Thursday, October 4, 2007

Night of the Living Stupid People (aka Popcorn Diaries Part Deux)

Okay so yesterday there was this big email discussion going on - without everyone in the loop - that we were going to table the fryer discussion yet again. This was after we had already voted on it unanimously with one abstention, which counts as an "Aye" according to parliamentary procedure. There was a statement made that we were like kids in a candy store and were spending too much money - none of this of course was said to either the concession chair or me, who is just a helper and shows up to do what I'm told which is usually take care of the popcorn and snowcones and be sure to put an article about the band in the newspaper every week. Once I was forwarded this long and asinine email string which I won't include here, and had some time to think, I chimed into the discussion (probably to the dismay of everyone else once they get to work this morning and start checking email) and I told them exactly what I think. I tried to remain calm and just state the facts but here is my reply (let me know if you think I've been too harsh, wouldja?):

M, thank you for including me in the loop. This appears to be a
discussion that should have included everyone from the beginning. Here
are some general observations I've made in the course of all this
nonsense. To preface my statements, I want to make very clear that
secrets, lies and not talking about what everybody knows but is afraid
to say is not helpful to anyone. Please be advised that I am not
writing anything here that I would not be willing to discuss with any
of you face-to-face and welcome your input if I have misperceived

First, let me remind everyone that our purpose in having a band
booster organization is supposed to be about helping our kids. Please
ask yourselves: how is all of this bickering and infighting helping
our kids? Are you so accustomed to fighting that you don't know how
not to bicker and fight, even over things that should be a non-issue?
--Or are you so accustomed to scarcity and lack that you fear every
nickel we bring in is going to be the last one we ever see? Investing
in equipment is just that - an investment that will help us do our job
as a booster club better by allowing us to make more money because
we'll be able to serve our customers better. If we're not feeding the
people, we're not making money. If we don't have adequate and
functioning equipment, we can't feed the people, therefore we can't
make money. It's that simple. It's not rocket science and shouldn't
need my Mensa card or my PhD to understand.

We are making more money in the concession this year than has been
reported in the last 4 years. This is curious to me, considering that
food costs have only gone up, and we're feeding the same old crowd,
but with no appreciable changes in menu pricing. Is all of the
controversy supposed to serve as a smokescreen for something else? I'm
just wondering because everything isn't adding up.

Considering the money we are bringing in, and that we allocated $2000
for a new fryer last year, it would seem that we can afford to spend
more on quality - as we voted and approved - instead of the usual
"WalMart Fall Aparts" that have been purchased - and repurchased - and
repurchased ad nauseum in the past. If you buy quality to begin with,
it costs less in the long run because it isn't necessary to constantly
replace or repair it. Again, it shouldn't take a PhD to understand
that. As much fried food as we sell at every game - well in excess of
the $600 purchase price of the big fryer we voted for and approved
Monday - it will pay for itself in less than one game and be around
for a very long time because it was designed to handle that kind of
volume. When Santa (or the Easter Bunny or whatever imaginary friend
you choose) doesn't come, we'll still have adequate equipment so that
we can feed the people and therefore continue to be able to make money
-uninterrupted and without controversy or additional expense for
several years. If by some miracle the school does come through, we can
sell a nearly new commercial fryer for nearly all of what we have in
it. We'll get nothing back from a nearly new home fryer. I'm not
holding my breath though, considering that they've been promising the
choir similar improvements since that building was constructed and
clearly those improvements haven't happened. The 10, 14 and 15 pound
fryers were presented at the meeting two weeks ago when D and I
initially presented fryer information - the 20 pound just gives us the
most bang for the buck so that's what we voted on - unanimously, with
one abstention, which counts as a Yes, according to parliamentary
procedure. I think the bylaws say that once we've approved something,
we're supposed to follow through. It doesn't make sense to continue to
throw good money after bad, because that doesn't help our kids.

There is no "kid in a candy store" situation here unless you count the
ventahood that was purchased on an "executive decision," without a
vote, sight unseen and without having done any research into what it
was going to take to install it. Boy are we all getting an education
in electrical engineering! The reality of the situation is that things
break down and wear out, and they never wear out alone - they always
take something else down with them. Bad things happen in 3's, right?
Eventually all the bubblegum, baling wire and redneck engineering in
the world isn't going to help and it ends up being more costly - and
dangerous - not to proceed with new equipment and unfortunately it
doesn't come free. My husband had to buy a new tractor, rake, round
and square balers a couple of years ago when they all wore out and had
to be replaced all at once - during the middle of hay season - to the
tune of well over 100K, so I understand that. This appears to be the
year for that to happen for us, although thankfully not on the scale
of our haying equipment. Not to throw gas on the fire, but I forgot to
mention the big metal spring that fell out of the snowcone machine
into some kid's snowcone Friday night (lawsuit, anyone?). I'm not
saying we need a new one. It may have come from one of the bags of
ice, but it's a heads-up so that we are ALL in the loop that it may be
our next casualty. Sorry - stuff breaks - that's life - get over it
and let's move on and get back to the business of feeding the people
and making money so we can help our kids.

My dad and I purchased and delivered the new refrigerator this morning
so Coke should be happy with us now. Thanks for letting us into the concession stand,
C! It even has the wire shelves about which K1 was so
insistent. When I told dad about how much money we are trying to raise
for the uniforms, he offered to approach the VFW membership about
doing some other fundraising activities like a special bingo, a
motorcycle "fun run" and several other activities that typically bring
in at least a couple of grand a pop and wouldn't have to be approved
through the school. However, I am seriously reluctant to accept their
generosity, given the behavior of Mr. B, K1 and K2 over the grant
for the refrigerator. The last thing we want to do is come off as a
bunch of ingrates, and that was the direction Mr. B, K1 and K2
were heading. How sad that they don't possess the social skills to how
to graciously accept a gift. I didn't tell my dad about the asinine
controversy because I would like to be able to approach them for more
help in the future, despite my misgivings. After all, it is supposed
to be about helping our kids and if the adults can't conduct
themselves any better than that, it's not worth the embarrassment.

In the interest of honesty and while I'm airing my views, according to
the bylaws, the band director can ask the boosters for things, but he
has no say in how we spend the funds we generate. Don't get me wrong,
I support Mr. B and I want him to have whatever his little heart
desires, but he is not allowed to dictate how we spend the funds. End
of story. Maybe having K1 as vice president leans toward a conflict
of interest in that area. Mr. B can be a good band director -I've seen
it- but he has a bad temper and takes his personal and professional
frustrations out on the kids - sadly, I've seen that, too - too much
of it. They get tired of being yelled and cussed at over minutiae
while his perfect boys get away with murder and handed the best
solos, et cetera. This is a big part of the reason why we can't keep
kids in band or keep parents involved. Without the kids we have no
band/Without involved parents we can't help our kids.

Our top leadership doesn't appear to know how to lead, only how to
boss and bicker. People don't like to work with K2 because she
doesn't know when to stop talking, doesn't appear to have an inside
voice or room in her world view for an opinion other than her own. Not
to be mean but in fact, when people are called to volunteer in the
concession stand, often the first thing they ask is if K1 and/or
K2 are going to be there and they won't come if they know either of
them are going to be there because they don't like being yelled at or
having their cases climbed over something minor. That's not how you
treat volunteers, but they've made it pretty clear that they don't
think officers should work it anyway - personally, I don't think any
of us are too good.

K1 is another story entirely. People don't like to work with her
because of her hot temper and negative attitude. You never know when
she's going to verbally attack someone - or worse, show up at your
house raising cain and further traumatizing your daughter who was
already sexually harassed by at least one of her sons. In my personal
and professional experience, if a person has problems with everyone
with whom they come in contact, chances are really good that the
problem does not lie with everyone else. It is sad that it had to come
down to K1 getting chewed on the other night. Perhaps she should
have spoken up during the meeting instead of sitting there red-faced
and stewing then waiting until the people she was talking about behind
their backs were gone. Considering that K1 has no absolutely no
qualms about jumping in the middle of anyone she perceives as crossing
her path, perhaps it's time she learns to take a dose of what she
dishes out, because that type of behavior does not help our kids.

Frankly, I am disgusted and embarrassed that grown people are acting
this way when we're supposed to be about helping the kids. I've
considered leaving the organization because of the stupid circular
arguments, walking on eggshells and the groupthink tendency to want to
do things half-assed, but someone has to be the voice of reason and
keep our mission of helping our kids in mind. This ridiculousness has
gone on long enough. Let's move on and get back down to the business
of helping our kids.


Dr. Shedevil said...

Update: I sent that email at around 9:30 last night and so far only one person has responded and that was with a jab, " No reply from anyone? Sure is quiet around here..."

Chicken shits.

Dr. Shedevil said...

It's now 9 am-ish the following day and still no response from the Peanut Gallery.

Either they took my words to heart and are going to pull their heads out of their collective asses or they're planning a lynching Monday night. My money's on the latter. ;o)

Anonymous said...

The statements about Mensa and your PhD were excessive. You complain about others being bullies, then you use your degree to bully in your own way. It smacks of a person who does think they are too good to do certain things despite your other comments.

Being in Mensa or having a PhD are irrelevant to the issue. You shouldn't have gone down that path because it is likely to inflame rather than calm the situation. Being a leader can be difficult in that you can't always air your own opinion when it should be obvious that such an action will be more hurtful than helpful.

You have some good points, but I learned (eventually) that making people feel stupid is not a good way to win them to your cause.

Dr. Shedevil said...

Thanks for the weigh-in, Anonymous. All things considered, my point about Mensa and my degrees were simply to illustrate a point that should have been obvious. I'm not too good to do anything and am usually the first one in line to do the dirty work. Perhaps it was a little inflammatory, but then again my biggest fault is that I lean toward pretentiousness and tend to be a bit of a know it all.

Instead of speaking to me about it directly, I noticed one of the people to whom that email was circulated, wagging it around and talking rather animatedly about it yesterday to some other people, at least one of whom was not on the recipient list. I was within lip-reading distance so I got most of what was said - still mosly a circular argument. Unlike my colleagues, at least I didn't say my piece behind anyone's back, so there's no room for speculation about what was said by and/or about whom.

Romulus Crowe said...

I thought you were extremely restrained and very calm. You called nobody an idiot, though several deserved it.

Stating your qualifications (PhD and Mensa membership - I have one and refuse to join the other:)) are neither pretentious nor excessive. If you're going to put people down, you should place your qualifications for doing so on the table. It pre-empts 'what do you know about it?' and such statements.

Also, I'd be wary of taking to heart any criticism by anyone who hides behind 'anonymous'.

Why is stating a fact such as you have a PhD a bullying tactic? Why does it say you think you're too good to do the things you're doing? If you thought that, you wouldn't be doing them, now would you?

Brace yourself for Monday though. Such people have one skill they've honed over the years - backstabbing. They can be very good at that. Especially when they work in packs.

Dr. Shedevil said...

Thanks, Romulus. Actually last night's meeting was rather restrained. I was rather castigated by my remarks in a back-handed manner that was supposed to conceal the "offender" although everyone there knew who was the instigator (not that I mind). Most of what was covered was who had rights to what according to our bylaws, which are only followed when it favors the interests of certain people. The vote on the fryer that we need was tabled yet again but the concession chair and I are making some calls to get parents in to vote who don't ordinarily show up due to the usual bullshit. So far, everyone's on board. More as things develop.

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