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Hectic Days Are Better Than They Would Appear

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Education | Volunteering

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Boy, oh boy, were my last two shifts hectic!

Two weeks ago was Seniors Day (seniors admitted for free) and more than 2,400 older folks already had flowed into the Great Hall by noon!

As soon as the doors opened at 9 a.m., the Great Hall immediately became a hubbub of activity.

On that day we certainly fulfilled one of our aims, which is to instill a sense of wonder in our guests, something that I saw occur during the morning hours. I had stopped to talk with Ed at the outdoor ray pool, when an older man walked up to us excitedly. “That’s the first time I ever touched a fish,” he said, his eyes open wide. Ed later remarked at how wonderful it was to experience his enthusiasm and see firsthand his sense of wonder and awe at the experience, and I had to agree; it gave me goose bumps!

The next week came a day captain’s nightmare, involving scheduling problems… lots of scheduling problems.

But let’s backtrack a moment: because of how tired I was at the end Seniors Day, I forgot to make a copy of the volunteer sign-up sheet for the following week, so I asked someone to make a copy of it for me and bring it to a meeting we were having the next day, which he did.

The copy I got was dark on one side, dark in the way that a photocopy is dark when the cover to the machine is lifted before it finishes the task, so, in part, I had to rely on an earlier copy I had made the week before (our volunteers usually sign up for a month at a time, on one sheet of paper, which we copy weekly to make sure we have the most updated version).

When I couldn’t make out what it said on the darkened sheet, I fell back on what was written on my earlier copy, which I later found was a very dangerous thing to do.

Needless to say, a few people had deleted their hours and I made a few mistakes, resulting in having four volunteers scheduled to work who were not coming in. Three of them had changed their schedules, saying they were not coming in, and one who had planned on coming in was called away and left a message on the volunteer voice mail, but someone must have erased it accidentally.

I learned of my first error just before leaving home at 7 a.m., so I was able to adjust the schedule while still there; I learned about the second error at around 8:30 a.m., when I went into our Aquarium Resource Center to rework the schedule using the copy I had burned onto a rewritable CD. The file was corrupted, so I went online to get the file from my email account, but I had confused my password with one I’d had previously so I couldn’t get to my mail. Uh oh.

I had already marked up, in pen, the copy of the schedule that I had printed at home, so I had to make my scribbles look a little neater before making copies for my staff. This done, I believed that was well with my world once again. Wrong.

During the 9 a.m. volunteer update, I noticed that Ed was not present, which is unusual for such a reliable volunteer. By 9:10 a.m., I was getting nervous, so I checked the volunteer voicemail, which was empty. I worried about Ed’s well-being and fretted that it looked like he wouldn’t be there so I’d have to rework the schedule for a third time.

Out came the white-out. I moved people’s names around again, to continue covering must-staff stations, but ran out of people from what I had originally thought was a slim number of volunteers before I found out about all the problems.

I sighed and proceeded to again change the schedule, kept calm by the nonplussed attitude of Heidi, our education department liaison for the day. Heidi helped me find ways to move people around, and filled empty spots as best she could with paid staff members who, I might add, had their own work to do.

I passed new schedules out to those whose stations had changed, and then found out, at about 11:15, that I had made another mistake. I got a call that Hank had not arrived at his first post at 11 a.m. so I called him, only to find out that he had written “no” on top of where he originally had written 11 to 5; but it still looked like the numbers on the darkened copy. Oops!

Heidi rose to the occasion again, and in no time we had changed the schedule another time.

Afterwards, I continued to run around like a crazy person, starting the rotation by going to a station so that the volunteer who was there could go to another, and so forth, to ensure that all volunteers got to their next places on time. I also fed the stingrays upstairs both in the a.m. and p.m. times, a job that usually is performed by rank and file volunteers.

Thankfully, I made it through the day and, actually, I can honestly say that even though it was hectic and stressful, I still had a great Aquarium of the Pacific day.

I’ll admit, though, that I’d rather do without shifts that include such major scheduling snafus. Handling the crowds, like on Seniors Day, is far more fun!

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