Being on my father’s watch means arriving early, and always when attending events with the risk of limited or uncomfortable seating. My father is tall; he has a bad knee, and he takes up a lot of space. He’s an aisle seat guy, and aisle seat guys arrive early. Such was the case in May 2005 when my parents and I attended my brother’s graduation from Alfred University. We arrived at the gymnasium as the last of the potted plants were placed on stage and as expected secured great seats. Front and center on the bleachers, perfectly positioned to view the dimples on my brother’s cheeks when with wide smile he accepted his diploma.
An early arrival time granted an opportunity to witness the complete meltdown of the seating arrangement strategy team (student volunteers). My mother commented first. “Why are they having people sit there?” She gestured to a portion of the gym far from the stage and blocked from reasonable view. “Anyone sitting there won’t be able to see the graduates. How will they get out? What if they need to use the bathroom?” My father nodded in agreement and said, “I don’t see designated handicapped seating either; good thing we didn’t bring your mother. Look at that older woman in the wheelchair; they just moved her chair all the way across the gym.” He nudged me, “Look at that! The kid just took that woman’s wheelchair. What the hell is going on?”
The two continued on like this for close to ten minutes, commenting on the lack of available folding chairs and blocked exit. I finally interrupted, “Did someone forget to tell that you that you are not on the graduation seating committee.”
The comment stuck.
It’s a Graham family thing, and I too tend to assess and discuss matters, which don’t concern me – especially if foul play or worse, mad injustice is suspected. Most days (at least once) I think “it would be better if such and such went down like this or like that.” For instance, I discovered that an ex is dating a woman that (based on her blog posts) seems incredibly demanding and unpleasant. I am so super tempted to send him a nice note with my views spelled out with a little disclaimer explaining how I know that their on again off again romance is none of my business, but I read the blog, and well it might be best for him to. . .
I have to remind myself that I am not on the “ex-boyfriend finding true love committee.”
Nor am I on the “92 year old landlord finding a new tenant committee” or the “one day old muffins and bagels at the bakery should always go on top of the shelf committee” or the “defense committee for the guy who could not have, no way possible, ever in a million years stolen a packet of ketchup for his breakfast eggs.”
Rarely do I find myself on a sincerely meaningful committees, those that looks to address global issues related to peace or equality. My mind concerns itself with the smaller issues related to what is in front of me: parking, traffic, lines at the post office, restaurants that source from big ag producers, the cute church on the corner with the creepy ‘pre-school open for registration’ banner up front and rusty playground equipment out back, which I’m convinced limits attendance.
For years I kept a you are not on that committee sign above my desk at work. A reminder to remain focused on my assigned role. It sometimes worked.
I am grateful that my husband is patient and allows my committee service time to play out, especially when my assessments are all around wrong, and I end up putting us in a tight spot. Like the time when we were moving homes, and I gave the final shove to our queen mattress and wedged it into the van, (’cause I knew it would fit) only to realize upon unloading that is was so stuck it peeled layers of skin off from our palms as we pulled it loose. He just pursed his lips and looked at me through squinted eyes. Inside he was thinking, “Why did I allow her on the moving day committee?”
The thing about overzealous committee members is that the critical mind is not limited to the outside world and is just as active when it comes to all that is self. I frequently have to kick myself off my own self-committee for far too much input.
Committee systems are notoriously dangerous. They provide a sense of ownership over what is often not ours to own. We want to make right what may not need righting, turn over what may be best left untouched. I do not recall seeing unhappy faces at my brother’s graduation. No uproars over the seating, and it is quite possible that the older woman in the wheelchair asked for her chair to be placed across the way. We infuse our personal ethos and levels of comfort and discomfort into our committees, whether for love of organization or in the spirit of bettering.