the “fast” back in fast food.

But things were different then.

Back then my co-workers didn’t chat on their cell phones every five minutes or listen to I-pods. And back then, I was actually getting paid, even if it was only $4.25 or whatever.

So what is up with this trend of parent “volunteering”? Aren’t we busy enough helping with school work, driving our kids everywhere, arranging playdates, not to mention planning and executing actual healthy meals. Now we get to “volunteer,” or pay $50 for the organization to find another “volunteer,” usually an eager teenager who doesn’t mind flipping burgers or painting props.

Anyhow, I didn’t want to pay another $50 for anything tonight.

And I didn’t mind helping out. I naively supposed it was standard procedure – support the team, help out with the concession stand twice a season. But somehow, as I bounced enthusiastically into the concession stand, I got the distinct impression that the two paid teenagers were actually surprised to discover I was an actual parent, actually covering my shift.

But in some ways I didn’t mind, I had a front row view of baseball culture, watching different faces lean through the window and order junk food. Do you realize people actually chew sunflower seeds – it’s not just a stereotype?

I recognized a few parents from other kid events around town. But no one recognized me. It was kind of fun.

I felt like a traveler, passing through. It’s a familiar feeling.

I floated through most of my childhood, observing people. I rarely felt at home, except in the presence of my family. I know what it’s like to feel like an outsider. And sometimes I like it. I can disengage and watch the fry daddy bubble. I’m just not baseball people.

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