Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong. Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.
2 Cor. 13:7
My entire week — and a good portion of earlier weeks — has been consumed with organizing the Bicycle Alliance’s first Traffic Skills 101 class. Originally I conceived it as a way to say thank you to volunteers — essentially another incentive for volunteering. We can say “Another advantage of volunteering for the Bike Alliance is that we offer Traffic Skills 101 exclusively to volunteers for only $20 (to cover the cost of materials). If you took this class elsewhere in the Puget Sound area, you’d pay $60 to $85.”
Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out that way. We invited some specific people, mostly volunteers, and filled the class — that’s 9 or 10 students with two LCIs. But then students started dropping the class. Things came up. They hadn’t paid anything, so they didn’t lose anything by backing out. This happened to me in April with the Salute to Volunteers Night at the Mariners, too. People RSVP’d; we bought tickets; and then they didn’t show. Anyway, some other people got invited to the class who haven’t volunteered. Eventually we got down to 5 students, and I was willing to take almost anybody — but that was yesterday afternoon, and the class starts at 4:00 today (Friday the 13th, as many people have pointed out). It was too late of notice.
Every and I have decided to cancel the class if we only get 3 students. But I’m still feeling discouraged and disappointed by the bad turnout: I’ve put in tons of work finding a venue, planning the curriculum, organizing food and miscellaneous details, planning a route, ordering materials from the League of American Bicyclists, …well, the list goes on. On top of which, Every and I will both be working Friday evening and Saturday, with no particular recompense. I’ve worked more weekends and evenings than I want, with no surcease in sight.
So I’m feeling discouraged. But I’ve also learned something:
- People don’t value what they don’t pay for. Offering something free or very cheap — like a baseball game or a bike class — seems to make it less meaningful, less of a commitment.
- Commitments don’t mean as much as they used to. At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, “back in the day, giving your word meant something.” If you said you were going to an event, whether free or not, you went, even if something better came up. Now, though, people seem to always be on the lookout for what’s most beneficial for them. Saying you’ll go to one event doesn’t mean you’ll go, per se; it more means you’ll go if something better doesn’t come up.
This is really frustrating, but I’m learning tricks to deal with it.
- Make people pay up front.
- Ask for a refundable charge. Require people to write you a $50 check to register and give the check back when the student finishes the class.
- Take the student’s firstborn child hostage. Return the child when the student finishes the class.
In any case, I’m teaching a bike class this weekend. It’ll go from Friday at 4:00 pm through Saturday at 2:30 pm (with a break for sleeping and such, of course). I’m really looking forward to Saturday afternoon.