Ego check

My son attends an elementary school where the teachers and administrators expect a lot of volunteer time from the parents. I think that’s reasonable and try to do my share, though I usually fail. I attended a “mandatory” parents’ meeting a week or so ago. (I’ve been told such meetings are mandatory with the unspoken threat that, if I don’t go, I can expect my son to quickly become a home-schooler.) Judging by the number of parents who came to this mandatory meeting, either there are only about 30 other kids in the school, or we have an unusually high number of self-supporting orphans enrolled.

The meeting rolled along pretty well with reports about fund-raising efforts and congratulations from the principal on how involved we parents were with our kids’ education—he said he’d never seen anything like it. As the accolades rolled out, I sank a little lower in my butterscotch-colored, school-issued folding chair (you know the style), guilt weighing heavily on my shoulders. At last came the inevitable: the call for new parent volunteers to keep things organized for next year. Most had already stepped forward, their names listed on the agenda, and all the rest of us had to do was vote for them. But there were two positions still open, co-moderators whose task is to set times and places for meetings and deal with school boards, school officials, local government and other parents. “Who wants to be co-moderator?” asked the woman running the meeting. “How about some men this time?” I was as low in my seat as I could humanly get. “OK, I’ll do it,” said a man named Scott, much to the delight (and relief) of the rest of us. This was good enough for now. A second co-moderator could be named later.

When the slide projector failed to cooperate, thereby canceling the scheduled slide show, the meeting, with the exception of the ice cream sundae consumption, was adjourned. And at that point I did something odd and unexpected. It was as if I couldn’t help myself. I approached Scott and said, “Hey, I’ll be the other co-moderator.” It felt good when two of the women who helped run the meeting came up and we told them that I, Tom Gascoyne, was volunteering my time to be co-moderator. I suspected that when they realized who I was they would be really grateful to have a man with my history of dealing with bureaucracy, boards and governments on their side. And meetings, ha! I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve attended in my life. Yes sir, these people were lucky to have me on board, and they’d soon realize it. The next day I got a message that sounded like, “Hi Tom, this is Suzy Gripandgrin from last night’s meeting. Can you call me?” Oh boy, I thought, they’re excited. They realize who I am. Before I could get back to her, though, Suzy called me again. “Uh,” she said, “do you think you could, uh, unvolunteer? We wanted someone with more experience dealing with meetings and boards.” I felt like I’d been sucker-punched. I managed to say, “Sure,” as if I meant it. “Maybe next year,” she suggested. “OK,” I said with false enthusiasm. Lesson: Just when a guy’s ego starts to get stretched out of proportion, something comes along to snap it back into place.

Hot dogs, soda and sodium pentathol. On Thursday, May 24, the Coalition for Parks and Jobs will hold a “Tour for the Truth on Measure A” and barbecue. The tour, being promoted by coalition (and Chico Chamber of Commerce) leaders Tod Kimmelshue and Jim Goodwin, is along Comanche Creek where the proposed Otterson Road extension and bridge would sit should Measure A be approved on June 5. According to a flier, the tour offers a chance to “join the fight against misinformation and campaign rhetoric.” I’ll ask this question between bites of hog dog: “While we’re on the subject of truth, why in your campaign brochure did you print a picture of a torn-down grain silo that was once part of the hog farm here and describe it as ‘illegal dumping along Comanche Creek in the project area'? Isn’t that misinformation?” Then I’ll probably be invited to quit the tour, which begins at 5pm.

This week we unveil a new full-page advertisement for Parliament cigarettes, a product of the nation’s leading cigarette manufacturer, which boasts some 18 brands of cancer sticks ranging from the mega-popular Marlboro to the lesser-known Superslims. We went for years here at the Chico News & Review refusing to run ads for the big tobacco companies. Now, based on an employee vote, we’ve decided to cave in. It’s a nice ad; sort of an outdoorsy nature shot. The only thing missing is the SUV. I expect to hear some protests from our readers. But who knows? Things change.