Down East 2013 ©
Well, Charlie and me went to Town Meeting last week, and, I swear, it made me despair for the future of humankind. Really!
I hadn’t been in awhile, I confess. Charlie goes more than me. At breakfast he says, “Ida, we’re voting on a bunch of stuff tonight. Why don’t you come along?”
I start lookin’ around the kitchen, you know, to see if there’s any chores on the horizon, dust bustin’, cleanin’ the oven or what not, that might preempt such an outing.
“Come on,” he continues “we’ll quit when we’ve had enough.”
Now I just want to put my cards on the table, here. I’ve got nothin’ against exercisin’ my civic duties. Nothin’ at all. I vote every election. But these Town Meetings, I don’t know. They kind of get under my skin.
Town Meeting’s held down to the middle school, which was the old high school before it became the new junior high. So, it begins when you first step into the gym: the smell. Oh, my God, no amount of air freshener will ever get rid of that B.O. It’s the mortar that holds that building together.
And the folding seats! ‘Round about hour number two, I’m squirmin’ around, tryin’ to find some position that’s even half way comfortable. ‘Course the bleachers are even worse.
Well, we get there, and it’s the same old same old, only a bit more contentious. Seems like half the town wants keep the budget as is, and the other half wants to nickel and dime the darn thing, cutting stuff that seems kind of important, not givin’ cost of livin’ raises of the poor folks who work down to town office, the police department, public works, the transfer station, you name it.
People are goin’ on about how we’re taxed enough, and folks on a fixed income can’t afford any more. And while I get what they’re saying, I may not always agree with it. I mean, what happens, say, if you need the police, and they’ve run out of overtime, or their cruiser died ‘cause the cost of a new one was axed from the budget? But I get it. And I agree: these days we do have to tighten our belts a little.
But by the time we got to item 156 or somethin’, where these same folks want to cut $10,000 from the Community Center, effectively eliminating Marcelle Bartley’s job, well, I’d had it. I mean Marcelle drives the bus that picks up seniors who don’t drive. She’s been doing it for years! She knows everybody’s name, what medicines they take and when, gets volunteers from as far away as Dexter and Dover-Foxcroft. It makes me sad to hear people saying our seniors should have to pay more money for the services at the Community Center than they already do. “They don’t deserve a free ride,” one fella (I’m not gonna name names) was sayin’.
Holy cow! I’m thinkin’, aren’t these the same folks on a fixed income you were talkin’ about earlier?
Finally, Snowdelle Holden hobbles up to the mic with her walker. The fella has to lower the mic about two feet for her, but once he does, she lets loose. “Listen,” she says, “we seniors have paid our taxes all our lives. We built the new high school and the town hall. We changed your diapers and baked you cookies, and for cryin’ out loud, now, when we need a little help, you’re gonna turn your back on us? Shame on you! We need Marcelle Bartley! Don’t throw the bus driver under the bus.”
Well, that seemed to get their attention! And happily, Marcelle’s still employed. But it was close. Too close. “Come on, Charlie,” I says. “Funding for the library’s up next, and I don’t have the heart to hear them bicker about that.”
Gees! It used to be we’d have actual discussions and come to some kind of consensus, you know? But nowadays, it’s different. Everything’s so black and white. We’re all quick to get riled up, and so we’re not really listening to one another.
Even after Charlie and me get home, I’m havin’ a hard time to settle down, so I take Scamp out for a walk, get some fresh air. And what a night it was: clear and cool, an owl hootin’ off in the woods, the smell of roses and new mown grass. I breath it all in, and breath it out, and the tight feelin’ ‘round my heart softens.
I see a flashlight coming towards me, and know it’s Hank Plaistead walking his dog, Popcorn.
“Evenin’, Ida,” Hank says.
“Sure is a nice one.”
“You can say that again. It’s why we live here, in Maine, nights like this.”
“Yes it is, Hank. Would you look at those stars. There must be a million of ‘em!”
That’s it for now. Catch you on the flip side!