August 26, 2009

My wife and I have a large garden. Some of the garden is fenced. Most of the plants growing behind the fence are food plants, though there are flowers as well. The fence is to keep the “critters” (such as deer and bunnies) who eat our food plants away, though there are some flowers behind the fence. We will be electrifying the fence this winter to keep the raccoons (all named Rocky) away from plants and chickens, as the raccoons just climb over the fence. Some bunnies crawl under the fence. I shoot the bunnies with a pellet rifle. The chipmunks run in and out of the garden. The Friendly Neighbors thought the chipmunks were cute until they counted 21 chipmunks, all eating their peas. Then they put out rat traps until they were down to 0 chipmunks. We have about five chipmunks; at the moment we tolerate them.

Some of the garden is not fenced. Mostly we grow flowers that the critters don’t care for. We also grow some food we don’t like that much, such as one variety of blueberries we planted but my wife made faces at when she tasted them. She said, “The critters can eat these berries; fine with me.” Then she complained because the critters ate the leaves as well. The critters don’t follow the gentle rules my wife sets for them.

However, some plants just plant themselves. For example, we have a sunflower plant growing by itself outside the fence.. We also have some chard that planted itself behind the fence. Useful plants that plant themselves are known as “volunteers” to gardeners.


During my working life, I had 17 different jobs. That just counts the full-time jobs. I was unhappy in all of these jobs, and never well-suited to any of them. I also had at least that many supplementary part time jobs, as well as various transition jobs to keep me going after one of the full time jobs ended unhappily. Some of these supplementary jobs were OK, but none could be depended on for very long.

Over that same period of time, I have had one spouse and one child. Well if you count my daughter’s “out of law partner” as I call her, because my daughter and her partner have never tried to have a “gay” marriage, maybe I have had two children, one adopted. And, of course, I have had one granddaughter, the inimitable Random Granddaughter, now five years old, and starting kindergarten at the private school for very bright children next month.

Like us, the Friendly Neighbors have been married for 43 years. However, they each had one other spouse. Mrs. Friendly Neighbors’ first spouse became ill and died. I asked Mr. Friendly Neighbor about his first spouse. He is usually a very articulate and self-possessed person, but he looked very awkward and embarrassed at my question. Then he said, “Sometimes when you are young, you make dumb decisions.” I didn’t ask any more questions on the topic.

Some of the reasons I was ill-suited for all my jobs were that I suffer from:

1) attention-deficit disorder;

2) hyperactivity disorder;

3) dyslexia (in a mild form);

4) narcissistic personality disorder (in a mild form), a problem perhaps endemic in my family;

4) compulsive disobedience;

5) compulsive unwillingness to pretend that emperors with no clothes are well dressed.

More or less by accident, in my last two jobs I found myself teaching adult education classes, teaching people who were the most part not very computer literate how to use and understand computers. I gradually (after a rough start) became fairly skillful at this work. It took care of problems 1, 2 and 3 fairly well. When I was teaching, I was
a) Telling my students I was likely to get distracted from what I was supposed to be doing and I didn’t mind if they said to me, “Please get back on track to what you are supposed to be doing,” thus snapping out of problem #1.

b) Moving around the room, scribbling with white board markers, paying attention to different students as they worked on their computers, telling jokes (helping compensate for problem #2).

c) Laughing with good-humored self-mockery when I made mistakes writing words on the white board, and quickly erasing the mistakes and writing corrections on the white board (compensating for problem #3 to some extent).

d) Telling dumb jokes and dumb stories to a captive audience (helping indulge myself in #4 without too much problem, perhaps, though it was often a close call).

e) Almost getting fired in both jobs. Just lucky, I guess, that I didn’t get fired. (I have been fired from an earlier job. I never finished telling that story.) I got out of my next to last job just in time and retired from my last job just in time. Just lucky I guess.

f) Same as e).

I thought about teaching computer classes as a volunteer. However, I observed:

I.) Been there; done that; don’t need to get stuck in a rut.

II.) There is a woman on our island who is teaching computer classes for not very computer-literate people. Some of what she does is volunteer; some of what she does she gets paid for. She clearly does not want to share the work with me and has tactfully and gently communicated that preference.

I am comfortable with that.

My wife, can’t stand to have anybody else tell her what to do because she is so severe and so obedient to her inner boss. When she retired she went to work for herself, keeping her house and her garden in immaculate order, often speaking severely to the house, to the garden, and to herself. She also volunteered for the organic farmer’s market on Saturday morning, serving coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, and bossing herself around. She also volunteered at a senior center where she provides respite service for care takers of people who care for victims of Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia, where she practices being kind and patient. Then she comes home where she practices being kind and patient as well as severe and strict on me.

I have volunteered for the local church at the invitation of the Kindly Neighbor, where I help them split wood to donate to elderly people and people down on their luck through losing their job or illness or other misfortunes as a heat source in the winter. As the Kindly Neighbor is a great expert on wood, this volunteer work suits him very well. I enjoy it well-enough but it was not really that fulfilling for me, as I am not as fascinated with different varieties of wood and how to split them as he is.

A few months ago, my wife and I took a class sponsored by AARP (which used to stand for “American Association of Retired Persons” but now just stands for AARP–really) about driver safety for older drivers. The class costs a small fee. Many automobile insurance companies provide a small discount to elderly customers who take this class.

As I took the class, I thought:

α) This is a well-organized and well-organized program.

β) I can do this.

Yesterday, I went for a interview to be accepted as a volunteer for the program. The interview was a a location on the island about an hour away from where I live. (I live on a long island, though not the place in New York state known as “Long Island.”) I drove carefully. I thought it inappropriate to be killed in an auto accident on the way for an interview to be accepted for teaching a class on driver safety for senior citizens. I made it alive.

I hit it off well with the volunteer coordinator. He asked me to attend a class he is teaching in September, and teach one unit of the class so he can observe me teach. If he is pleased with how I do, the next step will be for me to attend a two-day volunteer training orientation. If I do well enough at that, after that I will begin teaching driver safety classes as a volunteer teacher. I will have to concentrate carefully so I can live that long and not fall prey to my various flaws and deficiencies while I am doing this volunteer service.





5 Responses to “Volunteer”

  1. woo Says:

    Racoons all named Rocky? I love that. All the possums on my balcony are henceforward to be known as Percy. Whether they like it or not.

    Good luck with the volunteer driving course teaching. I imagine you will be excellent at it.

    My father took me for my first driving lesson on the day after my 17th birthday. We lived on an RAF base, so he took me out to the end of the airfield and showed me how to make the car move forward. I was happily moving forward – slowly – when someone’s dog ran at the car, barking madly. I was so shocked that my foot hit the accelerator (gas pedal to you), the car lurched forward and we hit the dog (not very hard). My father laughed so hard he nearly choked. I was mortified – convinced I had killed the dog (he was fine actually, the vet confirmed later). I never forgave my father and didn’t get back behind the wheel of a car until I was 28.

    • modestypress Says:

      Woo, I was a late how to drive learner as well. I didn’t learn to drive until after my father died. The father of my brother’s girl friend at the time taught me how to drive. I didn’t run into things until later.

  2. spectrum2 Says:

    On the first time I took the family car out on a drive, all by myself, I ran into the garage door. At the time my mom drove a Cadillac, so I didn’t think on it as a “cool” car, but I was 16 an needed wheels. As I pushed the button on the remote to raise the garage door, I put the car in reverse and slowly backed into the door. Thus, the door had been open, not closed, so I had closed the door and ran into it. It was so very very mild a hit, that no damage was done to the car and mild damage to the door. My mom came out to frown on me, but let me go out with my pals anyway. Good woman that she is.

    • modestypress Says:

      Spectrum, I never ran into a garage door. Usually, our garages were too full of junk to leave room for parking the car. Finally, we cleared just enough space to fit in a car. Then the garage door go stuck. We hired a company that specialized in fixing stuck garage doors to fit it.

  3. Pete Says:

    I think Mr Friendly Neighbor summed up both learning to drive, and life in general, when he said, “Sometimes when you are young, you make dumb decisions.” I think I had 7 accidents, all minor, my first year driving. I sure learned a lot about what not to do. Woo, your story was very funny, yet sad. I’m glad the doggie was ok!

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