Last night, I got to pay part of the price for my decision to sign up our 8-year-old for Little League baseball. It was my turn to work in the concession stand, or as my son likes to call it, "The Confession Stand."
Up until this spring, I had a few seasons under my belt as a soccer mom. I'm also an experienced karate mom, gymnastics mom and ballet mom. I figured baseball mom couldn't be THAT much more difficult, right?
Little did I know that baseball mom is not just a casual hobby. You must show devotion to be a baseball mom. You have to be willing to endure long practices even when it's 30 degrees most of the spring. You must be able to show enthusiasm during 2-hour games at least twice a week. You have to help your child keep track of a bat, a hat, baseball pants, a jersey, a bucket of baseballs, a glove, as well as a special pair of underpants and a wonderful accessory called, "the cup."
You must be willing to sell candy bars.
And the final installment in your penance is taking a turn in The Confession Stand.
I arrived for duty about 15 minutes early, and as cheerfully as possible announced, "I'm here to volunteer for my shift!"
A 17-year-old was standing in the middle of the narrow concession stand talking on her cell phone. She glanced my way for a second and gave me a blank stare. Another woman was backed into the corner by the cheese machine and pointed at the high school girl. Apparently, the girl on the phone was my boss.
She hung up her phone and continued setting up the stand without looking my way or saying a word. I decided to introduce myself to the other woman to see if she might respond.
"Hi! I'm Emily," I said. She mumbled something back with a big smile, indicating she didn't speak much English.
A few more minutes passed, and The Boss said, "Well, are you ready?"
The other mom and I nodded.
The Boss showed us the cheese machine, the chili machine and the oven with the rotating hot dogs. She instructed us that pretzels should be heated for 30 seconds in the microwave. That was it. Training was over.
I started bombarding The Boss with questions she clearly thought were a little over the top. "How much does everything cost? Where do we put the money? How much chili should we squirt on the chili dogs?"
A few minutes later, another couple arrived and cheerfully announced, "We're hear to volunteer for our shift!"
Now The Boss really didn't know what to do. There was only one game being played that evening and the temperature was dropping by the minute. This did not bode well for a mad rush in the concession stand. The three of us were already packed tight in the narrow booth. It was going to be tough to even fit two more in.
The Boss called her dad. "I've got four people here," I heard her say anxiously. After a muffled conversation, she turned to me and said, "He wants to talk to you."
I took the phone and tried to work things out with The Boss's dad. He really didn't know what we should do either since the only way we could get back the $50 we paid at registration was to work our two hours in The Confession Stand. I talked it over with my co-workers and the husband of the new couple decided he would go to practice. The rest of us would stay.
"Well, is there a good system for how we should do things here?" I asked, envisioning us working in unison, with one person on hot dogs, someone else on cans of pop and The Boss taking orders.
The Boss gave me her blank stare in answer to this question. I still thought it was a good idea and told the New Lady that she could be on drinks. I would handle the candy and chips. Smiling Lady who didn't speak English could do the hot dogs, pretzels, nachos and the cheese machine. We really didn't have much choice since there was no where for any of us to move in the stand.
Now, I realize this next statement will not sound nice, no matter how I try to phrase it. But the problem with the confined situation was compounded by the fact that The Boss was quite a bit overweight. And apparently, her designated spot was right in the middle of the stand where she needed to lean over the counter and write a paper for a class. She did this while consuming various bags of potato chips filled with the liquid cheese.
Well, to say business was slow would be somewhat of an exaggeration. The four of us spent most of our time checking our smart phones and every hour or so we would look up at the clock only to find out it had only advanced by two minutes.
After what seemed like days in The Confession Stand, it occurred to me why this job was so difficult for me.
I had completely lost my identity.
No one in The Confession Stand cared my name. They didn't want to know where I lived, or what I did or how many children I had or where I went to college or my hobbies or any other facts about me. They just wanted to focus on the random people who might want a can of pop, a hot dog or some nachos, squirt the appropriate amount of liquid cheese into the little cup, count the change and try to occupy their minds for two hours until we could go home.
On the other hand, I realized that this might be the only time in my life I would ever see these three women and the least I could do was get to know them. I wasn't sure if Smiling Lady knew what I was saying. The Boss was still giving me the blank stare. So I did my best to pose questions to New Lady to pass the time. By the end of the evening I had at least learned about her children, her job and her husband.
I also made a slight inroad with The Boss when she couldn't figure out how much change to give a customer who had ordered $2.50 worth of food. I helped her decipher that since the woman had given her a $5, plus two quarters, she needed to give her back $3.
Finally, my two hours were over and I ran to my car. Now that I knew the secrets of The Confession Stand I hoped never to return. I had hoped to stock shelves and flip burgers. I wanted to play some music as we rushed around grabbing Skittles for droves of customers. I wanted to hand out Snickers and make ice cream cones.
Instead, I had stood elbow to elbow in the small booth with the three silent women for almost two hours. I had at least made a connection with New Lady, but I walked away feeling empty. I longed for something more. I know it sounds weird, but I felt bad that I might never see those women again in my life and I didn't even know their names.
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