Tuesday, October 10, 2006

packing peanuts

tonight i volunteered at the san francisco food bank, packing peanuts. well, i didn't actually pack the nuts--i was responsible for preparing the plastic bags. bag prep included tearing each individual bag to separate it from the roll and placing a sticker describing the contents on the bottom right-hand side of each bag. the sticker placement was not mandated; my own sense of order and efficiency informed the mode of consistency. i then placed each bag near the person to my right, who was scooping 2 pounds of raw peanuts into the bag.

and that brings me to what made this experience interesting. within minutes, my 6-person team was a model of efficiency. we did not communicate our favorite organization development theories and there were no pronouncements about particular skills or acumen--we simply fell into a rhythm and stayed there. our team was fast, efficient, and for the most part, silent. other teams lollygagged and had difficulties with the bag sealer or the measuring task or taping the boxes closed. our team excelled. team members would actually double up on roles when a bottleneck began to rear its ugly head. we were impressive. at one point i asked our group if we were all this focused and efficient individually, or if this were group behavior at work. people laughed, but didn't answer. i wanted to know!

to top off the evening, most of us went out for pizza at a local joint. for me, this whole experience was to put myself in new situations, to learn how to deal with uncomfortable moments. a lot of what i choose to do in sf has fallen into that category, and i've noticed i'm more brave, more independent, and more in touch with what i like. i didn't make any new best friends, but i met some interesting people while offering my time to good organization, which isn't a bad way to spend a tuesday night.

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