Among the activities this season were the pick up and drop off of Toys For Tots boxes throughout Cuyahoga and Lorain counties. Spending your day driving around hauling toys may sound simple enough, but actually causes premature aging. I opened the passenger side door of one of our box trucks only to have a desiccated corpse wrapped in a Toys For Tots hoodie fall out at my feet. We didn’t have time to identify the body so I just kicked it under the tires.
The other joy of the season is attending an unending schedule of Toys For Tots events held by disparate groups, businesses, charitable organizations, or local politicians. Most outfits genuinely want to do some good though I find there is a vocal minority who seem to make it all about themselves. These folks want to add legitimacy to their event by having actual Marines in attendance to collect the loot. This is all well and good as we are generally willing to have Marines participate. On the other hand, some of these events last well until 1 or 2 AM making for a 16-19 hour work day. I finally had to decree our close of business as midnight. This way Marines didn’t feel obligated to stay at these things forever and sleep at home occasionally like normal people. Besides, nothing good ever happens after midnight and how many toy stores are open then anyway?
The real heroes are the warehouse ninjas. These Marines crush their souls sorting and processing toys by age and gender, then fill orders from other non-profit organizations who come and pick up toys for the families and children they support. If it weren’t for all the civilian volunteers pitching in it just would not be possible.
|A quick snap of a days’ collection of loot!|
The other hazard the warehouse ninjas face are the freeloaders attempting to take advantage of Marines whom I’ve admonished to be firm, courteous, and tactful at all times. These individuals swing by demanding free stuff or simply try to pass themselves off as a legit non-profit group in an effort to garner a basement full of loot. Hint for next year: if your organization is headquartered at your home address in a residential apartment complex, you might not pass muster.
By way of giving you just a taste of this seasonal delight, allow me to regale you with my own weekend Toys For Tots adventure.
This past Saturday we had at least four Toys For Tots events and two funerals. It may not sound like much but consider each funeral requires a minimum of three Marines and two for each Toys For Tots event. On top of that, almost half my staff is on Christmas this weekend (because they have lives too) leaving us with roughly fifteen or so Marines to save the day. As a side note, let me point out we are a headquarters outfit so we have over twenty Marines on staff at any regular time. The line companies, who are spread throughout Akron, Columbus, Buffalo, and Pittsburg have only nine or ten Marines each. Imagine their pain!
At any rate, I signed up for two of the Toys For Tots events. That afternoon was a typical event where we show up with a truck, take pictures in our blues, women swoon, load up the truck and wave goodbye. Not a bad bit of work there. Then there was the event which was to go that night. We were told to arrive at 7:30 PM (19:30 in real time) at a place claiming to be a “tap house”. We assumed it was some kind of Christmas party at a pub and figured we’d spend the evening mingling and shaking down the patrons for toys. We figured on staying until 9PM at the latest. Easy day.
The “tap house” turned out to be a heavy metal bar with floor and ceiling painted black as the bleakest pit of hell. The show hadn’t started yet so the chain of severed heads was still in a closet out back. The sponsor of the event managed to brush the unwashed hair out of his eyes long enough to introduce himself and inform us we were early. The doors wouldn’t even be open until 8PM and the first of three bands didn’t take the stage until 9. I was considering the merits of ritual suicide when a little Marine voice in my head reminded me civilians never do anything on time. It’s no wonder the Grinch attempted to steal Christmas.
Word of advice: when the organizer of an event featuring three heavy metal death bands offers you hearing protection, you take it.
The first band eventually took the stage at 20 minutes after 9 (I warned you!). Through the garbled introduction they announced their name which I didn’t catch. As the concussive screeching of their first song reached my ears, I dubbed them: “Pagan Dildos.”
Checking up on my ninjas participating in a concurrent event I discovered it turned out to be some kind of hip hop concert. Perhaps my night wasn’t turning out as bad as it could have. It was just unfortunate my silver lining involved chains, piercings and ear withering death metal.
Eventually the second band began their set. Again, the name of their group was somehow lost in translation, so I began to refer to them as the “Vice Lords of Pooft.” I looked around to note everyone was pierced, unshaven, and tattooed with the exception of myself and a Lance Corporal, both dressed sharply in blues.
The second set ended and we began to gather up all the loot around 11pm. We took in a pretty decent haul of toys. Even head bangers like kids. Before we left, the final heavy metal band was announced. I didn’t even bother listening for their name. I’d already decided they would be forever known in my memory as the “Doom Hookers.”
Ears still ringing we dropped off the load of toys to be processed the next day. I finally ambled home just after midnight. After draining a mug of hot buttered rum lovingly prepared by Mrs. America’s SgtMaj, I promptly crashed.
This season I personally participated in 20 Toys For Tots events. The math tells me the Marines probably attended three times as many as I did. All that’s left is to sweep up the warehouse and turn off the lights. See you next year!