Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Drought Schmought or: How We Learned about Irony Through Habitat for Humanity

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a Habitat for Humanity build site with some coworkers. The following post is an account of our day, as posted on my work intranet blog.

As many of you may or may not know, Georgia is in the middle of an historic drought. About this time last year, our governor was on the steps of the capitol praying for rain. Since I was able to shower this morning, we clearly made it through what was at the time a 90 day supply of water. Frankly, though, things haven’t gotten much better over the last year. It’s just that with some other things going on, water supply doesn’t seem to be quite as important (I mean, newsworthy).

With such a drought, one would expect that rain really not need be a consideration when making plans. (May I use this moment to define irony? Irony: Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually happens.)

When Karen sent out the invite to participate in a Habitat for Humanity build on October 24, there was a big response. We had a group of 15 ready to go, not thinking about weather at all. Why would we? October in Georgia is beautiful – my favorite month, actually – and this would a great way to lend a helping hand.

As our volunteer opportunity approached, though, we found out that our location no longer does Friday builds. We could go to the same site the following Saturday (I would be out of town), or a few of us could help clean up and do touch-ups after the inspection had been done – paint here, a couple nails there. They only needed four people, so Dianna, Missy, Werner, and I remained in for the adventure.

On the Monday before, Dianna mentioned that the weather was supposed to be awful on Friday. I shrugged. If it was, we’d live, and the chances are really slim that we’d be getting any real rain anyway. As the day approached, we realized that the forecasts were looking more and more accurate. It was going to be cold and rainy (cold by Georgia standards, mind you). Oh well, we’re only cleaning up houses after they’re done, so it’ll be just fine.

So, on Friday morning, Missy and Werner went straight to the site, while Dianna and I met at the Habitat office at 7:30am – in a downpour. It seemed like the entire .58 inches we got that day came down between 7 and 10am. When we went to the door, the guy told us that it was ok if we didn’t want to go. Well, we hadn’t driven 20 miles already to turn around and go home – um, I mean, work.

So he gave us directions to the site and we took one car over there – where Missy and Werner were waiting.

We saw the house we’d be working on and found another volunteer and our host. He kindly informed us that there wasn’t much work to do, it was all outside, and if we wanted to go home, it would really be ok. We all agreed to stay.

As it turns out, our impression about the work we would be doing was entirely wrong. When they said cleaning up the site, they meant the construction site, not inside a finished home. So, here we were, five volunteers (four in raincoats, one in a windbreaker, and one without gloves), moving piles of construction debris from in front of two houses and a building site without a house (and inside yet another house) to a dumpster, in the pouring rain.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a good “before” picture, but the debris piles were about 10×5 feet across and three feet high – taking a couple hours to clear. And just when we thought we were done, we asked if there was anything else we could do. We hadn’t moved the piles of rocks and concrete that were alongside the debris piles, but we could if we wanted to. They weren’t to go in the bin, just about 25 feet over to the next home site.

I actually thought this was kind of funny, “Hey you! Move this big pile of rocks from here and create a big new pile of rocks over there!” was how I heard it in my head.

The rain had slowed by this time. Poor Missy was soaked to the bone (she was the one wearing a windbreaker and had actually left a little earlier), and then we were done. Werner, Dianna, and I headed over to Waffle House to grab some food (veggie egg white omelet with a waffle, pecan waffle, breakfast sandwich, and hashbrowns – scattered, smothered and covered. Yum!). Dianna and I headed back to the Habitat office, and then we headed our separate ways.

All in all, it was a blast. I also suspect it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun if the day had been 67 degrees and sunny. At least, that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

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