Bart Mill: Mark another item off the bucket list: pancake flipper

November 8, 2012

Some kids dream of growing up to be astronauts. Others hope to end up firefighters or cops or even president of the United States.

Me, I always dreamed of flipping pancakes.

I won’t pretend that pancake flipper was my only childhood aspiration. Like most kids, I flip-flopped (pun intended) a bit on my life goals. For a time, I wanted to be a garbage man, largely because it looked like great fun to drive the giant, trash-crushing trucks, not to mention the unspoken license to get as dirty as you want without your mother’s inevitable complaints.

Later, I considered being a veterinarian, at least until I discovered there would be math involved. Eventually, I zeroed in on teaching, only to discover that would require almost daily contact with children. I love my kids more than life itself. Your kids, not so much.

Despite the constant career waffling (pun also intended), one dream remained true. Every year, when my parents would take me to the local pancake breakfast, I would look up at the big, jovial men manning the griddle and dream of the day I could fill their batter-crusted shoes.

Through the years we went to pancake days hosted by the Masons, the FOP, the Sertoma and others, and at each occasion I saw that post filled by mayors, sheriffs, my father’s friends and even a favorite uncle. As a kid, it seemed the ultimate in adult responsibility, feeding thousands of hungry people in a flawless flamenco of pouring and flipping and the occasional shaking of hand. As a grown-up, it just looked like a lot of fun and a good excuse too be around large chaffing dishes teaming with sausage.

So it is with considerable pride that I tell you, last Saturday I became that guy. After almost five decades of coveting the role, I was finally in control of the spatula. For one glorious day, I was a Sertoman.

So as not to sully this honorable club’s name, I will acknowledge straight away that I am not an actual member of the Lima Sertoma Club. My wife is. I have to assume she was able to keep her connection to me hidden until after her official acceptance to their ranks. After 17 years of marriage, she’s gotten pretty good at keeping our relationship secret from what she insists upon calling “nice, normal folks.”

Obviously, she felt secure enough in her post to drop my name when they were looking for volunteers for Saturday’s event. I agreed under the pretense that it was a good club raising money for a multitude of good uses. Secretly, I was just this side of giddy at the shot.

I assumed I would be put to work busing tables or cleaning dishes, knowing the all-important flipper’s post would be reserved for high-level members or visiting potentates. So it was a bit of a shock when Bob Cook, a nice, if not altogether normal member of the club, handed me a spatula and offered up his post. I’ve known Bob for a lot of years and know he is capable of pulling a prank or 30, but this time he wasn’t kidding. I was being left in charge of single-handedly making perfect pancakes for the masses.

OK, so the single-handedly part is a bit of an embellishment. There were dozens of people doing real work to make the event come off. Club members and volunteers who, each year, set up the tables, sell the tickets, manage the promotion, count the cash and all the other big and small things that go into a successful day. I just came in, threw on an apron and spent a few hours manning the genius rotating pancake griddles, occasionally breaking to test the sausage or shoot the breeze with passing friends.

Thanks to some solid advice from long-time flippers, I managed to do the job with limited losses. Aside from a half-dozen burnt cakes and a pair of khakis forever stained by blueberry batter, I left the post pretty much as I found it. Of course, I’m different now, as any man would be having finally fulfilled a life’s dream. One item checked off the bucket list, I’m ready to move on to the next.

Now I just need to find a service club that picks up garbage for charity. And hope they let me drive the truck.