Sunday, April 26, 2009

Volunteer Dinner

This evening was the Tourist Information Center volunteer dinner. This is an annual dinner hosted to reward the loyal volunteers who staff our tourist information center / rest area near the interstate. The center is a joint project of the city, county, and state department of transportation and tourism. The city supplied the land and services, the county the maintenance and non-volunteer staff time, and the state the grounds maintenance and the buildings. The volunteers all tend to be sociable and gregarious retirees who serve donuts and coffee, supply information and maps, and generally act like a concerned parent for people traveling on the interstate and in the area. The volunteers are a fun group and I have attended their dinner every year that I have been mayor just to say thank you for their efforts. This was my final such dinner as mayor since I am term limited out of office in November.

Knowing that I won't be doing things like this next year makes it more fun - you can enjoy the event and say hi to all the great people without having to worry. There are a couple of volunteers below the age of 60, but most are between 65 and 95. So every year there are remembrances of one or two who have passed away in the preceding year and the welcoming of a few more new volunteers to fill the ranks. It can be pretty interesting to see the combinations that form in volunteer teams. Each team typically has a time such as Tuesdays from 12-3 or Fridays from 8-12 that they cover. Then there are a few floaters that fill in whenever a regular team cannot cover their slot or are ill or ... One team that has been active for at least the last 15 years is a pair of gentlemen who have known each other for more that 50 years and still find they enjoy the time they spend at the center each week with each other. One of the saddest things is when someone reaches an age or state of physical health so that they can no longer volunteer. One often spots what looks suspiciously like tears in the eyes of both the afflicted and the their fellow volunteers when they attend what will likely be their last volunteer dinner.

One of the old railroaders that worked with my Dad (in fact I believe he was stationmaster long before Dad ever started working on the railroad), Earl, passed away a couple of years ago in his mid 90's and is still missed by the volunteer crew today. Of course Earl was a real joker and live wire even in his 90's. Everyone remembers his jokes, usually because they were odd and funny and told exceeding well by Earl. I remember Earl because he introduced me to the hobbyist version of fanaticism when I was in grade school. Earl had a model railroad setup that covered a whole basement at the time. It was amazing to me to see a grown man so into playing with "toy" trains. In memory of Earl, I'll repeat the joke he was fond of telling the year before he passed on:
Ma and Pa went to the doctor for Pa's annual physical on his 90th birthday. Pa went into the room to see the doctor and duly answered the doctors many questions. Finally the doctor asked him a question that left Pa a bit confused, so he asked for a moment to consult with his wife.
Pa stuck his head into the waiting room and yelled, "Ma, do we have intercourse?"
Ma immediately stated railing at Pa with, "No! You know I told you that we have nothing but Blue Cross and Medicare!"

The moral of the story - if you get old enough, you will forget even important things.

With that, I'll leave you to have a good night.


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