Saturday, August 22, 2009

The best meatloaf ever

No, I did not make meatloaf (don't worry Yalu, you didn't miss out). I volunteered at a soup kitchen today where they served meatloaf. This soup kitchen was started by two professors at UPenn who were doing a study on hunger. The soup kitchen is a little different in that they wanted to give the guests a more restaurant feel. In a regular soup kitchen, the guests line up with a plate and get served food as they move down a line. But this one, we had people busing and waiting on tables. Not that there's any choice in the meal. They actually serve meatloaf every week because it is something that they can make in mass quantity and nutritious at the same time. This week, they had meatloaf, meatballs and gravy, green beans, salad, banana, bread, and cake. Pretty decent meal. The volunteers got to eat before starting. I guess part of it is feeding the volunteers while maintaining that they would not serve anything that they would not eat themselves. I thought the meatloaf was really good. It was good to eat beforehand too since it turned out to be really busy.

The thing with this whole waiting on tables thing is that they need twice as many volunteers. People to put food on the plates and people to actually get the food out to the guests. They also had people helping to box up food if anyone wanted to take food to-go. I was putting salad on plates. I think it probably would have been more satisfying serving the guests. But I'm not sure I would have had the energy to do it since I had just come from another volunteering project.

So this morning I got up at 5:30am and went to volunteer for Summer Streets. Summer Streets is sponsored by the city government where they close down Park Avenue from Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park and let people walk, run, and bike. There is also live music, fitness things, free bike rentals, etc. They even gave out free bike helmets (I got one!). And they even made sure the helmets fit and adjusted the straps and everything. It was great. I hate adjusting the straps on these things.

So after getting out of bed before sunrise, I basically stood in the rain for a few hours. They gave us ponchos and I was wearing my Arup baseball cap. I'm so glad they gave us that hat. It's turning out to be extremely useful. It was still pretty bad for the first hour though. Water was dripping from my visor. My job was to stand at the intersection of Park Ave and 34th St, basically to remind people that there is through traffic on 34th. They not only closed down Park but also barricaded a lot of the cross streets so that people can run or bike in peace. But they can't close down big streets like 34th. So I held up a stop sign whenever the light changed. Most people stopped and waited. There were some people who either didn't see me (which was unlikely) or chose to ignore me and I had to yell at them for them to stop. Some people still didn't stop. There were cops at the intersection directing traffic too. Anyway, as the rain let up, more and more people came so my job because more important as the day went on. Which I was glad for because otherwise it would have been really boring. The organizers had promised us snacks and water which they were going to deliver at some point during our shift. After about two hours, I was feeling a little dehydrated so I called the zone leader. He said that they found the water bottles but couldn't find the water. Extremely lame. And the snacks never showed up either. Anyway, he showed up 10 minutes or so later with a couple of volunteers so that I can get water from Starbucks.

Anyway, I had another incident of "the world is so small" while volunteering this morning. One of my coworkers is going to Canada to help out with a project for three weeks so we said our goodbyes yesterday (Friday). Today, as I was perched on a jersey barrier, wearing a pink t-shirt with a high visibility vest, poncho, and a Arup cap, a pack of about 6 runners came up to my intersection. I noticed that one of the guys in front looked really familiar and I later recalled that he had volunteered at the half-marathon with me last weekend. I looked at the rest of the group and saw my coworker. We were both surprised and he said hi before running off. Crazy coincidence. I suppose I should have expected to see him but what are the chances he was going to run down my side of the road while I was there?

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