Friday, December 16, 2011

Drop Everything!

This time of year, we make a lot of cookies. And by a lot, I mean a LOT. It's a significant investment in time, energy and money.  But it wouldn't be Christmas without them.

Imagine this:
You've spent hours mixing the dough, using the cookie press to make fancy designs, decorating them, and you've just put a batch of cookies in the oven.
And then... the pager goes off.

One of the big differences between working someplace that has shifts, and being a volunteer out here, is that we need to be ready whenever the pager goes off, any moment, night or day. No warning. It means either sitting around doing nothing, in case there is a call, or having things interrupted. Some things aren't meant to be interrupted.

Here are some suggestions and tips I've gathered from various people and places.

1. If you are cooking, you need a plan in case you are interrupted. You can't just leave things on the stove or in the oven, most of the time.
The best plan is to have someone who stays home who can finish it for you.
If that is not the case, consider whether you can simply stop where you are, and finish when you get back. Sometimes you can; other times, not so much. A timer may help, if it's something in the oven that can hold for a while.
If you leave, make sure to put the food where any pets can't get it while you are gone.
If there is someone else who can cover the call, and what you are doing is time-sensitive or can't be interrupted in the middle, consider not going. If you don't mind scrapping whatever you are making, then don't worry about it, just go.
Do plan ahead, so you know what to do, instead of trying to figure it out in a hurry and under stress.

2. If you are in the shower, you need to be able to get dressed, and to deal with wet hair. Keep a set of easy-to-get-into-while-wet clothing in there with you. Hair ties are good. Hats, too. You may want to just go without a bra, if you can get away with it, rather than struggle with straps over wet skin- but probably not if you might be doing CPR.

3. If, like my daughter, you like to dye your hair, keep a stocking cap handy. You can put it on over the whole dyeing process. Remember that leaving the dye in longer will change the color.  In the summer, you might get odd looks, but who cares? Better than dripping dye everywhere, or not going.

4. If you are in the grocery store, it's kind of rude to just abandon your cart. Around here, some smaller departments have a sort of "arrangement" with some stores that if they need to go to a call in the middle of shopping, they put their cart in the beer cooler, and it can wait until they get back. Consider carrying a written note saying that you are a volunteer, got a call, and will be returning, to leave on the cart when you go.

5. Ditto some restaurants and diners. There are a couple of places near here where there is sort of a standing agreement that people can just go, and come back to pay later. Build trust with the restaurant, and this might work. I've also asked for the check and paid right after ordering, and explained that we might need to leave in a hurry, and don't want to stiff them.

6. If you live somewhere that your car windshield can ice over at night, use this trick I learned from a volunteer years before I even became one. Leave your windshield wipers in the up position, and use them to hold a carpet remnant, a welcome mat, or even a towel over the driver's side of the windshield. Then, when you need to go, simply remove it, and there will be a clear spot underneath.

7. If the problem is more snow than ice, use a small tarp. Drape it over the windshield, and close the ends in the doors to hold it there. In the middle of the night, being able to just pull it and go saves a lot of aggravation.

8. At night, leave everything you need set up where you can find it and get dressed quickly. Stage everything: clothing, keys, wallet, your watch. Your brain.

9. On the way from your door to your car in the middle of the night, if you have one, use the remote to turn the lights on in your car, so you can see where it is! It gets very dark out around here.

10. If you are attached to any particular TV shows, or watch sports, always record them as you watch them. Or simply always record them, and watch them later. You don't want to get to the last couple of minutes of the show, and have to run out the door.

11. Get in the habit of emptying your bladder frequently. If you don't, it is nearly guaranteed that you'll get a call at the very moment that you've decided you can't wait any longer.

12. Stay hydrated, and feed yourself well and regularly. Have bottled water and healthy snacks handy, ready to grab on the way out the door. If you are going to a call that may last a while (a search, for example) it's good to have your own supplies with you. if someone else is driving, you may be able to hydrate on the way there. Otherwise, you'll have it the moment the call is over.

13. To put it bluntly, consider turning the pager off during sex, unless you have a REALLY understanding partner. And some people do. Especially if your partner is going to jump up, get dressed, and go to the call with you. If they aren't, it may not take too many interruptions before you won't have to worry about this particular issue any longer.

14. If you are at a family gathering or celebration, make some decisions beforehand about what calls you will go to, and what you may not. If it's my father's birthday, I'm not going to take off out the door to go stand around for hours and wait for the utility company to come tell me that the downed wire is the phone, not the electric. If it's a serious medical call, I'll go, and make my apologies when I can.

15. Depending on where you are and what you are doing, consider whether you can even get to the call in time to do anything productive. Sitting at home, I can get to the call first. But if I'm not home, a lot depends on exactly where I am, and where the call is. If the call is going to last a while, or if they may need manpower, I'll go, even if I get there later than usual. If it's a public assist to help a little old lady get back in her chair, while that is one of my favorite kinds of calls, if I can't get there before the ambulance, the truth is they really won't need me.

I'm sure there are other situations, but those are the ones that come to mind.

(Edit: Unlimited-Unscheduled Hours wrote a great post adding a whole bunch more ideas!)

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