Long Beach Marathon

Those Who Can, Do; Those Who Can’t, Give Out T-shirts


By Win Htet Kyaw

            My friends wondered why a homebody like me went all the way from where I live to Long Beach last Saturday, October 6. That was exactly what I did that day; to be more exact, I went to the Long Beach Convention Center in order to do the shift I signed up for a few weeks earlier, which started at 8 am and ended at 2pm. The shift was that long – to do the math, it was 6 hours straight. However, time passed by really fast and I found myself occupied with one task after another the whole time, serving the waves of people that poured into the Convention Center through the entrance door of Hall C.

As a volunteer for T-shirt distribution, my duty didn’t only pertain to giving out T-shirts. There were about eight or nine stations, with each giving out different items. One station was for handing out the shirts that would be used in the Bike tour, and each of the remaining stations a specific size of the technical race shirts that the Marathon and Half-marathon participants were supposed to wear on the day of the marathon. Being stationed at the place that was designated for distribution of men’s large T-shirts, I checked the information inscribed on the bib – to make sure it said men’s large under the tab “size” – whenever a person came up to me. Given out along with the T-shirts were goodie bags, which we stuffed with coupons and magazines.

There were times when people would come up to the wrong station and I had to point them out to the right one. There were also times when the participants wouldn’t be very pleased to see that the T-shirts they were receiving were not the correct size or the preferred color. Having no authority to do otherwise than we had been instructed to, the best we could do was to assure them with the possibility of being able to change shirts in the morning of the marathon.

Volunteering put me in different shoes. I learned that, as a volunteer, it is my responsibility to facilitate the interaction between me and my “customers” by being well-informed and making clarifications. I also learnt that, as a “customer,” we should be willing to understand the other side of the story and make not much fuss when unsuccessful interaction takes place. Amid communicational triumphs and failures, I could always look back on this volunteering experience and smile as the work we did as volunteers ultimately went toward the successful 28th year anniversary of hosting the marathon in the city of Long Beach. To rephrase a quote from a famous writer that I heard sometime in the past, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, give out T-shirts.”