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Essays on Issues, Ideas and Reflections on the Times. Published now and
then. Opinions pro or con are welcome.

Volunteer as Opposed to Self-Appointed Tasks

North Miami Beach, FL 04-09-2005
A.H. Schectman

There is an excellent essay at the bottom of the OP-ED page in the NY Times this morning.  It is about how our industries and businesses have persuaded us to do unpaid labor in the process of our being served.  Personally, Carol and I prefer to add approximately 20% to the tip for wait persons, calculated while including the tax.  I find that both of us crumb our places and move dishes around to facilitate their removal by the paid “servant”.  We are a people who serve ourselves when we enter the fast food world a point well made and well stated by Nichols Fox.

When you think about it, we humans serve ourselves and others automatically. Just think of all the services provided by parenting the young.  We can always count on a relative, neighbor or a friend to baby sit which later on becomes a paid job for teen-agers.  Some lucky grand parents are eager to take on the job of coming into your house and playing with the children while they (she) whips up a meal or cleans and picks up after the “children”.

Carol and I do volunteer work that we heard about and put in six hours between us once a week at RFB&D. There is a lady on our floor who puts on a uniform and goes to the local hospital to do “free” work. There are others who take on jobs in the Condominium consortium to which we belong in order to serve the rest of us who want to see movies and celebrate holidays.

When in the military, the volunteering was done by the sergeant who pointed to you, you and you and he got a team to get a job done.  Most of us, excepting the absolutely numb persons who go about the world unseeing, uncaring and unfeeling, do a lot of self-appointed tasks.  We volunteer ourselves and this is an ad-hoc position rather than the hospitals, RFB&D’s and fast food establishments that design clean-up to be done by the paying guest who buys breakfast, lunch or dinner.  My favorite is our local pizza parlor that has it down to a science.  You pay up front and then serve yourself at three stations the pizza (you can come back as many times as you want), the drinks and the desserts. This is also true of most “Buffets”. The irony is that you are asked to bring your dishes when done to a station where they are scooped up by one of the few actual workers who have a job to do.

The essay quoted above makes the point that we have been enlisted unknowingly and with our consent to be unpaid workers or volunteers because there is something inherent in us to get us to be working for others as well as ourselves for that is what makes us human.  I bet we can train our tropical fish and hamsters but not our cats and dogs to clean up after themselves.



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