The Editor’s Desk: Hot diggety dog (not)

Running out of free hot dogs isn’t cause for complaint

Canada Day 2019 has come and gone, and there were celebrations across the country that brought people together in a spirit of fun and fellowship. I wasn’t able to make it to the Clinton event, but by all accounts it was a rousing success and a great day.

This did not, however, stop some grousing on Facebook (in a post which has since been taken down), where someone complained that even though the event organizers — the Spirit of Clinton committee — had received a grant of $1,800 towards the event, the hot dogs (19 dozen of them, apparently) had run out before noon.

Quite apart from the fact that a free event running out of hot dogs is very much a First World problem, there’s a fair bit to unpack here. First of all, there’s the whole “free” business. Complaining that something being offered for free has run out before you could get it strikes me as somewhat churlish. It happens all the time in restaurants; granted, the food isn;t free, but there are people there who are being paid to get quantities right.

Then there are the numbers. As a glass-half-full kind of person, I’d look at 19 dozen hot dogs being gone by noon as a success, not a source for complaint. That is, after all (does math in head, confirms with a calculator), 228 hot dogs being gobbled up — literally — in a community with a population (as per the 2016 Census) of 641 people. Great turnout, Clinton (and you sure do like your hot dogs!).

Now look at the funds. A budget of $1,800 may seem like a lot when viewed solely in the context of hot dogs, but unless you’ve been involved in running an event like this you can’t begin to imagine how quickly that money vanishes. It’s not just the 19 dozen hot dogs; it’s 19 dozen buns, as well as condiments, onions (maybe), napkins, plates, and cutlery. You have your beverages and ice; cake; possibly ice cream; more cutlery and plates. There are craft supplies, Canada Day giveaways and decorations, rental fees, and insurance; there might also be payments to organizations that are assisting, or entertainers taking part, and more. Indeed, considering how little most groups holding events like this have to spend, I’m constantly amazed that they’re able to offer so much on a shoestring.

The reason they can offer what they do is, of course, because of volunteers; in this case, the Spirit of Clinton committee. If complaining about free items running out is somewhat churlish, then it’s full-on rude to complain about something so trivial at a volunteer-run event.

For the record, I am not saying that people do not have the right to complain about anything organized/run by volunteers. However, I’d suggest holding fire and considering what you’re complaining about and why. Does it potentially impact health and/or safety? Speak up. Is it the result of busy, well-meaning people accidentally overlooking something, or underestimating numbers, so that you are momentarily inconvenienced or disappointed? Perhaps it’s best to say nothing, on the “If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all” principle.

After all, along with “free”, the other key word here is “volunteer”. Most volunteers in communities large and small are ordinary people, with some or all of jobs, families, hobbies, interests, and commitments demanding their attention: in short, people who give up a lot of their spare time — time they would probably rather spend in any number of other ways — to plan, organize, and hold events in our communities that all can enjoy. They don’t do it for the big bucks, or the glory, or the bragging rights; they do it because someone, at some point, said “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if …”, and a bunch of other people agreed, and they then knuckled down to make it happen.

Cut volunteers some slack: without them, our communities would be fairly joyless places. Maybe consider becoming one yourself. And if you want to make sure you get a free hot dog, perhaps show up a little earlier.

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