Monday, March 24, 2008

Confront Direction, Discover Confusion

Confessions of a Kiwanis Key Club Past President

Disclaimer: As I've mentioned many times before, my memory is truly awful when it comes to things I want to remember. Key Club is an experience I am more than happy to forget. Combining my unwilling heart with my reluctant brain cells will (I hope) bring very few facts into the unforgiving light.

During high school, my stepfather was a member of the local Kiwanis Club chapter. I never really held much interest or knowledge about Kiwanis except that they were the folks who rewarded you with a packet of stale peanuts as a "thank you" for your donation. Unfortunately, in either my sophomore or my junior year, Kiwanis founded a Key Club chapter at my high school. My mother and stepfather insisted that I join. Declining was not an option.

Well, I joined, and it was a rather nice group of service-minded students, and my membership in my junior year was a happy one. I dragged my friends on board, and Key Club became even more fun for me.

Unfortunately, each year the Key Club elected new officers to run the organization. In my junior year, Key Club was effectively and efficiently run by four smart and organized students, and Key Club was gearing up for another banner year.

I should mention here that in addition to a competent student governing body, the Key Club was blessed with the influence of two adult advisors. The first was Mr. D., one of the high-school art teachers who, for whatever reason, got the lucky job of being our faculty sponsor. It was basically Mr. D's job to make sure our actions didn't violate school policy as well as provide baby-sitting services while we met in his classroom after school. Our second grownup was one of the Kiwanis Club members. I suddenly forget his name even though I can picture him to this day, so for this post I shall call him Mr. Kiwanis. His job was to guide Key Club in its civic operations.

It was only a matter of time before Mr. Kiwanis discussed the upcoming Key Club elections at the monthly Kiwanis meeting. My stepfather reported it to my mother, and my mother immediately insisted that I should run for nothing other than president.

What? Huh? Me?

Most of us can tell at a fairly early age whether we'll be one of the leader types or one of the followers. I am much happier as a worker bee than I am as the boss. This wasn't yet a trait I defined for myself, but I wasn't bursting with confidence over the idea, either. Did I voice my concerns to my mom and stepfather? Are you crazy? Of course not!

Why? My mom was the absolute best, and I think of her and miss her every day. She was a brilliant, compassionate, and strong-willed person. The trouble is that last trait rendered me perpetually invertebrate when our opinions differed. Even as a grown woman with my own spouse and house, I very rarely challenged or talked back to my mother. Most of the arguments I had with The Oracle surrounded my chronic inability to stand up to my mother's wants and whims. As awful as it sounds, I must credit a portion of my happy marriage to my mother's absence.

That being said, if I could have Mom back, I'd gladly endure the ulcers and angina that I'd likely suffer.

Back to the point.

The Key Club membership must have been dozing on election day because -- horrors! I actually got elected. I credit my election to having half of my friends making up the membership. If an incompetent like me can attain a presidency of any sort, I can understand how people get elected to higher office with little or no competency to do the job. The cool part, of course, was that my closest friends got elected to serve with me. A was my vice pres., V was treasurer, and B was secretary. For the fun of it, we bestowed H with the title of Sergeant-at-Arms.

When I arrived home with news of my "successful" election to office, my stepfather rewarded me with a hand-crafted gavel and block which he lovingly made from ash. I took that to my first meeting and pounded it with glee every week until I surrendered my seat at the end of the year. H was the only one to successfully chip my ash gavel when he decided to try drumming the edge of a Pepsi can.

I still have my gavel, but I haven't pounded it since my final meeting.

Try as I might, I cannot remember one constructive thing accomplished during my term as Key Club President. I remember raffle fundraisers for a cordless phone and tickets to the Prince concert, but I believe the Prince ticket raffle was nixed because we learned it violated some school rule. So to raise funds for our burgeoning little Key Club, we resorted to candy sales.

Not just any candy sales, home-made candies. Under my mother's supervision, a hefty chunk of Key Club membership met in mom's dining room or her office basement to prepare and wrap molded chocolates as well as nut, raisin, or coconut clusters, and any other easy-peasy stuff a group of flighty high schoolers could manage. We toted boxes of the stuff to school and sold it between classes to fatten the student body as well as Key Club's coffers.

My shining moments as president, though, covered two specific and rather pathetic events. The most shameful of the two surrounded the secretary, B. (Yes, the same full of holes here.) Someone took issue with B's recording of minutes, which basically detailed nothing and said less every week. The dissent over B's minutes snowballed into a pathetic series of events that led to B being stripped of her office by membership vote and replaced with someone else. I don't remember who that was.

As much as B got on my nerves and drove me to distraction, she didn't deserve that kind of humiliation, and it shames me to this day when I think of it. I, as president, should have mustered a little intestinal fortitude and stopped the shenanigans, but I took the chickens--t way out and abstained from the vote, essentially washing my hands like Pontius Pilate. The only thing that eases some of my guilt is that we had two adult advisors who were present at every meeting leading to this debacle but who offered nothing in guidance or opinion.

My second shameful moment was the annual Key Club Convention held at a popular resort in our state. Students from high schools all over flocked to said resort to elect national leaders, learn what other Key Clubs were doing, and sing peppy Key Club lyrics written over old songs. Looking back, it was actually kind of disturbing. I clearly remember myself among the singing, cheering high-schoolers, and the image is eerily similar to the "youth rallies" you see in the old WWII newsreels. Creeeeeepy.

Two convention events taint my memories. The first was during the convention nominations and debates for officers. All of the wannabe candidates were walking around wearing these gigantic "ASK ME" buttons on their lapels. I was yawning my way through the umpteenth "Pick Me" speech, and I was downright stir crazy. When a good-looking candidate reached his Q&A portion I raised my hand, stood up when called, and said, "If I asked you, would you say yes?"

Huh? Did that come out of my mouth? What did I mean by that anyway? That surely ranks in the top ten of the most stupid moments in my pathetic adolesence. I don't remember his exact response, but I remember he deftly handled it with grace and humor.

Immediately above the "ask me" comment on my "pathetic moments" countdown has to be our club's entry in the Key Club International talent competition. Until the day of the competition, we had no idea how serious a matter this contest was. Amid all those awesome vocal and instrumental performances, dance routines, comedy stand-ups, etc., our club's costumed and lip-synced rendtion of The Time Warp really stood out, much like the obnoxious, drunken relative at a formal family dinner.

Even as I think of it now, I have to fight the urge to pull my shirt collar over my head. I was as big a Rocky Horror junkie as anyone. I still love the music and remember most of the audience cues, but I cringe when I recall baring my Rocky Horror fetish in that almost-puritan setting.

Funny, but my memories beyond the convention fade to black, either because we accomplished little or nothing else or my mind just can't handle any more reminiscing on the subject.

I vaguely remember a monstrous stink by none other than my mother upon our return from said convention. I don't completely remember why. I remember getting yelled at and lectured in a huge way. Maybe V can help me here. She didn't go to the convention, but as my successor (and treasurer at the time) she just might be able to refresh my recollection. It may have had something to do with funding the attendance of Ken, since he was the only one with a driver's license and his own car and the willingness to drive us to and from. The problematic part is that Ken had graduated the year before. Oops.

Can you help me here, V, and do you even want to?

I do remember the tremendous relief I felt when I turned the reins over to V, my unlucky successor. She wrongly blames herself for Key Club's imminent demise, but in reality she was just the unfortunate Gerald Ford to my Nixon presidency. I handed over a huge mess and a club with shattered credibility, and all thanks to me.

I'm sorry, V.

And I'm sorry, B, wherever you are.


--V said...

Was there a stink about Ken?

The fuss I remember had to do with the candy sales. Your mother thought there should have been more money raised than there was. I recorded every amount I was handed, but I don't know that anyone recorded how much candy was given out.

I remember going over the books with Mr. Kiwanis, and your mother demanding to see them, and me refusing because she was a) not one of our advisers and b) not a member of Kiwanis. Mr. Kiwanis backed me up about that, and said the books themselves looked fine.

And about replacing B. as secretary: my own vote against her was because she stopped coming to the meetings. How do you record if you don't show up? She was replaced by S.A., my should-have-been twin sister. Remember her?

Just Me said...

Ah, thank you!

I'd forgotten that SA succeeded B, and while I'd forgotten her role in Key Club, I remember SA very well and how close you two were.

Some things are just so unfair.

Just Me said...

Oh, I forgot to mention that, yes, there was a stink about Ken.

My mother made a stink about Ken because, yes, he was no longer a KK member once he graduated. KK funded at least part of his attendance because he drove us to/from.

Which is probably the reason my mother got into a tizzy over KK's monies in the first place. I think once she learned who Ken was and his ineligibility to attend, that opened the floodgates for a full-blown inquiry into KK's books, and her spineless daughter had to rely upon you and Mr. Kiwanis to keep things in perspective.

It's memories like me that make me happy that I don't have to relive my high-school years.

Just Me said...

Ugh. I hate typos.

It should read: "Memories like THESE that make me happy..."

You'd think I could edit my own comments!

--V said...

I felt horrible putting you in the middle like that, but something about that situation pushed all my buttons.

There's a stubborn streak running on both sides of my family, and they met & merged in me. For reasons I can't explain (and usually over something stupid), I will just dig in and say "No." It's usually in the face of an extremely forceful personality, and it's usually after watching that personality steamroller someone else. I think it's just to show them they're not always going to get their way.