Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lent Obligation from Hell part I

The following is a re-post from an old blog/column I wrote for another medium a long time ago. I've tweaked it a little to bring it up to date while hopefully keeping the content intact.

For many years I’ve given up French Fries for Lent and doing so has been sheer torture. The rest of the year I can go weeks without eating fries and not give it a second thought. But somehow when the time comes to intentionally go without the fried spud, it seems like there is temptation everywhere.

It feels like every food item you order in the world seems to come with a side of fries. Even if there are other choices, they all somehow sound unappetizing. “Would you like fries, Cole slaw, or monkey entrails with that?”

So one year instead of giving something up I decided to do some charity work instead. A lot of Catholics don’t realize this Lenten Loophole exists. Now you would think that it would be easy to find a soup kitchen to work in, or a homeless shelter to help out, or even a crisis hotline to answer the phones at for a few hours a week. The problem is none of those places are within walking distance of my apartment.

While sitting at home, waiting for charity work to come knocking on my door, the phone rang instead. It was Jason from St. Clements calling to ask if I could help out on stage crew for the spring play. The reason Jason has my number is because I actually auditioned for a part in the play back in November during open auditions, but wasn’t talented enough to get cast. Something silly about needing to be able to sing, act and not look like a buffoon on stage. They have such high standards in community theatre.

Anyway, on the audition form, there was a little box asking if we would be willing to help out in any other manner if we were not cast for a part in the play. I did not check this box. Naturally they called me anyway. I ignored the message left on my answering machine last December and figured that was the end of that. But alas, Stage Managers, Telemarketers and Con men have the unique ability to not take no for an answer.

Jason called again a few weeks ago and did the unbelievably sneaky and dastardly move of complimenting me on the enthusiasm I showed during the audition and felt that the play could benefit from that energy. Guilt Trip Tactic #1: pay someone an extraneous, irrelevant compliment. Remembering my Lenten promise, I called back this time and as no good deed goes unpunished, my good intentions have lead me to the Lent Obligation from Hell.

So I show up for the first afternoon of stage crew duty. There is only one other person on Stage Crew: a girl named TJ. The guy in charge, Bart, actually has a degree in stage development and is also a few hours short of his computer engineering degree. His day job is being an attorney. Those are three excellent reasons to hate the guy right off the bat. He then seals the deal by calling me “Ichy”.

Bart asks us what we are doing for the rest of the Sunday between then and Easter as it turns out that Sundays are the only day Bart is available to work on stage setup. I mention one Sunday that I know I’m committed to something else and then he changes the subject before I can list any other reasons I can’t be Stage Crew guy. Guilt Trip Tactic #2: the old bait and switch. Instead of it being about when I can’t come in, it becomes more of what one day do I absolutely need off?

So now that we’ve indentured ourselves into Stage Crew Servitude until sometime slightly before the second coming, Bart starts telling us what we’re going to do. He rattles off a list of objectives, which sound relatively straightforward and doable. Hang some lights, speakers, build out the stage. Then the kicker comes: the three of us over the next three Sundays will do all this.

Bart then starts telling us what to get started on. He rattles off sentences like the following:

“I want you to take the ladder and at every strut juncture, drill a couple of holes in the wall about fifteen feet above the horizontal plane of the stage in and then drop some anchor bolts into them.”

He then goes off to work with another group of people doing something else. We heard something about a ladder. We position the ladder by the first “strut juncture” and hope that we can stall long enough for Bart to come back and show us what he wanted us to do.

Next year it’s back to giving up French fries for this volunteer.

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