Tuesday, February 27, 2007

More on the Gulf from Eli

Here's another note from Eli Mitchell, a Dartmouth freshman spending her term with Hands On in the Gulf Coast:
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Writing 5 Paragraph Essay

Disclaimer 1: This is supposed to be humorous, please please take it that way.

Disclaimer 2: I wrote this as a middle schooler.

If I follow my current academic plan, I will not take my First Year Seminar until my junior spring... I fear my writing will disintegrate in that time. Therefore, I intend to practice my basic middle-school five paragraph essay. I hope you enjoy the clarity that follows.

(Introduction in the form of an upside down triangle – who ever decided which way was right side up anyways? – broad → thesis.)

Last week, my crew finished our day’s worth of work a bit early. Instead of heading back to base, I decided to wander the streets of East Biloxi, looking for another Hands On crew to help out. It was not long before I heard a call from across the street, “Hey Eli! Want to put on this suit, crawl up into the attic, lie on your back, close your eyes, and work away?” (Ice breaker.) Mike was, of course, asking me to put on a Tyvek suit and scrape mold in an attic without goggles (hence, the closed eyes), but it got me thinking…. As I excitedly ran across the street, propelled by my pink work boots, I realized an outsider might consider me a hooker, running to my pimp to go work in the attic. (Transition.) I began to wonder what else volunteers and prostitutes shared: both jobs are quite physical, both live one day at a time, and both jobs pay, just in different ways. (Narrowing.) For these reasons, being a volunteer is the equivalent to being a prostitute. (Thesis.)

(This is actually a continuation of the introduction. I will never be able to return to papers with a one paragraph introduction.) I shall define “volunteer” and “prostitute” to ensure that everybody understands these references. (Opening sentence.) According to dictionary.com (Referencing my sources, so Dartmouth doesn’t kick me out for plagiarism before I have a chance to actually take classes.) a prostitute is “1. a woman who engages in sexual intercourse for money; whore; harlot. 2. a man who engages in sexual acts for money. 3. a person who willingly uses his or her talent or ability in a base and unworthy way, usually for money.” According to the same source, a volunteer is “1. a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking. 2. a person who performs a service willingly and without pay” (dictionary.com). (Citation.) Your turn to play the “What is not the same?” game! (Adding sentence variety; using second person to involve the reader.) I’ll help you out (in case you couldn’t figure it out) and tell you that, according to dictionary.com (a few steps about wikipedia), prostitutes get paid and volunteers do not. This paper will disprove dictionary.com’s (because it is not Encyclopedia Britannica, and can be disproved) definition of a volunteer, showing that volunteers do get paid. (Explaining the purpose of my paper and how I will go about proving my thesis is the purpose of this.)

First of all (in case you were confused which point this is), volunteers offer a promise of physical labor in exchange for a place to stay, just like prostitutes whoring themselves out for a hotel room. I’m currently staying at Hands On New Orleans (email about that to come). And I’m sick. Hands On Gulf Coast with its close living quarters infected me with these symptoms of coughing fits, a soar throat, a stuffy nose, and all together even lower, raspier, sexier voice than normal. I am actually lying in my new bed and feeling really bad for the person who sleeps next to me because I keep on coughing. We have not yet introduced each other even though we are basically sharing a full size bed. If I roll over, I just might roll onto his bed. And I cannot move forward any because my head is already resting at another stranger’s feet. It really is a comfy vinyl mattress though; and the cockroaches aren’t that big. Best of all though, it’s free. All I have to do to afford this wonderful accommodation is walk into a house, armed with a Tyvek suit, hard hat and sledge hammer, and tear down a house faster than actually this reference is not PG-Rated, use your imagination. This type of work turns me on. A prostitute’s work turns her on. All in all (that means I’m about to sum up this paragraph with a concluding sentence), I never fear homelessness because I have learned the useful art of bouncing around from free volunteer camp to free volunteer camp, offering service for a place to stay and perhaps even some toilet paper.

Secondly (using another “transition word” to remind you which point this is), volunteers find additional free services whenever possible. It has become my custom to wear my Hands On sweatshirt everywhere because it was free, it keeps me warm (it’s cold down here!), and it advertises that I’m a volunteer. For example, I called a friend from the Wal-Mart parking lot one night asking for a ride back to base. I had stupidly walked there, not expecting the mile long walk in thirty degree weather to be so taxing. But after I paid a disgusting eleven dollars for my Nyquil (because the Nyquil at base is kept in a locked cabinet, and the person with the key left on a two week vacation), I refused to walk another mile in the frigid weather. I received a straight up “no” to this desperate plea. “Please Josh. I just need a ride. I’ll give you my Guiding Light tote bag.” (Another free item.) “You a volunteer miss?” I heard behind me, “we’ll give you a ride.” The anonymous donor had recognized my sweatshirt. “Thank you so much for all you’re doing ma’am! We’ll give you a ride! Sherry, git in the back! Let our guest ride in the front seat.” So I climbed in the car and enjoyed a free, warm ride back to Hands On. Two days later, I rode in a car with some fellow volunteers. (This transition is supposed to representative of the concept that because both stories involve cars, they can easily blend together.) Apparently, we were zooming a bit too quickly down the highway; the rearview mirror soon reflected flashing red lights, accompanied by the sound of a police siren, throwing us all into panic. Would Hands On cover a ticket? Could we all pool together enough money to pay off the corrupt southern police officer? Should we begin a high-speed chase and end up on cops? But the officer gave us no time to consider the potential severity of our situation. “Do you realize you were going 30 over the speed limit?” “Yes.” (Ben, of course, left out the sir making this short response seem all the more rude and disrespectful. We’re not from here…it doesn’t come naturally.) “Where you headed to so quickly?” “Oh back to St. Augustine’s. We’re volunteers there.” (This was a lie…we weren’t headed back to base.) “Volunteers huh?” The officer considered Ben’s Minnesota license (although the omission of “sir” already pegged us as foreigners), our paint stained clothing, and the stench of the van. “Well okay then. Continue on your way, but you’d best watch out fo’ yo’selves.” Not even a warning. Pulling the “volunteer card” sure does get one lots of nice free services down here. Seriously.

Finally (this is my last point), volunteers are paid with love. (Remember, I’m writing this in the form of a middle school essay…corniness is a requirement.) Seriously though, I do not fail to recognize the affection the man in the Wal-Mart parking lot or the highway patrolman must feel for us outsiders. I feel incredibly rewarded every time a slowing car rolls down its window and the driver yells out appreciation. Ms. Ethyl’s neighbors will not stop walking over to our construction site, picking up tools, and trying to help. We waved them away them away in the name of insurance, so they stood outside, thanking us for all we were doing. I will remind you…these were her neighbors, and they were thanking us. When they exhausted all the praises and “thanks all y’all”s, they moved on to offering us more concrete appreciation: whiskey (“No Eddie, I cannot drink and use the power saw…it says so in the warning.”), their spare tools (“It’s okay, we have our own.”), and a Saturday shrimp boil. The shrimp boil never did happen, but the point is that these neighbors were desperately thanking us and offering all they could. We may build houses for free, but the homeowners make sure to pay us with all they can. I am under the impression – and I could be incorrect here – that prostituted do not receive love as a payment for their profession. And this key difference is what makes a volunteer’s job rock, while a prostitute’s job sucks.

In conclusion, (this is my last paragraph) volunteers are prostitutes (that’s the restatement of my thesis) because they use they use their bodies and are paid with housing (first point), various services (second point), and love (third point). (I will now begin broadening my conclusion by answering the question “So what? Why does this matter to me?”) Until I receive the elusive funding my parents have promised, I will continue living this unhealthy lifestyle of jumping into strangers’ cars rather than calling a cab, eating Salvation Army white bread for lunch, and subjecting myself to crime-ridden neighborhoods to avoid the cost of a hotel room. Well, there is something you can do to help. No…this is not a push to have you donate to Hands On (but if you want to, here’s the website: http://handsongulfcoast.org/) or attend the college relief programs, no…this a push to have you contact my parents and perhaps make a suggestion as to why my allowance down here should be. (Remember…middle school essay…in the end it has to all come back to me.) So go ahead and friend my dad on facebook and say, “Hey Mr. Mitchell, I heard you’re considering giving your daughter some money. That’s real swell of you.” And then you can poke him too. (That’s right; I’m ending my paper with a contemporary reference in a sentence that starts with a conjunction.)

I love that you cannot insult this writing because of my “I’m going to write like a middle schooler” disclaimer. However way back when I actually was the age I look now (we’ll say 14), I would’ve gotten an A on this paper. My teacher would have probably commented on the fact that it was six paragraphs rather than the assigned five. Maybe she would have incorrectly marked a grammatical error. She might have even noticed that the last words of the body paragraphs read “This paper seriously sucks,” but only because she didn’t read the rest of the paper. So, it’s time to go back to college and learn to write real good."

Note by Eli Mitchell. All photos from Eli's Facebook account.

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