Alternately titled; “This is Why We Can’t Have a Nice Society.”
(This is kind of attached to last Friday’s “Friday F*ck You” post, in case you need a reference.)
SO! Punkin Pie is in the high school marching band, right? Since the school has no money for things like the marching band (don’t even get me started…), the organization begs the help of volunteers, mostly from the parent pool. Since I have a lot of free time (that I didn’t ask for), I’m signing up for a lot of the volunteer spots. Up to this point, I’ve mostly offered to bring food for the concession stands, but I also put myself down for a couple of in-person positions – chaperoning for an away exhibition a couple weekends ago and greeting visiting bands as they arrived for our home exhibition last Saturday.
The first two bands to arrive were perfectly lovely. Their directors were warm and friendly, and the kids were polite and attentive as the greeters and the band members who volunteered as ambassadors boarded their buses to give them all the information they needed (where to assemble, where to pick up their equipment and instruments, where the restrooms were, that sort of thing). They followed directions, were professional and courteous, and were engaging and fun, and they gave every indication that they were happy to be there. It was a joy to welcome them to our school.
Then Ms. Dunlop showed up with her band.
Don’t get me wrong; the KIDS were great, but I have rarely encountered anyone more inconsiderate, entitled, blustering, self-absorbed, and downright fucking rude than this woman was.
She put me off so much that I felt compelled to write a letter. I sent this to the volunteer coordinator and the band director for our school:
Dear Reese and Maryanne;
I’m writing to you both to let you know about some of the volunteers’ interactions with the director of the Wilson band.
I was working in the bus lot on Saturday, welcoming bands as they arrived, making sure our band members gave each group their speech, and stamping hands as the kids came off the buses.
Mountain and Lake arrived first, and they were perfectly lovely. The band directors were friendly and attentive, gracious and considerate; they met us warmly and listened carefully to our instructions. They were genuinely happy to be here and it was a pleasure to welcome them to the event.
Ms. Dunlop, however, was a different experience altogether. She bounded off her bus before the driver had even set the parking brake, she refused to wait for our band greeters to give out their information before ordering her students off the buses, and she insisted on unloading her equipment van in the middle of the bus parking area, creating a hazard for all involved. She was blatantly, unnecessarily and, frankly, shockingly rude to me and the other volunteers, and she set a terrible example for her students.
In speaking to others, I learned that my experience with Ms. Dunlop is not at all unusual; it seems she has a well-established reputation for being curt, dismissive, and disrespectful.
I don’t expect my complaint to change anything, but I’m not content to allow that kind of enthusiastically bad behavior to go unremarked upon. Rules and procedures are established for a reason, and everyone’s comfort and safety are ensured when everyone follows them. Volunteers who are going out of their way to be warm and friendly do not deserve to be spoken to as if they were beneath the very basics of common courtesy. Ms. Dunlop behaved abominably, and there was no need of it.
Reese wrote back almost immediately to apologize for the experience (as if SHE had some responsibility for it), and told me that I was not the first person she’d heard this kind of story from. She suggested that I forward my letter to Wilson’s principal, which I did. A few hours later, Maryanne responded as well, and told me that she could tell me stories that would “curl my hair.”
The Wilson principal wrote back to say “thank you for bringing this to my attention.” That was it. Literally; one sentence. I wasn’t exactly expecting an apology from the man, but some sort of conciliatory statement seems in order, does it not? A former colleague was a student of Ms. Dulop’s 20 years ago, and he tells me that nothing I relayed about my experience with her came as a surprise to him; it seems she’s always been this way and her administration simply lets her behavior slide. His assessment was borne out with the principal’s complete disregard for my complaint.
This is why we can’t have nice things. We teach our kids to stand up to bullies. We teach them to be gracious guests and to use manners and we teach them that they are not to behave as if they are the only people on the planet, yet we cower in front of adults who bluster and bully and stomp all over us. It’s unconscionable, and I’m sick to death of it. These people only exist because we allow them to, and I am angered and saddened that those who could affect some change choose not to do so.
*In an effort to balance out my universe, I sent letters to Mountain and Lake’s principals letting them know that their bands were nothing but a pleasure to deal with, and complimenting both the kids and the band directors for being warm and delightful. I cc’d Maryanne, who thanked me for that; she’s friends with the Mountain and Lake directors, and she was glad that someone outside of the “circle” went out of their way to say nice things to and about them.