I have spent an inordinate amount of time volunteering at the museum this summer, far more than I had ever intended to, but a combination of factors -- grant money, an opportunity to take care of deferred maintenance, and the unexpected availability of a fulltime volunteer for a few weeks -- led to my being there several days a week for most of the past 8 weeks. I spent enough time either at the museum or dealing with museum-related stuff, in fact, that I realized yesterday that I'm about a micron away from Burnout.
That realization hit me in the middle of a phone call. We have been dealing, more or less, with an issue that dates back quite a few years, back to way before I got involved with the museum and was not around for any of the project details. However, I'm the unlucky fool who now deals with the museum's various electronic issues: email, Ebay sales, Amazon.com book sales, our desperately-needs-to-be-updated web site, and our Facebook page. Which means that for the past couple of weeks I've been going back and forth via email with a person who doesn't seem to get that (a) I'm a volunteer; (b) I had nothing to do with the original project that she's now asking questions about; (c) I'm not the person who decided verbal agreements were all fine and that documentation was something the historical society didn't need to bother with; (d) did I mention I'm a frelling volunteer? You know, V-O-L-U-N-T-E-E-R. As in a person who does stuff for nothing with no compensation other than an occasional attagirl. Dealing with headaches created by other people a decade ago falls way above my pay grade.
Anyway, after about the 17th email asking about nonexistent documentation, I tracked down a person who was around when the original project was done. And as our phone conversation progressed he made the mistake of asking me the same series of unanswerable questions the archivist was asking. That's when I lost it. And vented. A lot. It's been a frustrating summer -- the volunteer who was on one level a tremendous help was on another a major headache (someone had to find stuff for her to do; that someone was me), we've been in limbo over our heritage grant (the first disbursement was supposed to be July 1; we finally got it this week), we had a donation dropped off where the donors seemed totally self-assured that we were going to put their item of furniture in a prominent place immediately (I am still moderately amazed I managed to keep smiling instead of telling them where to shove that large, awkward item when they gave every sign of expecting me to start pushing stuff around immediately to squeeze the damn thing in), and we had that weirdness happen with the donor showing up six years after the donation wanting to pick up things we don't remember ever having. None of it's been fun -- and volunteering is supposed to fun. By noon yesterday it hit the point where the Fun Stopped.
That's when I logged out of gmail for the museum and promised myself I won't look at it again until I am physically back at the museum, which will be tomorrow. It's now been over 24 hours and I'm still managing to ignore it.When I do go back to it, I'm going to set up an automatic "out of office" message (assuming such a thing is possible) warning people that they cannot expect instant answers. The museum is 100% volunteers; we do not (and cannot) function with the same mindset as the desk monkeys still trapped in full-time jobs.
I will admit that I'm really, really happy we're going to close for the season soon. Three more weeks and the "open by appointment only" sign goes up on the door, the voice mail gets updated to say "email us. No one ever checks the phone," and I put myself on a schedule of checking emails just often enough to comply with the rules for selling stuff on Amazon and Ebay. We really, really need to increase our membership rolls, and soon because I can tell I'm getting close to walking.
Oh well, maybe a winter wandering around the Southwest in the Guppy will give me the energy to do one more year. Which, now that I think of it, is what I told the S.O. when I joined in 2012: I'll give it five years. This is actually my 5th summer at the museum, but I think I'll go by calendar anniversaries and not the number of seasons. Wish me luck that no other weirdness hits the fan between now and September 2..