Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wasted Days and Disappointment

This is sort of a dorky picture, but I'm not allowed to put all of its information online. Anyway, it represents what I did with my Memorial Day.  Lee had the day off, so did the kids.  We could have done just about anything.  We stayed home because of me.  Well, not really because of me, but sort of.

Let me preface the rest of this by saying that everyone is a volunteer, including me.  When most folks in a paying position would have encountered this situation, they'd have gotten fired up and someone might have been reprimanded or worse. I couldn't.  We are all volunteers in my little story, except the health inspector.  He probably doesn't make much anyway, but I digress.

I am the coordinator of our church's outreach to the homeless. We fix breakfast every Sunday for about 75-100 homeless men, women and children.  I did the job for several years and needed a break.  Another lovely couple took it for a couple years and found they needed help, as they both had very demanding day jobs. I'm at stay at home engineer.   I was done needing a break and said I'd do it alone. No problem.  

In any establishment that provides food in our country, someone is required by law to have a Food Managers Certificate (FMC).  It means they have gone through a lengthy class to learn how not to kill folks with E Coli, or Botulism, or Rat Poison, or Hepatitis A, or a good stout Cold.  When I took over the coordinator position in September, it would soon be time to renew our FMC. I was tied up in the whole "my mom is dying" drama and so another person in our congregation, who is a chef (I'll call him Joe), said he'd take care of it.  It wasn't due until March, so I forgot all about it. 

Starting March 1st, I began getting calls from the health department asking about the FMC status.  I began asking the Joe if he still planned on taking care of getting an FMC.  He assured me he was.  March came and went.  More phone calls from the health department, more calls to the Joe.  April--more calls on everyone's part.  Joe tells me he's set up to take the test on April 11th.  He evidently didn't.  May rolls in and Constantine (we're on a first name basis now) from the health department is getting pretty steamed.  He begins threatening me with a lawsuit and $1000!! fine.  I begin trying to contact Joe in earnest.  I don't see him at church, because he works nights.  I am left with email and the telephone, both of which are intermittently answered.   I get ahold of Joe and he tells me he's taken the test, but that the certificate (which I need the numbers off of) are at work. He'll make sure they get to church and he'll call the health department to square things with Constantine.  Not.

This past weekend, I spent the greater part of Saturday morning preparing for a showdown with the health department.  Constantine was coming for our annual inspection and by-goodness there'd better be a FMC onsite or we're toast.  I called Joe in a panic on Friday.  He said he'd have the FMC there for Saturday mornings inspection.  Constantine, after hounding me for two months didn't bother to show up at the alloted time.  I waited a half hour and left, thinking we'd gotten a reprieve. I was relieved.  What Joe had done, was taken an online course for a Food Handler's Permit on Friday!  A completely different permit altogether. We, meaning me, were toast.  Constantine showed up 10 minutes after I left.  A church member was there mowing the grass and let Constantine in.  He then called me on my cell phone and was not a happy camper. I had until the end of business on Tuesday to produce an FMC, period!  

I spent Sunday at church and then at home, stewing.  Why couldn't Joe have just been honest with me?! It would have been no big deal for him to say, "Listen, I know I said I'd do this, but I can't."  We are a very small congregation---75 on a good Sunday.  Fifteen core families.  We even refer to those folks as our 'church family'.  Joe's a great young man.  Not only did he let me down, he lied to me on several occasions.  I made it very clear, several times that bad things were going to happen to me and our outreach program if the FMC was not taken care of.  I was nice about it.  I understand he has a life too.  I offered more than once to just go ahead and take care of it myself.  He assured me he needed it for work anyway, and he'd take care of it.  

On Monday morning (Memorial Day), I researched to death, the idea of finding an online program that would match the test the city would give and one they'd accept.  I found one.  I spent four hours taking an online class and then 45 minutes taking the online test.  One hundred and fifty dollars and nearly 5 hours later, I was the holder of an online FMC.  Tuesday (by the end of business!!) would be the real question.  Will they accept it, and if they don't, then what?

Tuesday, I prepared for battle and headed to the health department.  There was no battle.  I gave the man behind the desk (not Constantine) my online certificate and $50.  I am now the holder of an official city of Austin FMC, until 2013. BooYA! Lee took me out to lunch to celebrate.  The End.

Not really though.  I need to hash this out with Joe.  I am hurt.  I am disappointed.  We are family, after all---even if it's church family.  I know young people are prone to not want to disappoint people.  I was the same way in my 20s.  Sometimes I used to think if I just ignored something, that it would go away. It never did, it would come around behind me and bite me in the backside.  Joe's about to get nibbled on.  I would never bite.  He's too good a guy.   


  1. Gosh, CeeCee. Most of the time volunteers are greatly appreciated. But it's frustrating when they are not.
    Will you be out of the $200.00? Or will the church reimburse you?

    Wish they'd could reimburse you for all the time spent, too, but I believe that God knows and He will reward you greatly for your generous service in heaven one day.

    You are a much better person than me. I would surely bite, not nibble in regards to Joe's irresponsibility and dishonesty.
    He not only hurt you, but he put the church and it's 'feeding the hungry' mission on the line.

    Congrats to you for doing your research and 'saving the day' in the end though.

  2. sigh... sometimes it takes well-meaning people a while to learn it is much MUCH better to just come right and say they can't do something after all they thought they could so it can be taken care of... that when they don't they end up in a much worse than they were before. (did all that make sense?) Anyway, glad you were able to get it taken care of, and your family was understanding. Much kudos to you for figuring it all out and taking care of it.

  3. What was that road to hell paved with again?

    Humans will fail you where dogs never would.

  4. CeeCee, time to put on your teacher hat (you're a mom so I KNOW you have one of those) and regard this as a "teachable moment" for Joe. He is, indeed, a good kid who, IMHO, needs to do some more growing up. Did you know that these days psychologists and other professionals are saying that young people do not truly become adults until their late twenties? One writer coined the term "thresholder" to label the phase between adolescence and adulthood. Joe is clearly a thresholder. And yet he has moved beyond his family of origin's sphere of influence. Enter the church family to pick up the slack. I can't think of anyone who would do this more lovingly yet firmly than you. He needs to know that he disappointed and inconvenienced you and that there were alternatives available to him for dealing with the situation. As an adult. Let me know how it goes.