Just say “No!”
I realize that it seems that every month I go on and on about how much I like the month I’m writing for, and it probably sounds like I’m just filling up space on the page. But honestly EVERY month has certain characteristics that I dig (except maybe February LOL), and September is no exception. Most of it is still summer (the first day of autumn isn’t until the 23rd this year - it changes).
September USED to be a drag because it meant going back to school, whether we’re talking about elementary, junior (or whatever they call it these days), high, or college. But these days I don’t feel that way except in memory. In fact, these days many kids go back in August anyway! Now, September just seems sorta mellow to me.
Around here the leaves don’t change until next month, and so we still have the green. Might not be the deep greens of spring and early summer, but green nonetheless. The days are still often warm and sunny and the nights aren’t so cold that ya freeze when ya ride.
I remember a sunny September morning in the mid 1990’s when a few friends and myself gathered up our stuff, climbed on our scoots, and headed for the Easyriders Rodeo in Chillicothe. At that time, ABATE did all the security for the event and volunteers were always needed to work it....and also to work the fund-raising booth for ABATE’s PAC (Political Action Committee) selling lemonade. The people I rode down there with had committed to doing security, but I decided that year to just enjoy the event and maybe find out just how much partying a recently divorced Bummer could handle for the whole weekend. Well, I found out.
Needless to say getting divorced kinda affected me a bit, and having stepped down from coordinating the previous year and passing it on to someone else, I had just begun to really relax and get my act together financially and otherwise. So, I took a week off from my job and considered myself on vacation from everything! Besides, I realized that the LAST thing ABATE needed was for Bummer to be loaded and doing security at an event that size. I probably would have gotten myself shot, stabbed, or both. It’s way against our rules for security to drink on duty at any event anyway, and I was on a mission to get as far away from the problems on planet Earth as possible.
Doug Clark from Cincinnati (a great guy) was not only this magazine’s editor back then, but he was also in charge of our PAC fund. I was Trumbull County’s Coordinator for the first few years of our county being active, and I wrote our county Regional News column. He and I not only knew each other through the magazine, but were also good friends from the various seminars we both attended over the years, and the few times he visited my place when he and his woman were in NE Ohio.
Anyway, after helping to set up our campsite, I immediately began partying. A short time later, Doug came by on a golf cart, climbed off, and asked me to commit to working the lemonade stand for a few shifts. He then walked to the cart and began to leave as he said.....
“So Bum, you can work the booth tonight, right?”
“We’ll make the hours easy for you.”
“Which shift would you like then?”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Is there a problem?”
“I don’t understand.”
I laughingly replied, “Which part of ‘No’ don’t you understand Doug? The ‘N’ or the ‘O’?”
Then I went on to explain: “Ya know, I’ve seen quite a few members get burned out on ABATE by feeling they had to volunteer for every event and project that comes up. Often if they don’t willingly volunteer, they still get goat-roped into something they don’t really wanna do by officers freaking out about a commitment THEY themselves made. I’ve decided that will never happen to me. I’m in ABATE for the long-haul. I’ve learned that unless it’s an outright emergency, or it’s something I’ve actually already willingly committed to, I can just say ‘No’ like Her Majesty Nancy Reagan urged kids to do about drugs in the 80’s.”
I don’t think Doug knew what to say. For a moment I actually felt guilty because this fine man who gave so much of himself to this organization over the years never really asked that much from others, and I felt I was letting him down. Then I realized that just wasn’t true. I wasn’t letting anyone or anything down. I was just saying “No” to a request for help in an organization that we both belonged to along with seven thousand other people (that was then). I went on to say,
“My plan was to come here and party, and I’ve got a good start on accomplishing that.”
“How about the midnight shift? You just stay and watch the booth.”
“But you can sleep there!”
“We’re short on people.”
“Yes, we are Bum! And stop saying that!”
“No! Listen, I’ve been looking forward to relaxing this weekend. I don’t WANT to sober up. And you wouldn’t want a drunk staying in ABATE’s lemonade stand all night anyway even if he was passed out. Right?”
“Well, if you put it THAT way.”
Then he laughed, paused, and changed course. “I’ve been wanting to talk to you about something else anyway.”
“SEE! You CAN say it!” and he laughed again as he continued, “Since people liked your writing in the Region News section when you were a county coordinator, and since people from other regions throughout the state often read it, maybe you can begin writing your own column in every issue. We’ll give you a by-line, your own page, even press credentials for interviewing people....what do you think?”
I was thinkin’, ‘Hmmmm.... Official backstage passes to maybe interview people for the magazine like: John Kay from Steppenwolf, and David Allen Coe?’ That did it!
And so it began.........
But none of that is important, though it does get to the point I’m trying to make here. To this day, I’m proud to say that I haven’t missed a deadline by even a day every month for the last 18 years (except when I was in jail, the hospital, or a rehab LOL). I committed to doing this for Doug that day not only because I was buzzed and felt bad about not working in his damned lemonade stand, but most importantly because he asked in such a way that I WANTED to do it.
(Pardon me here for taking off on something that might be boring to some or even piss a few people off. I’m glad to say we’ve never really had this problem in Region Zero, but I feel this should be said for the sake of the membership, to help preserve our roster, and maybe to help expand that roster in the long run....)
Some members get sick of being expected to do stuff for ABATE, and that could cost us plenty because many of these people might not re-up. They get tired of being badgered into doing things by officers who might have good intentions but don’t realize how much of a pain in the butt they’re being. I’ve even heard from a number of people that they’ve quit going to the June Jam entirely because they’re always expected to work it, especially if their region is poorly represented there (ya see ALL regions have been obligated to do SOMETHING at the Jam.) Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not specifically criticizing anyone because that’s the way it’s always been in the past, but perhaps that should be re-thought. I’m just putting it out there.
Many people LIKE doing stuff; participating in the “putting-on” of something. These people need to be sought-out and cultivated. They might be our shyest and quietest members, or they might be the most outspoken ones, but they ARE out there. Ya just gotta find them. THIS is a quality that our officers need to develop: To delegate successfully. We need to learn how to look for these folks, to entice them without pressure, to listen to what they say, and to learn how NOT to abuse them by learning how to plan the staffing of events well in advance, whether it be for a run, a rally, a party (however you want to say that), a swap, a festival, or a feast of some kind. I’ve often had problems with assistance working an ABATE booth at an event.....so I get help, I do it alone, or it doesn’t happen. But pressuring folks or laying a guilt trip on ‘em just isn’t good practice and doesn’t work in the long run.
I’ve even heard members say that they’re always afraid that they’ll be blasted with appeals for workers even if it’s just poking signs in yards for politicians. So they quit coming to meetings, if they ever did. Some don’t even BEGIN going to meetings in the first place because of the fear of what they perceive as obligations. Either way, eventually we lose them for good. I’ve known many who’ve said they’ve even quit ABATE because they don’t have the time for it. I’ve always assured anyone I’ve ever talked to about ABATE that members are NOT required to do ANYthing: “You’ll only be as busy as you want to be.”
A functional group of any kind develops a sense of teamwork. THIS has to be developed. You can’t just throw out, “Members gotta do this” or “Members gotta do that.” Members don’t GOTTA do shit except pay their dues. We have to remember and respect that very important fact.
If we’re going to have events (and we do HAVE to have events for financial reasons as well as for promotional purposes), then we as officers HAVE to realize that we need to stop brow-beating people into working them. If this means we have to scale down the event, then so be it.
So, to sum it all up: Those of you who ARE officers...don’t be pushy. The people you turn-off far outnumber the people you might successfully nag into something. If help is needed THAT bad, you can find some other way of solving the problem then bitching people into it. Talk to someone higher up. It doesn’t always have to roll DOWN hill! LOL.
But MOST significantly: To you members out there, if you ever feel pressured by an officer in ABATE to do anything, whatever ya do, don’t QUIT or fail to re-up! We NEED you as a member. And if that’s all you can give, take it from me...keep the faith and just say, “No”.
P.S. I’m just glad I won’t be at the next State Board meeting LOL!