I decided to sign up for this year’s Global Day of Service at work because it’s been several years since I last participated, one of the options was helping to set up for the Boy Scouts annual Halloween event, and I need to get the FUCK out of this house. Working from home definitely has its perks but the burnout is real. I wanted to see familiar faces and just, you know, not be strapped in front of my computer all day.
I convinced my work pal Megan to also sign up for this particular event. “It’ll be fun!” I said. The activities listed decorating and helping out with the pumpkin patch. Sounds like good old-fashioned October fun to me, and for a good cause to boot!
Then there was a whole lot of confusion just during the sign-up period: incorrect dates, miscommunication regarding t-shirt pick-up, instructions on where to park etc not emailed out until the eleventh hour. I was so stressed out about this because I like having a clear and concise plan in place when something involves me going to a place I’ve never been before, and the fact that no one was responding to our emails (I think I gave Megan second-hand stress and she was also emailing the global service people for answers lol) had this whole situation INFILTRATING MY DREAMS. Yes, I fucking had low-key stress dreams about this stupid volunteer opportunity, why can’t I be a normal person even in my slumber. Seriously, it’s exhausting being this tightly wound 24:7.
But finally Thursday aka Volunteering Day came and I was prepared. Got Chooch to school, came home and ate breakfast, was at Megan’s house promptly at 8am, made it to the Boy Scout camp in Sugar Spell Scoops Town (aka the town where our favorite ice cream shop lives lol) with a good 15 minutes to spare. And it’s a good thing too because finding the camp was tricky and we kept thinking we were going the wrong way or that we passed it, and then we finally found the street and saw the main building, we proceeded to drive past it to find the gravel parking lot as the instructions told us. It said it was “on the other side of the road past the education center” and we did see a lot there but it wasn’t gravel. And someone named “RANGER MIKE” was supposed to be there to help.
There was no such man there.
So we drove around again and still could not find any semblance to a “gravel lot” so we went back to the first one and parked. Another Law Firm person rolled up and was like “IS THIS RIGHT” and we were like “SHRUG” and that in unison we all said, “IT’S NOT GRAVEL” but then a man came barreling down the road in a golf cart-type thing and we were like THIS MUST BE RANGER MIKE and it was. Law firm people are just smart like that, you know? RANGER MIKE was like “Follow me to the correct parking lot” and he took us further up the road to another parking lot that was also NOT GRAVEL!?!?
Did they just pave the lot after sending out that email?! We were all fixated on GRAVEL. You cannot throw down super descriptive words such as GRAVEL without following through. I am going to dwell on this forever, watch.
OK, on to the actual volunteering. It was just Megan and me from our department, but two other ladies from a different department on our floor were also there so that was really nice to see some familiar faces! Then there were four dudes, none of whom I knew or recognized, from various departments. I think one was an Associate, and the rest of us were all non-lawyers. There were 3 different tasks that needed done that day, and we were split up into groups. The four of us broads quickly raised our hands for pumpkin patch consideration, two guys were on painting duty, and the other two went with RANGER MIKE to do something with life jackets and then set up some sort of game for the Halloween event, I honestly don’t know because I quit listening to the options after “pumpkin patch.”
We went off with another camp person, Kim, down the road to a little area of land next to a picnic shelf and a creek. Basically, we just had to tear apart bales of hay and scatter it so that the area for the patch was completely covered. You’d think this would be fairly self-explanatory but I had to keep sneaking peeks over my shoulder at Kim to make sure I was doing it like she was, I’m so fucking Type A. Once that was done, it was time to place the pumpkins. They still had stickers on them and I was about to ask Kim if she wanted us to remove them, but I saw that she was leaving them on all of hers. I thought, OK, maybe this is like a brand deal or something, and whatever farm supplied the pumpkins asked for the stickers to be left on for marketing purposes. I don’t know the beside-the-scenes shit that goes on at pumpkin patches. OK Randy?
This went on for quite some time, and I was surprised at how mildly worked-out I felt, I wasn’t sweating or anything, but the process of plucking pumpkins from the boxes was full-body, you know? I was grabbing three or four at a time and pretending they were tiny medicine balls.
When we were nearly done, a cart full of three Camp elders scooted on up to us. They dropped one lady off, and she immediately began inspecting our work and mumbling under her breath about the stickers.
“I didn’t really think it mattered,” Kim said defensively. “It’s fine,” she said to the rest of us, now frozen with stickered pumpkins in our hands. But the Camp elder began stooping down and removing stickers.
Kim caught me peeling a sticker from a pumpkin I had just grabbed from one of the boxes.
“No, don’t!” she said. “If she wants to go around and take off all the stickers, she can be my guest. But we are not doing that.” My eyes must have widened or something because she tacked on, “She’s my mother-in-law, so I can say that.” And then we laughed heartily. So then it became this Thing with Camp elder, walking around peeling off stickers and us dumping down more stickered pumpkins. I will admit that every time Kim wasn’t looking, I peeled the stickers off the ones I was putting down because it was honestly bothering me a little bit too. I mean, look how dumb all the white spots look in those pictures! But then I kept reminding myself that the patch was just for the kids and kids could give a shit about the cosmetics and one of the ladies from my floor said, “The stickers will probably make the little kids happy, anyway.” And that’s true, probably.
After getting all the pumpkins down, we helped Kim put up a red plastic fence around part of the perimeter and Camp elder was trying to hijack this part of the process too by changing the border of the patch. Kim kept saying, “No, we don’t need a fence over there. No, the kids aren’t going to fall over, it’s not a cliff.” It was actually hilarious and the looks Kim kept giving us behind Camp elder’s back made me feel like we were all camerapeople at Dunder Mifflin.
It wasn’t even 11AM yet so one of the other ladies asked me if I knew what else we would be doing, but as far as I knew, it was just the pumpkin patch. RANGER MIKE didn’t say anything else. So we sat for a bit under the pavilion, drinking water and telling horror stories about past Global Days of Service.
“This one was actually really nice,” I said. “It was mild labor and felt very rewarding, plus it was also kind of fun.”
Everyone agreed and one of the ladies was saying that she did a landscaping one in the past and it was hard labor. “I’ll never sign up for anything like that again,” she said, and I had flashbacks of my last volunteering experience with Tree Pittsburgh and how terrible it was.
No, seriously, I just re-read that right now and I’m having phantom callous pain.
“Do yinz think you’ll come back next year?” Camp elder asked, and we all enthusiastically said yes. Then Kim talked to us about what the Boy Scout event is like and encouraged us all to come out to that Saturday. It’s $20 a person, but for a good cause, so I was considering it.
“Are there chainsaws?” one of the other law firm ladies asked. “I hate chainsaws!”
Kim said she wasn’t sure, because the Boy Scouts plan the haunted trail themselves and she didn’t know what they were going to be doing yet.
Right when I was thinking that maybe they’d set us loose early, Kim got off the phone with who I assume was RANGER MIKE and said, “OK, we’re going to the log splitter.”
We all laughed, like, “Haha very funny, the log splitter, lol-le-lol-de-dee.”
But then she wasn’t smiling anymore. “No, seriously. You guys are going to join the other two guys who finished with Mike.” So we all looked at each other in fear and reluctantly followed her up a path, past THE ASYLUM where a life-sized Hannibal Lecter had been leering at us from a distance all morning. (One of the ladies spotted him earlier and thought he was a real person and started to get angry that someone was staring at us, lol.)
And then we got to the infamous log splitter. Two law firm guys, one from Finance and one from IT if I remember correctly, were already manning it and they did look like they were living their best lives, let me tell you. RANGER MIKE had rolled up in his stupid cart to bark off orders.
“Two people can be on the splitter while the rest of you stack the cut pieces and bring more logs to them to be cut,” he said and us FEMALES exchanged, “THE HELL WE ARE” looks with each other. I for one did not want to go anywhere near that horrifying device.
When I was 17, this was back in 1996 I believe, my dad was in the yard operating a log splitter, and then KAPCHUGGI (my favorite Korean word that means “suddenly” in case you haven’t learned that by now) he came running into the house, legit spurting blood all over the laundry room and into the kitchen. This happened to coincide with Halloween weekend, so my mom thought he was fucking with us, like “haha, great use of fake blood, impressive trajectory” but then he was like THIS IS REAL, VAL and he showed her his hand that was now missing one finger tip and we were all like OMG VOMIT. So she got him to the hospital and they were like, “Hello, did you bring the finger” and she was like, “Excuse me, the what now?” and they were like, “The finger. We need it” so she had to go back home and find his fingertip which was still inside the glove he was wearing, and they were able to reattach it.
But the part of this story that I remember the most vividly happened shortly after The Accident. My dad and I were having yet another knockdown drag-out fight because we fucking hated each other back then (we’re fine now!) and in the heat of the moment, I shrieked, “I wish it had been your head!!!!!!” and then slammed the front door behind me as I ran away.
My brother Corey must have been about 7 at the time and he was a witness to this. Not too long ago, he actually texted me “I WISH IT HAD BEEN YOUR HEAD *SLAM*” lol. Oh, the things that stick with us.
But yeah, me and a log splitter? No thank you. I texted Corey and he was like, “THIS IS A SENSITIVE TOPIC FOR THE KELLY SIBLINGS!”
So, I opted to roll the to-be-cut logs over to the MEN. You can see from this picture that there were several nice looking, clean, dry logs that were already chilling there, and just needed to be rolled over to the other side of the log splitter. This is not so bad, I thought. I mean, they were heavy so I was not pleased with that.
I sent the original picture to Corey and he was obsessed with the disgusted expression on my face and sent me this picture in return. I mean, even through the blur, you can tell that I was feeling pretty put-out at this point.
After Megan and I rolled the last log over to the guys, I looked at RANGER MIKE (who was busy texting on his phone, btw!!) and asked, “Is that it?”
“Oh no, those ones over there too,” he said, and pointed to a mound of haphazardly stacked logs on a small hillside AND THEN HE LEFT.
These logs were not nice and uniform like the other logs, but were actually huge chunks of tree, and looked like they had been loitering there for quite some time. That was apparent as soon as I flipped one over and unearthed a family of writhing worms, OMG hold please, the memory of this is making me dry heave. There were so many that they were basically KNOTTED, ugh. And the random bugs!!! Holy fuck, there were so many bugs I have never seen before, skittering all along the logs. The only nice buy I encountered was a fluffy black caterpillar which I transported to safety via a leaf because I didn’t want the poor thing to get the ax.
This was after we already removed a bunch, but you can see that the logs over to the left are basically just an extension of the ground, and that’s how the ones were that Megan and I were fucking with. Once we’d unearth them, literally, the underneath of each log was coated with cold, slimy mud and it smelled mildewy and rotten, the perfect combination to tickle ones gag relfex. Then there was some kind of disgusting mold on some of them and old-ass fungal growths that could have been poisoning us, but RANGER MIKE was not there to tell us. I kept slipping and sliding into the thick, sludgy crevices that were exposed after I’d lift a log and it was not PLEASURABLE.
The fact alone that they didn’t even give us gloves?! Are you kidding?? I had cuts on my hands!
“This is like Cross Fit,” I panted to Megan as I was squatting down to get enough leverage to push a giant log up the ramp to the log splitter. “It’s like Boy Scout Cross Fit.”
Like flipping tires but with the option of getting splinters.
I wanted to go off into the woods and scream, “FUCK!!!!!!!!” repeatedly until my throat was raw.
Did I mention that we were 100% unsupervised during this and were provided with NO safety equipment? No gloves, no goggles. Henry was actually horrified when I told him. I thought he would have laughed and made fun of me for having to do work but he was actually somewhat appalled that this was allowed to happen. I mean, there is a reason we all work in a law firm and not a forest, you know?
Look at that mother-whomping chunk of a tree! Megan and I were in beast-mode. Also, I witnessed several close calls with those guys and the log splitter.
And then Megan flipped over this guy’s house and that was pretty much her cue to throw in the towel.
With every log I flipped and heaved, I heard Camp elder’s last words in my head:
“Do yinz think you’ll come back next year?”
“Do yinz think you’ll come back next year?”
“Do yinz think you’ll come back next year?”
“DO YINZ THINK YOU’LL COME BACK NEXT YEAR?”
“dO YInz THInk yOu’Ll ComE BaCK nEXt YeAr?????”
"dO YInz THInk yOu'Ll ComE BaCK nEXt YeAr?????"
,,¿¿¿¿¿ɹ∀ǝ⅄ ʇXƎu ʞƆɐq ƎɯoƆ l˥,nOʎ ʞuIH┴ zuI⅄ Op,,
By the tenth log, it sounded like a Beatles record playing in reverse.
Finally, RANGER MIKE came back and said, “OK you guys can be done after these logs here are split” and pointed to the last two that Megan and I had heroically rolled up to the log splitter. I did a celebratory shimmy behind his back and spent my newly acquired logless time trying to work my wrist bones back into place. They were wrecked. Maybe even worse than my back. Then I started thinking about all the tiny bones that make up a person’s wrist and I getting nauseated. See also: I needed lunch in a big way. I’m a lumber jack now, after all.
The guys got to hitch a ride back to the parking lot on RANGER MIKE’s stupid Boy Scout mobile while us girls opted to walk. I don’t know about them, but I had some anger that needed processed and walking always helps with that.
“I was fine with the pumpkin thing,” one of the other 10th floor ladies said.
“Yeah and the pumpkin thing didn’t have bugs,” I said, and then we all did something that was supposed to be laughter but sounded more like the mewling of our collective broken spirits.
As we passed the pumpkin patch, someone mentioned that we probably finished too early and they put us on log duty because they didn’t have anything else. I said sadly, “Maybe we should have just gone back and taken off the stickers after all.”
This time our laughter sounded more like trying-not-to-cry-ter.
Back at the warehouse or whatever it was, we reunited with the other two guys who had the painting assignment. One of the ladies muttered, “We should have picked painting, instead” because they realllllly took their time with that job and dragged it out so they didn’t get stuck logging. It just goes to show you that efficiency doesn’t always pay off in the end, you guys. Sometimes the slackers come out ahead!
RANGER MIKE took a group picture and then finally released us. I was so happy to sit down in my car until I got home and couldn’t get out of my car. Ugh, my aching back. I needed a Doans or something. Is Doans still a thing? Because they could have used footage of the day’s activities for their next commercial.
Well, that’s my story about being a do-gooder. I think I’ll go back on hiatus now.
Til next time: Jesus loves you, I don’t have to, fuck you.