A long time ago, at our local lds cannery, you used to be able to go bottle your own jam. It was fantastic. To get the best deal, you had to pre-order the amount of jam you wanted, you had to bring your own jars, and you had bring enough people to run the bottling facility.
So when someone at church generously decided to organize an excursion, of course I signed up! Hey I don't mind getting a little sticky for some cheap and delicious raspberry jam, which was good, because in order to sign up for this particular trip, the organizer was asking everyone to personally be there to can their jam - you know -- Little Red Hen style. (And who could blame her, right? We've all been there when there really weren't enough people to get a task done, and it stinks.) I ordered 4 cases.
And then 3 of my kids came down with Chicken Pox a few days before the scheduled jamfest. I didn't even think to call and cancel, because - well - you heard the part about 3 kids and Chicken Pox, right?
So I got this call from a frantic organizer - let's just call her Sue - the day of the trip, asking why I was not there at the church to carpool. I apologized and explained my situation, but this did not help. Sue was understandably panicked, because apparently people were dropping out right and left. Not only was she going to get to the cannery without enough help, but even worse, without enough jars - and what do you do with gallons and gallons of jam and not enough jars?
She asked if she could come to my house in 10 minutes and pick up my jars. I told her I was SO sorry, but they were still dirty in the basement, to which she responded that it didn't matter because they had to sterilize all the jars anyway before they could be processed.
So 10 minutes later, I was loading jars filled with spider webs and carcasses and dust and who knows what else into the back of Sue's van.
And then I went back to dabbing oatmeal on itchy red spots, and the next day Sue called to tell me to come get my jam. And I marveled at her willingness to help me out, and bend the rules, and just do the jam for me anyway. And I thanked her profusely as I loaded the jam jars into my van and waved goodbye, and came home immediately and slathered jam over some toast.
Until the next week.
When I sat with a different friend at an outdoor play group, and she asked me if I'd heard about the giant jam fiasco from the week before.
ummm, well... I guess not.
Apparently they arrived at the cannery 5 workers short, which meant that there were 4 people doing the work of 9. And they weren't super happy about it. And as you might imagine, it took them much longer to get things moving than it would have with a full crew.
So by the time they'd done the jam for themselves, they were understandably tired. And when they brought in the jars people had just sent - -
Well, can you believe that people had sent dirty jars? Downright shameful.
(and at this point she was really building up some steam, so the best I could do was nod and agree)
And so they decided that the process of canning would automatically sterilize the germs out of the jars
(you can see this coming now, can't you?)
and so they determined NOT to wash the jars. But to just fill and process them exactly the way people had sent them.
At which point I thought about throwing up on her shoes.
But I was very angry AND very embarrassed at the same time. So I did nothing. If by nothing you mean gathering my kids to the van as fast as possible so I could race home and dump everything - jars, jam, boxes, dead spiders, all of it- - into the garbage can.
After I dumped them, I looked into the broken mess and noticed they weren't even my jars.
So, you know, it was probably perfectly good jam.
And I console myself by thinking that somewhere, one of those Little Red Hens got MY jars of jam.
And that's the best ending I can think of. Because just rewards are just. so. sweet.