No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Saturday morning here and I am aching. My back is feeling somewhat better – after two pain pills, not wimpy ibuprofen, the big stuff – and my knee keeps twinging every time I take a step, giving me a rocking rolling gait. Just getting out of my chair is a struggle. I am a mess. How did I get into this predicament? Hey, just trying to be a good Samaritan, giving back, volunteering.

My church has many volunteer opportunities for members who want to support the congregation in other ways than just putting money in the plate on Sunday. Most of these are necessary in order for the place to run smoothly, like stuffing envelopes or teaching Sunday School or maintaining the library or mowing the lawn. Other jobs bring in additional monies so the church can have a building fund and air-conditioning in the summer and electricity. These include a giant rummage sale in the fall, booyah sales and working the Packer games, as in Green Bay Packers. Our local NFL team provides opportunities for non-profit organizations to earn some extra money by working the many concession stands necessary to feed and water the 80,000 fans that show up on game day.

In the beginning (10 years ago?) we didn’t have a “stand”, we were runners in the club seat area. Order takers were positioned throughout the seating area taking food and drink orders and payment on their mobile devices. Those orders would go to the kitchens and we’d get a pile of food shot out to us, a tag attached with the section, row and seat number on it. Our job was to take that order to the customer. The seats weren’t close to the kitchen so you had to hike, quickly, to your waiting fan. When you got to the club seats (indoor, behind glass, out of the weather with a spectacular view of the field) and a play was happening on the field, you were required to stop, squat or just make sure you weren’t blocking anyone’s view, until the play was completed. I got to see Brett Favre, live, in action, many times. So cool!

Approximate view from the club seats

Approximate view from the club seats

We didn’t have to prepare the food, we didn’t have to mix the drinks, we just had to run, and oh, arrive at the stadium three hours before the game started (bummer).  For this we got paid $45. a head. They needed 20 – 25 people per game so we could make between $900-1100, multiply that times 2 preseason and 8 regular games, that’s about $10,000 toward our church mortgage. But after two years my plantar fascitis (bad feet) and my torn meniscus (bad knee) said ENOUGH!

Last year a new food service came into Lambeau Field and instead of runners, the new food service set up concession stands in the club seat area and upped the payment to a percentage of the take or $85 per person, our church opted for the latter. I thought, a stationery spot, no running, I can do this.

So, this year when they asked for help….I raised my hand. help
I took the training session. Learned about fake IDs, refusing drinks to people who have had too much, and how to say, “would you like fries with that?”  Should have been my first clue that this was going to be waaay different. Friday was my first time. It was just a preseason game but Packer fans fill the seats no matter what. Once at the stadium…three hours before the game began…I saw the concession stand. It was at least 50′ long, had 10-12 cash registers and its own kitchen in the back.

Not our actual stand but a close second

Not our actual stand but a close second

A kitchen in the back because, we not only sold the food, we prepared it. Seven people immediately got the grills, deep fryers and pizza and pretzel ovens up and running. Four others started loading up the popcorn machine, getting the nacho cheese dispensers and the food warmers going and counted the cups, trays, and everything else that would be dispensed. I was shown the cash register, the beer and soda spigots (I now can pull a beer) and taught how to take credit cards. Most people pay with cash, a lot of cash, but as the game moves into the end of the third quarter the credit cards start appearing. It ain’t cheap going to an NFL football game.

The stadium opens up two hours before the game, in this case 5:00pm since it was a 7pm kickoff.  I kept thinking, “I can do this”, until the crowds showed up. And boy, do they show up! It did start as a trickle but in about 30 minutes they were ten deep at each register. If you cashier, you also pour drinks and do some food fetching, but some of us have to be runners and being the rookie, I ended up with that job mostly. Seven cashiers spread out across fifty feet puts those on the ends quite a distance from one of the two major food windows. So as the kitchen pushed out pizza, cheese curds, hotdogs, cheese burgers, bratwursts, waffle fries, I watched registers as food was tallied up, and fetched.  Back and forth, back and forth…an occasional stop to pour beer, soda, create cheese fries and nachos.

After what seemed like an eternity I thought the game MUST have started by now, why aren’t these people in their seats? One glance at my watch told me it was still 20 minutes to kickoff. It was going to be a long night.

This went on steadily till about 30 minutes into the game. We then had a bit of a breather before everyone started cooking, filling up all the empty popcorn, cheese, soda and beer dispensers before…HALFTIME!! when it started all over again.

At some point, I had to stop and take a break or die (not good customer service). So I got my courtesy bratwurst and sat down on one of the two chairs in the storage room where the extra cups, soda, chips, popcorn, and nacho cheese wait their turn to go out. I think it was sheer luck that I managed to get out of that chair and go back out, with a smile on my face…..”Hello, can I help you? Two Miller Lites and three hotdogs? Coming right up.”

For the most part, the fans were pleasant. One guy spilled his beer all over the counter and floor, one woman wanted to strangle me because her burgers took more that 4 minutes to come out  and I almost lost it when a guy handed me a $100 bill for a $23 purchase and my cash drawer only had ones. But no one got killed so I guess it was a good night. By 10:00pm when my ride, one of the kitchen guys, said “Let’s get out of here before the crowd breaks”, I was ready. I limped my way to the car as quickly as I could.

Will I do it again? Well, as I finish this it is now Sunday and my back is still complaining so the answer is, not in this lifetime! I will volunteer again but not for a job that takes two days to recuperate from.  Got any envelopes to stuff?

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