“I’m really busy right now,” he said as soon as I answered.
“Then why are you calling me?”
“I wanted to inform you that you are talking to the 4th Turn Attendant in the annual Race for the Cure 5k,” he said, and I could just picture his nostrils flaring the way they do when he gets all self-important.
“What the hell is a 4th Turn Attendant?” I asked, using a fork to turn over a strip of bacon.
My dad chuckled. “Oh, Shay,” he said, and once again, a picture of him formed in my mind. He was shaking his head, a smug smile on his face as he spoke into the phone condescendingly. “You call yourself a runner? Please. A 4th Turn Attendant is the guy who stands at the 4th turn of the race and points out the direction in which the runners should continue.”
“Dear God,” I muttered under my breath.
My dad either didn’t hear me or he didn’t care because he was on a roll. “I’m really upset that I forgot my megaphone,” he lamented. “I kind of wanted to perform my volunteer job in the same vein as the Soup Nazi? You know, like, ‘No 4th turn for you! One year!’”
You guys, I didn’t know what to say because I had no idea if he was serious or not. Turns out it didn’t matter that I was speechless, because he still wasn’t finished talking about himself.
“You know, the race is kind of out in the boonies,” he mused aloud. “I’ll bet they don’t want any young gals being alone on this 4th turn stretch in case they get scared.”
“Oh, and they think your face will be a comforting presence?”
“I took a picture of me at my position,” he continued, ignoring me again. “I’ll text it to you.”
“I sure hope nobody missed their turn while you were busy taking selfies,” I pointed out.
My dad gasped. “Don’t you fck with the 4th Turn Attendant, sis,” he said. “Nobody’s missing this turn. I’ve been practicing my hand signals all week. Besides, the race hasn’t even started ye—oh, shit. There’s the bullhorn. Gotta go!”
It turns out he really had been practicing his hand signals. My cousin, have mercy on her, is staying with my dad for a semester while working on some Master’s classes at a college in his area. She said that all week—and we’re talking a full seven days here—he made her watch as he flung his arm this way and that, “practicing proper hand/signal directional technique.”
“He really prepped for this gig,” she told me, very seriously, a few days after the race when my dad insisted that we not stop talking about it. “There was nobody that was going to miss that turn on his volunteer watch.”
The day after my dad’s volunteer job as the 4th Turn Attendant, I ran my 4th half marathon. When I was finished, my dad texted to tell me he was proud of me. Here’s how our conversation went:
Dad: Proud of ya! Did you have any trouble with the turn attendants? If so, let me know. I will handle it. We have like a brotherhood. We take care of our own volunteers!Me: They cheered us on all the way. One of them didn’t blow his noisemaker very hard, which was kind of annoying…but otherwise it was an awesome race.
Dad: That bastard with the noisemaker! If he doesn’t want to do the job properly, then why did he volunteer? Right?
Dad: I should have been there. Sorry I let you down.
My older sister said that he was also let down by the shirt he received for being 4th Turn Attendant. Apparently the front of the shirt was exactly the same as that of all of the other participants who had actually run the race. He hadn’t actually been planning to tell us that he was a volunteer in the race, instead planning to lead us to believe that he’d completed the race himself…until he flipped the shirt over and saw the word VOLUNTEER in huge white letters on the back.
That’s when he decided that being a volunteer in the race was probably just as important as running the race, anyway. And if this (quite exaggerated, I’d say) story that he told us the other day (when he was still talking about his experiences as the 4th Turn Attendant) is any indication, I’d say that he’s right…
…well, in his eyes, at least.
“I studied my hand signals for many days, using my forearm extended with my index finger pointed outward. I had a rowdy lady toward the end of the race, and she was running with a friend. I felt they were talking too much coming into the turn, so instead of using my index finger I used my middle finger at them to get their attention. This seemed to initiate hostilities, and one snuck behind me on all fours while the other pushed me over her back! While I was down, one of them kicked me in the midriff! Even though I presume they were in their 80's, had there only been one of them, I think I could have taken her! But I used my stern voice and from my cradled position on the ground I yelled, "Get back into that turn!!!" So they scooted back and made the turn properly. I was rewarded at the end of the 5K. Chris (our Foreman), gave all the volunteers a water and one Quaker ganola bar—but to ME, he gave TWO granola bars. He also said that if I volunteer next year he would give me an easier job, but I thanked him and said, ‘OH NO Chris!!! The world needs me as THE FOURTH TURN ATTENDANT!!!’”
God help us all when volunteers get too big for their britches. SIGH.