by EBB on Monday, March 22, 2010
Should the conversation begin to lag when you are talking to the mother of school-age children one of the surest ways to avoid an awkward pause is to bring up school auctions. A polite inquiry such as “Does your child’s school have an auction?” is usually good for upwards of 20 minutes. In this time she will regale you with tales of the time she chaired/contributed to/attended the XYZ school auction and the horror or hysteria that ensued. It is hard to pinpoint what exactly makes school auctions so fraught with peril but it undoubtedly has something to do with the combination of alcohol, competition, money and ego. While we cannot, in good conscience, suggest the well mannered modern mother avoid these gatherings entirely – after all they are for a great cause – she might want to follow these basic guidelines. Pre-auction: if volunteering, show up when you said you would and do what you agreed to (see Committees). It is also best not to voice your opposition or displeasure too loudly or you might end up chairing the event next year. Additionally, have a strategy worked out with your spouse/date of how much you want to donate that night. A “safe word” to stop your spouse or yourself in the heat of the bidding frenzy is also recommended. During the auction: keep your wits about you and alternate between the hard stuff and a glass of seltzer to insure lucidity. Eat something. Socialize, don’t crowd the bidding tables. Remember, to the victor goes the spoils. While you may feel good about it at the moment, do you really want those two weeks in Hilton Head or the taco party for 30? Keep it friendly, this is for a good cause. If you win wonderful. If not, just think, the school gets more and you get to keep yours. So really, in a way, you did win. Post-auction: get in touch with the kind people who donated whatever it is you purchased as quickly as possible to agree on delivery. Never complain or imply you overpaid. Do not gossip - it is gauche to discuss who spent how much or who outbid his own bid three times. Finally, the well mannered modern mother knows that while these events may be like a Prom with gasoline, alcohol and money thrown in, the best thing she can do is remain polite and adult about it all. And thus avoid incriminating photos of herself on facebook the next morning.