Thursday. I'm planning to leave the country
in a couple of days.
You know when you're about to graduate or something, and you're so utterly immersed in the processes that lead up to it that the event is not even registering in your head? Yeah, it's that.
Mainly, i'm working on trying to get everything in order at work so i can leave for a while without everything going haywire. Now, many people tell me i work too much. Sometimes i agree with them. Sometimes i'm hardly home at all and take naps in the unfinished second floor of the shop with miscellaneous computer packing materials between me and the plywood.
But i do it because it's important, see. I'm one of three people at FREE GEEK who provide daily continuity in an organization full of volunteers. It's amazing to see the volunteerism work - on the nights when the ASS group meets, there's a thriving, laughing group of computer professionals, people with paying day jobs, programmers, administrators, doing things they're otherwise paid for for free. Staying here until after midnight sometimes, because things need to be done. There are cleancut pros working side by side and collaborating with wise and raggedy radicals. It warms my little anarchist heart. Then on regular days, there are grandmothers and kids and regular folks working toward their first computer.
The way this works is - people have lots of old computers hidden in closets and basements and attics. Maybe they never wanted the darn thing. Maybe it just got old. Maybe it broke - at any rate, there's not a really good way to get rid of them. They're bulky, they're electronic, and they're full of toxic chemicals and heavy metals. Some people throw them in the river - come by FREE GEEK some time and we'll be sure to show you the monitor dredged from the Willamette. Some leave them by the curb, where they'll be landfilled and leak toxins. We don't want that to happen. We're an environmental organization. We take those in.
Then there are other people - people who are being told that their children need a computer for school, a machine they'd never be able to afford. People who are going to classes because they can't find a job and need to learn more stuff. People who are ill or retired and lonely and would rather learn something new than watch the TV. So we take all the stuff we can use from this unending stream of unwanted technology and make it into functioning computers for these volunteer/members.
Every day i'm winging it. I don't know hardware! I hardly even know software - i'm just here to teach. There are a thousand questions a day, and never, ever, ever an uninterrupted conversation. It's improv, we're improvising a non-profit, a social-services provider, a computer shop, a recycling operation. We're making it all up because it has to happen. It has to work. It has to be made to work.
Mostly we're funded by grants. Today, in the midst of scheduling classes and answering questions and trying to document testing procedures and explain our organizational structure and identify mystery components, we got bad news. Today, black Thursday, we found out that through a flub by the city, we had not gotten the grant from the Oregon DEQ that we depended on. The three of us will no longer be employed as of January 2 - just as these two men that i love dearly are preparing to take up the load i'm shedding for the three weeks i'll be in England.
This doesn't mean, as it would for some jobs, that we're done and won't be back. It means we have to find another way to earn money while still putting in our time, unpaid. It means first panic, then it means putting on the steely face of "just another hurdle" and not seeing it as an omen when we go for burritos and find that the restaurant is on fire.
We're trying desperately to think of ways to raise money. We need to tell people that we're not falling down, we're not giving up, we're making it work, still, and we need people's help to do so. We need to get the word out. Spread the word. This is something unique, this is something that we want to make into a supportable, reproducible structure.
This is so sad. I don't know what to do.
Yes, i'm unemployed, and yes, the restaurant really was on fire.
If you can make a donation, or know anyone who can give (any amount) - oh, we'd appreciate it! (Check www.freegeek.org) It's all tax-deductible. We'll also accept donated ideas on how to get word out to people who have ideals and money.