I think the unspoken rule is, those who sign up last shall inherit the worst of jobs. But like the proverbial lamb to the slaughter, I believed them when they told me I would be working the cake walk. Maybe that's a joke among the PTO head honchos. "Tell her she'll be working the cake walk."
I innocently show up with visions of merely having to lift a finger to press a play or stop button on a boombox and award cakes. A big improvement over the previous year when I had worked in the room where children had to try to pop balloons. Amazing how stubborn balloons can be, the many tactics children use and the many squeals involved.
I went to the festival all set for the cake job, but that was not to be my fate. I was directed to the gym where a game awaited that involved throwing three rubber balls at stack of three milk-bottle shaped wooden things. A gym is a big place, especially when rubber balls are involved.
The balls bounced from one end of the gym to the other. To a puppy it would have been a great setup, but after a couple of hours, I felt like one, tired old dog. The couple running the basketball toss at the opposite end sent one of their workers to my aid. I must credit that mom for her athletic ability. When I was on my last legs, she still moved swiftly.
If I hadn't had my 7-year-old son there mopping up the gym floor I don't know what I would have done. He tucked and rolled and seemed to enjoy that job as much as the ball throwers. After awhile it all seemed like a blur, like it must with "carny" workers, who run the same game night after night. I positioned some of the tiniest players only a few feet from the target, so they could have the satisfaction of winning. I watched as some obviously accomplished baseball players returned time after time to knock down the bottles for the satisfaction of winning some tawdry piece of plastic.
It was no cake walk. Of course, I heard tales of other volunteers' demanding assignments. I had admired the rainbow-colored hair dye adorning many of the ballplayers. Little did I know that while I chased balls, they were suffocating on aerosol fumes at their popular booth. I guess the moral of the story is sign up early or follow the bouncing ball.
Emily Toadvine is features editor at The Advocate.