It’s not easy working from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Mark Curtin is a Senior Film Studies/English major at MU. He is an opinion columnist who writes about local issues for The Maneater.

After a weekend night in Columbia, Supportive Tigers Riding In Pursuit of Ensuring Safety can be a literal lifesaver. The awkwardly titled volunteer organization operates Thursday through Sunday, providing free rides to MU students back to their place of residence.

As great of a service as STRIPES is, I found volunteering at it absolutely brutal. While many students are happy to serve their community through it, it wasn’t for me.

Last year, as a STRIPES volunteer, I wrapped up my homework early and went to sleep around 7 p.m. More often than not, I would lie awake in bed dreading how tired I’d be in the morning. At 8:30 p.m., after my catnap, I’d go outside, freezing on most nights between October and March, hop in my car and drive to STRIPES headquarters – it’s just across Stadium Boulevard from Hatch, where I live, so that wasn’t bad.

Upon arriving, there was always pizza to lull me into a false sense of security, and I settled onto a couch for an extra hour of sleep and begrudgingly got the car ready for a night on the town. When 10 p.m. rolled around, I’d get paired up with a driver and begin navigating Columbia. This was the meat of the night, and it was often enjoyable. I’m not too chatty of a person, but I always got along well with whomever I was assigned with and the passengers provided they didn’t vomit in the backseat. Still, this often left me with a hoarse voice for a couple of days after speaking all night.

Around 1 or 2 a.m., time started to flow differently, and I became exhausted from sleep deprivation, as well. I normally don’t stay up past 10 p.m. Why did I volunteer again? By the time 3 a.m. rolled around, the cars staggered back into the lot… if I was lucky. More often, there was a backlog of assignments that took closer to 3:30 a.m. to finish up. We removed car toppers (the little STRIPES sign on top), filled out reports with trembling hands and drove back to Hatch. If I was lucky, I crawled into bed by 4.

Some nights were more interesting than others. I was hit on several times by drunk patrons, something that would probably make others uncomfortable but just made me chuckle. More than once was I given the wrong address. Other nights, I was overtaken by restless leg syndrome and the overwhelming fear I’d develop a fatal blood clot from sitting down too long. Fortunately, I never stumbled into the more “exciting” encounters that some of my peers have, like car accidents or run-ins with the police.

Still, STRIPES wasn’t the right choice for me. It’s a necessary and valued part of MU, but every shift felt like it was sucking out my soul. This was not the fault of management or my coworkers – I simply wasn’t cut out for such demanding hours and such upbeat interaction with patrons. I’m much happier being behind a desk and typing words into a computer instead of saying them aloud.

My two semesters in STRIPES were eye-opening, to say the least. I got to see sides of Columbia that I didn’t necessarily want to but still got to assist my community. Regardless, I’m much happier to serve MU by writing for The Maneater where I’m not sleep deprived.

Edited by Bryce Kolk |

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