How Not to Save the Planet
I just did something that very likely no adult human being has ever done before: I got expelled from the YMCA.
That’s not the exact terminology they used, but that’s what they meant.
What really surprised me though is how unsurprised some people who know me were when they heard the news.
Wait – it’s not what it seems. It’s just that I’m living proof that “no good deed goes unpunished.” You’d think I’d know better by now.
It all started when I noticed cans and bottles in the trash at the Y. All the local branches of the Y. The Y being an organization which claims that “social responsibility” is one of its prime directives.
And I noticed that the large, wall mounted, flat screen TV’s were always on. Dozens of them. All the time. In all the local branches of the Y. Even when no one was in the room.
So one day I turned them off, not knowing I had just stepped onto the primrose path that would lead me straight to hell. Which turns out is a word I’m not supposed to use in front of little pip-squeaks who have Napoleonic complexes — but I digress.
A staffer immediately began following me, turning them all back on.
Because, it seems, it was the Y policy that all the TV’s be on all the time. So that members would know the Y was open. (Being unable to see the lights, the staff, the other members, or the “open” sign on the door under the posted hours of operation.)
This is when I took my second step down that path: I decided the policy seemed silly. I would save the planet.
So I asked a staff member who I should talk to about recycling options and saving energy and the staff member took my name and number and said someone would call. Six months later, when nobody ever did I tried again.
This comedy routine went on for 2 years.
Eventually I realized I might need a more direct approach so I emailed the Director of Administration my concerns and questions, foolishly assuming that person might know something about “Administration.” After three days with no response, I emailed again. Two days later, I received this answer to my detailed list of concerns and questions: “Thank you for being a YMCA member and for sharing your member experience.”
I tried again. And again. And again. (Yes, I’m stupid.) “Thank you again for your support of the YMCA.”
So I emailed the Director of Facility Operations my concerns and questions, foolishly assuming that person might know something about “Facility Operations.” The next day he wrote, “thank you for your concerns, they are noted.”
I tried again. And again. And again. (Yes, I’m stupid.)
Eventually the little pip-squeak with a Napoleonic complex Director of Membership Services contacted me (after the other two forwarded my emails to him instead of answering me).
We met. He wouldn’t answer questions. After telling me he didn’t recycle at home he refused to discuss recycling further. He changed the subject. He wanted to know if I was a Christian. And what kind of car I drove. And when I asked what the hell he blustered like the mini-flyweight poppycock he is and told me I couldn’t use that sort of language in front of him while I wondered if he’d ever been in the weight room when one of the guys dropped a weight on their foot.
But after I asked for the 25th time why the TV’s had to be on all the time, he told me that TV’s must be on because when he began working here, the person who trained him (who is no longer there) told him the Y’s “policy” (which is not in writing) is to leave all the televisions on all the time the Y’s are open.
He refused to discuss changing the policy or to allow members the choice to turn them on or off as they wished. He insisted he was the final authority on the subject and there was no one above him I could speak to about it.
This of course meant I had to find someone above him to talk to. This was a mistake.
I went to the “Annual Membership Meeting.” Which of course meant I was the only member there.
Did I mention I was the only member there?
And that this was the “Annual Membership Meeting.” Specifically for members?
And, earlier that day, the staff at the front desk told me the meeting never had an agenda, they never use one?
And when I walked into that meeting, sitting on the entrance table, next to a blank sign-in sheet, was a stack of the non-existent agendas that are never used?
Did I have enough sense to leave right then?
Even though staff had told me the Board of Directors (25 of them) attended the “Annual Membership Meeting.” And only 3 of them bothered to show up?
And did the chair of the board of directors (who chaired this meeting), when he saw that I was the only member present for the meeting, pitch the agenda (which they don’t use anyway) and talk to me?
Instead, after he laboriously went through every item listed and came to the last item on the agenda, “member feedback,” I stood, handed him a summary of my concerns (both environmental – let’s recycle and save energy – and the lack of responsiveness to and communication with members which might explain why I was the only member there) and went over them.
And did he say he’d take them to the Board as I asked?
Instead, the CEO sitting next to him glared at me, announced he knew all about me, that all conversations with me had been documented and they had fully responded to me.
Flabbergasted, I asked how to cancel my (prepaid for the next year) membership and get a refund. The CEO told me the front desk could tell me. When I stopped on the way out, they told me they didn’t know how.
A few days later, I came home to find a message from the CEO. In a preemptive strike which would only make sense to Kim Jung Un, he announced he had suspended my membership effective immediately. No mention of a refund.
He explained that [unidentified] “they” had been watching me and several [unidentified] people had concerns about my [unidentified] conduct.
Nobody ever told me that saving the planet might make you paranoid.