When It Comes to Altruism, America Might be Screwed

Every spring, the company I work for gives employees a paid day off to go out into the world and volunteer for pre-arranged community service projects, possibly on account of their awareness that New York is filled with career-driven narcissists who don’t give enough of a shit about philanthropic causes to volunteer their actual time to them.

This year, my work-wife Jenny and I signed up for a project called Walk and Play at the Humane Society. This was a major accomplishment for us, as the pet shelter-related opportunities are limited and always the first ones to get filled up. Because puppies.

Jenny and I were elated about having managed to snag not one but two of these highly coveted spots. It was like being awarded VIP status on the guest list to one of those super posh nightclub openings that used to happen on Sex and the City all the time but happen infrequently (and also, suck) in real life. (Remember the place with all the beds? There were so many beds.)

“WHOOMP, THERE IT IS! PUPPIES ALL DAY, E’RRY DAY!” I proclaimed to Jenny as we victoriously high-fived each other post-sign-up. “Or at least puppies from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Friday, May 16th.”

“Okay Nic, let’s make a pact,” Jenny replied. “Neither of us is allowed to adopt a dog. No matter how much we may fall in love while carelessly frolicking with them through parks, we can’t afford to just be adopting creatures willy-nilly.”

“Deal,” I said, relieved that there would be a formal checks and balances system (did I just misuse that term?) in place to combat my probable impetuousness amongst puggles.

Friday morning came quickly, and Jenny and I found ourselves on the fourth floor of a rundown Midtown East building surrounded by donated doggy clothes (because that’s what rescue pets give a shit about) with nine other volunteers from our company, none of whom we knew personally.

The volunteer coordinator was a petite young brunette with leggings and a nose ring who instantly reminded me of delightful country breakout starlet Kacey Musgraves.

“Okay, so we need two volunteers for the kitty hospital room,” she said.

Everyone immediately looked down as if to say, “Hell to the no; I’m holding out for a hero the cute, non-hospitalized dogs.” But then two brave souls looked up and sacrificed themselves for the greater good and I pitied them a little but mostly just felt major relief because (a) I’m vaguely allergic to cats, and (b) I’m made up of twenty percent Selfish Asshole. (And eighty percent Mariah Carey.)

“Now we need five volunteers to play on the roof with the large dogs.”

At this, the remaining people threw their hands up in a tizzy. Not Jenny and I, though; we just looked at each other and came to a mutual telepathic understanding that we were going to be savvy and save our hand-raising for the small (or at least medium-sized) dogs. Ain’t nobody got time for large dogs, we told each other with our eyes.

“Great!” Kacey Musgraves said, selecting the first five volunteers to play with the large dogs. Then she motioned toward the rest of us. “Now you four will have the pleasure of cleaning literal shit out of cat cages for the next three hours.”

She didn’t actually put it in those words, but she should have because that’s exactly what ended up happening. WE WERE BAMBOOZLED. Why the dogs were qualified as “large” before is beyond me. THE LARGE DOGS WERE THE ONLY DOGS.

I considered sticking my neck out and saying, “Ohhh, sorry, I’m allergic to cats,” but then figured that that’s exactly what someone who’s not allergic to cats would say. (Kind of like in movies when the killer is all “I’m not a killer!”) Plus I didn’t want to face the possibility of them saying, “Well then why didn’t you raise your hand for the dogs?” and me instigating a whole argument over how Kacey’s categorization of the dogs as “large” was misleading and cruel.

So I just accepted my fate and planned to avoid directly touching the cats/my eyes.

We were soon escorted to a room filled wall-to-wall with cat cages. The cats were cute enough, but the stench in the room was gross and a problem. It smelled like someone had murdered a carnie, locked it in a closet, peed on the body every morning for approximately a full year, and stuffed its pockets with Gouda at some point around the five-month mark.

(Wow. That was some fucked up and macabre imagery, and I apologize. I hope I didn’t ruin Gouda for you. Or carnies, for that matter.)

We were instructed that every cage had to be cleaned, and it was best that we split into pairs so we could tag-team the cat piss. The cage cleaning process entailed setting the cats free to roam around the room while we dumped out the litter boxes, sterilized and refilled them, brushed hair off the cat beds, and cleaned/disinfected the messes on the floors of the cages. These tasks involved maneuvers like bending down. And reaching for things. And lifting things.

Also, getting dirty.

Jenny and I smiled enthusiastically as we put our disposable gloves on and prepared to get to work, but deep down we were both spoiled, ungrateful bitches who were not amused.

“I bet HR has diabolical intentions with this whole community service thing,” I later whispered to Jenny as she scrubbed a cage floor and I lined a freshly treated litter box with newspaper. “They’re probably all, ‘Oh, our employees want to complain about their cushy jobs? Let’s have them perform manual labor while locked in a sauna of broken dreams and cat shit for three hours! That’ll take care of that problem!’”

After I said this, I realized how ridiculous and first-world-problems-y of me it was to be wasting my words on complaints.

And I wasn’t giving the good side of myself enough credit – there was a part of me that truly didn’t mind the work and was genuinely pleased to be helping out. Like, it felt awesome to get outside of my ego for a little bit and put my energy into something that didn’t benefit me directly.

But then I also had to acknowledge that if I weren’t receiving compensation (a whole day’s worth, nonetheless) to do this project, there was no way in hell I’d have opted myself into it in my cherished free time – which I think makes me a horrible, entitled person and also what’s wrong with America.

As we neared the end of the shift, a charismatic orange-haired kitty named Felipe started eagerly sticking his little paw out of his cage and trying to latch onto my shirt/generally touch me everywhere. And so I promptly forgot about all the philosophical issues the day’s activities were raising in my mind and just fell in love with him.

I’m not much of a cat person, but Felipe was really cute and I’m not a heartless bastard. Felipe was precious. Precious enough to melt my heart and make me glad that I got bamboozled into the miserable cat sauna, even. As I lovingly gazed into his tiny cat-eyes, I thought about how much it would pain me to see him alone on the streets. Or worse, hungry. Or worse, abused.

It was in this Scrooge-at-the-end-of-A-Christmas-Carol-y moment where I realized why one might willingly choose to volunteer at the Humane Society. Because Felipe (and every other cat ever) deserves to be loved. They deserve to not live in cages. Or at the very least, they deserve to live in fucking clean ones.

Then Felipe got all scratchy on me, but I secretly liked it.

“Friiiskey, are we?” I said, masterfully replicating the voice of Fat Bastard from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. “Jenny! How CUTE is this little guy? Take a pic!”

10371392_875058025122_7128745751022172651_n

Because I’m a super authentic person, I immediately posted this on Instagram with a caption that was all, “Delighted to be helping out for a great cause! #community”

When Jenny and I returned to our normally scheduled lives in the office on Monday morning, we learned that as a gift for all our hard work on Friday, the building was going to transform into a funhouse of treats and refreshments – stations with free beer, margaritas, wine, tacos, fries, sushi, Pinkberry frozen yogurt, and hot dogs were being set up for everyone who volunteered. Because America is nothing if not dependent on questionable motivation techniques and absurdly lopsided reward systems.

“Well, they did bamboozle us into busting our asses and cleaning up cat feces in a stench-filled shitbox for three miserable hours,” I said to Jenny. By then I had forgotten what Felipe even looked like. “It’s the least they could do.”

 

Advertisements

Like the Tour of Italy at Olive Garden, Except Less Caloric and More Write-y (#mywritingprocess)

The title of today’s post is mostly obnoxious and misleading, as it has nothing to do with Olive Garden’s delightful (OMG my big Italian family will have me off-ed if they ever find out that I just described something at OG as “delightful”) chicken-lasagna-Alfredo dish the Tour of Italy. But it does have everything to do with the fact that I’m participating in the #mywritingprocess blog tour, which has the word “tour” in it… so yeah.

The tour torch (tourch?!) was passed to me by the brilliant Ross Murray, whom I like to think of as David Sedaris except straight, Canadian, and with offspring. I actually have to pay attention when I read Ross’ stuff, because the humor is that good and sneaky and true.

Sometimes I kick babies things and eat gallons of ice cream out of frustration with my occasional fear that I’m lame and nothing I ever write is even remotely funny, but then Ross will comment on a post of mine and I’ll be like, “Okay, well if he’s still here, I can’t suck that bad.” (Either that or I’ve just become a habit.)

Ross answered the following #mywritingprocess questions last week, and now it’s my turn!

1. What am I working on?

So last year I wrote a book about my life and then spent a few months querying it and then some literary agents requested it and then they spent a few months reading it and then a couple of them rejected it and it was probably because I use “and then” in a run-on sentence-y kind of way far too often—and so I’m working on doing that less (starting now). I’m also taking all the agent feedback I’ve received (much of which was really insightful and definitely made me feel like the universe blessed me with a free professional critiquing service) and revising/editing/perfecting.

Aside from the ongoing book saga, I’m also working on figuring out where to go with this blog and how to make it take over the world. Lastly, because I’m an overachiever, I’m working hard on crafting a good tweet for later this week that I’m hopeful will net me two or so new followers.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

My voice, I guess? I mean, it’s all like, mine and shit. Also, I’d say my work is more “I’m an occasional hot mess who contradicts himself often” and less “I have everything figured out” than others in the memoir game. Oh, and it’s probably riddled with more casual Mariah Carey/Clueless/Jim Carrey/penis references than any other author’s work ever. Why I haven’t won a Pulitzer yet is beyond me.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I’ve always been great at talking about myself, and so yes, you could say I’ve always been a narcissist. I’ve also always been great at writing. So one day I combined these skills and later found out that what I was doing was called “memoir.”

Why humor? Because it’s fun, and I like fun. But don’t get it twisted; my book has plenty of surprisingly dark, serious moments – they just don’t last very long because every time I write dark I eventually get to a place where I’m like, “Wait. I really want to insert a footnote about how what I just wrote is eerily similar to that scene in Friends where Monica got stung by a jellyfish and Joey had to pee on her leg because she ‘couldn’t bend that way.’ Can I go back to being funny now?”

Yes, Nic. You can.

4. How does my writing process work?

Usually there’s a lot of meditating, going to the gym, cleaning my apartment, playing the guitar, calling my mom, drinking wine, and watching the OWN Network that goes on first before I ever sit my ass down and write. Then I finally sit my ass down and write. Then I treat my Word document as if it’s my best friend/therapist and it feels awesome and I’m just like, “Jesus, why do I always procrastinate doing something I love so damn much? Am I self-sabotage-y? Am I a hazard to myself? Am I my own worst enemy? DON’T LET ME GET ME!

Okay. Before my descent into early 2000s P!nk lyrics goes any further, I think it’s time to pass the tourch (!) to someone else.

And I nominate…

397497_817387711892_237651528_n

EKGO!

Ekgo is one of my favorites in the blogosphere. She lives in one of my dream locations (amongst mountains), grows garlic, and sometimes offends people. We found each other via our mutual hero the Bloggess, and I think that says it all.

Much like how Ross can make me get over the occasional “I’M NOT FUNNY AND I SUCK MORE THAN MONICA LEWINS…A VACUUM“ spiral, Ekgo too will show up in the comments with something so ridiculously hilarious and outlandish that I have to laugh and say to myself, “YES. Ekgo gets it.”

And then I’ll keep scrolling and be like, “…and so do ALL of these other incredible readers!” So if you’re reading this, thank you. Seriously. I love you all and would hand out 1,463 tourches (You get a tourch! YOU GET A TOURCH!) if I could.

 

%d bloggers like this: