Thursday, April 7, 2016

Jumping on the Cardboard Steering Wheel Grenade

Sometimes I'll find myself in a group of people that's being asked to volunteer for a task, and it's painfully apparent that no one wants to do it. Not only that, but everyone is playing a game of chicken with each other, trying to wait as long as possible to see if somebody else will volunteer instead.

Mostly, I've experienced this at work and in the context of my kids' school and extracurricular activities. There's always this frozen moment in time when the question hangs in the air like a fart in a car. It's probably only five seconds, but it feels much longer. The audience of potential victim-helpers are all looking furtively and hopefully at one another, silently praying that someone--anyone but them--will sacrifice themselves and jump on the grenade so the rest of us don't have to.

Because as everyone knows, there's only so long the group can wait to answer this question before a collective shame begins to set in. Shame that's on a collision course with the disappointment of the person asking for help.

This week, the grenade in question was making a cardboard steering wheel.

Paige's ice skating coach approached the bleachers where a group of perhaps half a dozen parents was seated, watching their kids practice for an upcoming spring recital. "Do I have any crafty parents here?," the perky coach asked cheerfully. 

Uh oh. 

It's well documented that while I might be able to color in a coloring book, I suck ass at crafts. Not me not me not me not me not me, I thought in mantra, feeling like a seventh grader about to be reprimanded for not reading the assigned chapters of The Catcher in the Rye.

The coach's question about crafty parents was greeted with radio silence, so she elaborated: "I just need someone to make a cardboard steering wheel for the bus." 

What bus? 

This was the level of attention I'd been paying to what was happening in this show. I'd been razor-focused on answering emails, eating popcorn, and trying to maintain a core body temperature of at least 97 degrees. From the looks of it, the other parents weren't much more informed than I was (for once).

"Anyone?" The inquiry was beginning to mirror that attendance-taking scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Anyone?

Here it was. The fart-in-the-car moment. Six pairs of eyes darted around, looking to alight on anything but the face of the expectant coach who wanted someone to go home and make a cardboard steering wheel that very night.

Finally, one of two dads present meekly raised his hand. "I guess I'll do it." 


The cardboard steering wheel grenade instantly exploded on someone else, and the rest of the parents, mostly moms, breathed an audible sigh of relief as the mounting pressure dissipated all at once. They looked eternally grateful to a dad who had taken the unusual step of publicly emasculating himself by pledging an evening dedicated to cardboard steering wheel-making.

"Thanks for taking one for the team," I told him with 100% honest gratitude on the way out. "Better you than me. Good luck with that steering wheel." 

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