KidCity This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     "Have you ever volunteered here before?" the woman at the front desk asked.

"No," I replied, as she held out a smock for me. I followed her as she gave me a mini-tour.

KidCity is an indoor playground, and this particular day happened to be the very first day of winter vacation. It was expected to be busy, but as my tour ended, I thought it didn't seem like too much work to handle a few kids for the day. I would be able to meet my school service-hour requirement just by keeping an eye on the little tykes during arts and crafts time, and making sure the play space was tidy.

Cut to one hour later, 11 a.m. There was a line of parents and kids, ranging from two to 10 years old, quickly wrapping around the building like a human boa constrictor. I took a deep breath and walked over to the top floor of the pirate ship, picking up a toy and placing it back in the proper bin. I had not walked four steps before I found the same toy back on the floor. The culprit, a first grader, flashed his few teeth at me with a wide grin. At that moment, I decided to see what was happening in a different part of the building.

The "bakery" was filled with noise from squeaking tots and chatting parents. I returned a few pieces of abandoned plastic fruit to their appropriate baskets. I couldn't help but smile at the kids who proudly showed their parents a perfectly baked plastic bagel, but the smile faded when the bagel was dropped on the floor and it was my job to pick it up. But I only had ... five hours and 48 minutes left.

Soon after the bagel incident, I was instructed to staff the arts and crafts room, which was intended for the older children. I was surrounded by colorful foam, sequins, pipe cleaners, construction paper and other odds and ends that could add that extra something to a perfect art project. After eyeing the two dozen kids making their masterpieces, I glanced at my watch only to find a googly eye glued to the face. I picked it off to learn I had ... five hours and three minutes left.

About a decade later, I was relieved of my arts and crafts duties and assigned to wander the building and make sure everything was running smoothly. I stared at my watch for long periods of time, watching the seconds tick by slower than they ever had before. My head was pounding from all the high-pitched squeals, the dropped plastic foods, the paper and colored pencils strewn all over the coloring room and the countless minute and trivial things that added up to give me a new definition of migraine.

It was finally five o'clock. Somehow, I don't know how, I had made it through the day. I have never felt so relieved as when the woman signed my volunteer sheet to prove I had put in my seven hours that day. I pocketed the paper and thanked her. Once I turned toward that door, there was no stopping me. I marched outside to my mom's car, and told her to get me home before I went completely insane.

I rushed in my house for Tylenol and a glass of water, which disappeared before my mom even came through the door. I tried so hard to push the pain away and think about the good I had done that day. I had helped the staff handle a monstrous crowd of people, and had given to my community. Sure, it earned me a signature and the world's worst headache ever, but deep down, I knew I had done something good. KidCity is a great place for little kids to hang out, especially during vacation. If I were there for only a few hours at a time, I would have enjoyed it much more than my long stretch. Maybe someday I will be in search of the good feeling again, and I will go back to volunteer ... maybe.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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