February 07, 2020

It's not just the journey, it's who you're with.

I belong to a motorcycle group.  Not one of those stereotype clubs, but a group of people who like riding bikes, who like fundraising for worthwhile causes, and who like hanging out together.  About three or so years ago I had backed way off from participating in most of the activities due in part to my husband’s PTSD, and in part to my own health issues I was dealing with.  Then about two years ago I got a call from one of my club-mates who was now the president of our chapter.  He told me that a lot of things had changed, and he needed me. 

So I went.  A lot of things had changed!  Over half our membership had dropped away, some of them to form a new club, and others just gone.  To my chagrin, I saw that some of the remaining members were ones I wished had left:  one being a trouble-making know-it-all, and another being a back-stabbing asshole.  I know this because it was my back that got stabbed.  I saw fairly quickly why the president needed me.  It was obvious that he was ‘alone’ after the departure of a number of established members.  He needed someone on his side and I was it.  Despite his being president, I witnessed overt hostility and disrespect towards him.  As the months rolled on, he told me he was calling it quits after the next elections.  He was sick of the fighting.  I convinced him to stay and told him that if he ran for president again, I would run for vice-president and that side-by-side we would rebuild. 

My husband, also a member, had started coming out again at my request, in an effort to bolster our numbers.  It was obviously a situation where we needed all the help we could get.  For example, years before I had been secretary to the club.  I regularly used my laptop to take minutes.  Being in that line of work, I’m well versed in minute-taking and in using a computer to do so.  On one occasion our secretary called to ask if I could take minutes since she wasn't sure she would be there.  As I started recording the minutes of the meeting, the vice-president insisted that his wife would take the minutes (by hand).  I responded that I had been asked by the secretary to fill in for her, but then the back-stabbing member spoke out saying that he didn’t want anything to end up on the internet. 

WHAT?  Has this guy been living under a rock?  I mean, I successfully managed to be secretary for a whole year without once posting our minutes on the internet.  Not only that but, as I now pointed out, minutes are a record of the proceedings, not a word-by-word recital of the meeting.  Finally, I just closed my laptop and gave in.  It wasn’t worth the argument.  A month later this guy ran for president, the vice-president ran again for vice-president, and both their wives ran for treasurer.  They were running against our sitting president, me for VP, and my own husband for treasurer.  So they both got voted in, but as I pointed out, neither of their wives were technically allowed to sit as treasurer since we prohibit spouses from both being able to access the bank.  My husband got the position of treasurer based on my one vote.  A few weeks later the new president called and insisted that my husband couldn’t be treasurer.  Since my hubby didn’t really want the job, it was easier to just give in. 

The trouble-making know-it-all was appointed as our sergeant-at-arms.  Meetings became a tedious exercise in accomplishing nothing.  I didn’t want to hang out with these people at all.  I was made to feel very unwelcome in a club that I had helped to build for 16 years to that point.  But I still went to the meetings and put in my time working on our fundraisers as I didn’t want to give the back-stabbing asshole any reason to oust me, as he had tried unsuccessfully to do years before. 

Time passed and I contacted my former president, wanting to know why he hadn't come out to any meetings.  Lo and behold he had not been informed of any meetings.  Interestingly, when the secretary sent notice of meetings, she somehow forgot him.  He told me he was ready to go with the other group that splintered off.  

As time moved forward it became painfully obvious that my chapter was disintegrating.  Our president called a special meeting wherein he claimed that several women had approached him to say that our vice-president was grabbing their asses and making them uncomfortable.  So, led by the president and the trouble-making know-it-all, the local group voted to remove that individual as a member.  This left a vacancy on our executive table, but before it could be filled…our president has been a tenant on the property of the VP.  The VP decided to terminate the tenancy and ordered the president to vacate the land immediately.  So while there was some personal arguing, posturing, fighting, going on (whatever word you want to use), the trouble-making know-it-all informed the group by text that as his president and vice-president are having some dissension, he will be taking over the group.  Well didn’t I laugh over that one!  Even if both left, the next in line would be the treasurer, followed by the secretary.  He has no real authority – it’s all in his head. 

The end result of the in-fighting is that both the VP and the trouble-making know-it-all are asked to leave the chapter.  Now the president needs a VP and a secretary.  He asked me to sit in on a meeting as secretary, which I agreed to do for one meeting only and that I would be using my laptop.  At that meeting, he asked me to take the VP position.  I can only imagine how that must have tasted coming out of his mouth considering how he tried so hard to get rid of me after stabbing me in the back a few years before. 

Meanwhile, our former president has had coffee with me many times to shoot the shit.  He has his ear very close to the ground.  He tells me that although planning is underway among the remaining, rapidly dwindling, members for our annual fundraising ride, all other chapters will boycott the event and word is out generally to stay away.  I told him I still had to go through the motions.  I helped plan an event for 100 people knowing full well that there would be less than ten people there, including me, my husband, my son, the president and his wife.  It was a sad event, with only two outsiders attending.

The week following that event, I met with the president.  I suggested that he take it as a sign and walk away from the club.  His refusal was selfish – he wanted to finish out his year as president and then step back into being just a member.  Oddly enough, he did empty his car into mine.  He had brought all the club possessions – beer, plastic cutlery, paper plates, cash box, briefcase with minutes, etc.  All of it.  He passed it and the keys over to me saying that he was scheduled for some emergency surgery and wanted me to have all of this in case it didn’t go well.  Now I’m not a doctor, not even close, but I know that emergency surgery by its very nature is not “scheduled”.   

At this point I decided to take matters into my own hands.  I called a meeting of the members (without him), and even had the former president attend.  At this meeting I gained the support of the members to ask our sitting president to leave.  As I was currently the appointed vice-president, I moved into the president’s chair.  My first act as president was to ask members if they knew anyone that would be interested in joining our group.  We soon had some old members coming back and new ones interested in coming aboard.  Hallelujah!

At our elections this past September, the club voted unanimously to elect me as president for this year.  I’m pleased to say that other members stepped up to the plate for the other executive roles.  I also told them that my clear mandate was to increase our membership, but to do so with quality members.  We want people that we’d like to hang out with.  I further said that any drama would be dealt with immediately and decisively.  We will not fall into the trap of letting someone in just because they represent another number.  We will be discriminating.  One last thing I said was that they had just elected a tyranny.  I don’t plan to make unilateral decisions, but I won’t committee things to death either.  There will be discussion followed by decisions. 

Now that I’ve been the president for six months or so, I’ve come to ask myself, “What was I thinking?”  Not because I don’t want to lead the group back to greatness, but because as president I am expected to (1) attend every meeting, and (2) make appearances at other chapters’ events.  Whatever happens, I’m sure I’ve got a good group with me on the journey.