Yesterday was largely a stellar day. It included a sushi lunch and dinner at a Japanese tea house, as well as the writing of the most fun and satisfying ed memo I’ve done in a long time.
However, I had a frustrating adventure yesterday, too. At two pm, a woman I do not know called my place of work–I’m not sure where she got the number; there must have been at least a little bit of stalking involved–ecause she was unhappy with an article published by a nonprofit Buddhist organization for whom I do volunteer work as a freelance editor. (A long story about how I got involved, since I don’t have any religious leanings myself. But I’ve been doing this for almost three years and have mostly enjoyed helping the nice people.)
It took me a little while to wrap my head around what the woman was saying, since I’m not used to thinking about the magazine at work. I asked her what specifically she was referring to, and she refused to be clear with me, but told me she had retained council and that I would be legally liable for the libel. Her council would be in touch. At this point, I started to feel flustered. I told her there was a complaints number at the church–listed nicely in the magazine–that she could call if she had a problem, and other people she should be in touch with, as I was neither author nor publisher of the magazine, only a freelance volunteer editor, a cut-and-paster. She had already started to talk over me, though, and hung up on me with a final shout that I would be hearing from her lawyer.
Eventually–after about 40 minutes, and rereading of every word in the magazine to try to figure out what might have upset her–I decided the lady was probably taking out some frustration but didn’t actually have a case. When I realized this, I calmed down. But I lost about an hour of my work day, on what was otherwise a really good productive day. To make matters worse, my office is open, and we all share a phone line. So everybody knew what had happened, and knew how upset I was. They were all nice and sympathetic, but they didn’t have to be. It wasn’t a very professional situation. I guess I just don’t like being called up in the middle of the day and shouted at and told I’m going to get sued.
Of course, being an incurable gossip, I told everyone I knew about what had happened. The almost universal reaction was “quit that volunteer position–it’s not worth it.” Which doesn’t come totally out of the blue–for three months now, I have received difficult correspondences about the magazine–a chewing out that it was a week late (which made me angry, as all I do is collate articles; I rely on the contributors to actually write them), and then a letter from a reader asking me to account for my failure to publish an article she had sent in almost two weeks after the due date. In both cases, I got stressed out and upset. I don’t like when people are unhappy with me, regardless of the circumstance.
But I also don’t want to quit this job. I really like the people, and I like the cultural events I get invited to. I think that as volunteer work goes, it is manageable, something I can do pretty easily that someone without my specific skill set might struggle with more. I don’t want to leave folks in the lurch.
I’m curious. Do you volunteer at all? If you do, is it pure joy and giving back, or are there occasions that you are stressed out or frustrated?