I am not a leader. Nor do I ever want to be.
There are reasons for this:
1. I crumble under pressure, and I want no part of pressure or crumbling.
2. I can’t remember anything. I used to know what day it was and at least a few capital cities. Now I’m an unproductive citizen who drinks coffee and eats toast until noon and on a good day showers – otherwise known as a writer.
3. I never knew much anyway. But then, my brain melted: a combination of a July heat wave, my hot flashes, and trying – desperately – to keep up with the Kardashians.
At one point several years ago, I volunteered for various causes. It felt right, I was lucid and, well, there was free food.
In 2008, when the presidential race was heating up, I wanted to be part of something bigger than driving my son to rehearsal or rereading potato chip labels. I didn’t need to be visible or terribly responsible. That would require concentration and wearing better clothes than my jogging outfit from 1994. Stuffing envelopes sounded good.
I called a local political headquarters.
“I just want to stuff envelopes,” I said.
“There’s lots to do. Don’t worry,” I was told.
That Sunday, I threw on a ripped, peace T-shirt and my loosest jeans, perfect for the rigors of envelope stuffing, and picked up coffee and a bagel. Whole wheat, sliced not toasted, olive cream cheese, extra olives. Not that I’m obsessive.
I arrived late to the volunteers meeting, the warehouse-like room filled with excited chat and chaos. I hadn’t seen so many tie-dye shirts on gray-haired people in years. Kids ran around with juice boxes, moms were nursing babies, and there was plenty of free coffee and doughnuts. I was home.
Visions of pamphlets danced in my caffeinated head. If I paced it right, I could have one doughnut per 40 envelopes. Still had my math skills intact.
Eventually, the meeting started. They asked people to make calls (no thanks) and show up at the upcoming caucus (no problem). Ms. Semi-Involved Townsperson here filled out the volunteer forms and left.
I held out for the envelope gig, which never materialized – some junk about saving the earth. Whatever.
The night before the caucus to nominate the party’s presidential candidate, I made chocolate chip cookies and some seriously lame handmade signs.
“Great posters, Picasso,” my husband Ted said.
I gave him a warm cookie. I ate three.
On the big day, we lined up among the huge crowd, signed in and found our “ward” down the hall. I set out my cookies and signs.
Although speeches and proceedings were slated to begin promptly, people were still milling about. Now and then, someone in a suit wandered through. I slipped some of my cookies to Ted in a napkin. I mean, I didn’t even know these moochers.
The crowd was getting loud (“Betty, saved you a seat!”) and people noisily moved metal chairs around. Someone tripped over cords, the microphone screeched and people gasped, interrupting my relaxed eat-a-thon. It was all I could do to find cream for my coffee. I hate that powdered stuff. Cheap party planners. And so much waiting.
Finally, I’d had it. I flagged down an official and had a few brief words with him. Then he disappeared, leaving me breathless. The caucus began, with impromptu organizing and speeches. Yup, that busybody – yours truly – who just couldn’t keep her nose out of everyone’s business, who’d finally demanded, “Who’s running this thing, anyway?” was told:
I was in charge, the simple slow-motion fantasy of placing a flyer into an envelope lost forever.
Afterward, my husband assured me I did a good job.
“You seemed very leader-like,” he said. “And adorable in your hippie clothes, giving orders.”
That’s when I realized I never want to be a leader again.
See, it’s not my basic underlying laziness. Nor saying, “Everyone’s voice will be heard,” and then breaking into a sultry blues song at the mic.
It’s not even keeping a committee sitting around a table for hours counting and recounting absentee ballots, to be positive that every single citizen’s vote was counted correctly, until someone threatened to have me bodily removed, which was especially embarrassing coming from Ted.
No, that’s not it.
I think it was when, in an effort to keep up my strength during the crucial hand vote, I quietly reached out – and then tripped and flew over the microphone cords, possibly uttering a few inappropriate words into said microphone – to grab the last cookie.
Right out from under someone’s outstretched fingers.