Some Observations on Town Meeting
A look at where people settle in for the annual Town Meeting.
Town Meeting has ended and I hope you were there. The League of Women Voters has a slogan I find useful: People who don’t vote shouldn’t talk at cocktail parties. That was in the 70s when people had cocktail parties, but I find the thought all-purpose. Please don’t complain about the town if you don’t take part in the deliberations. Issues under consideration may not affect you this year, but eventually they will.
For those few of you who have not been to Town Meeting I would like to offer some observations.
Usually there are two places to settle in for Town Meeting: the high school auditorium or the cafeteria. The difference is worth noting. My preference is the cafeteria, but has on occasion sat in the auditorium. In both places the audience is studious, involved, attentive and educated. The difference is the atmosphere.
The auditorium is serious. Talking in the auditorium is not encouraged, as is eating. Doing needlework is hard because of the lighting. Knitting is possible because it doesn’t require bright light. You can sit with friends, but talking is as difficult as it is in a movie theater. It would be rude to snicker in the auditorium. Sitting in the middle of an aisle makes casual movement awkward. Once you sit down, you are there for the duration. Waving to people across the room is not easy, and comparing opinions or learning from the people around you difficult.
The cafeteria is a different cup of tea, which by the way you can bring with you and put on the table. In the cafeteria people sit in groups around a table. Sometimes they know each other at the beginning of the meeting and sometimes they don’t but after an evening of puzzling over wordings, such as minimum and maximum in context, they know philosophies, names and addresses. And they are busy. They come prepared to spend as much time as is needed to get the meeting finished. And they are informed. Papers are spread over the table, plus other relevant reading matter. Opinions are exchanged, sticky details analyzed. People seem to be having a good time and are in no hurry to leave.
Monday night I noted on the tables I could easily see eight operating laptops, seven of which were Macs, which put me in the majority. It was not possible for me to see without getting invasive if the users were working or playing games. I was doing a little of both. The games came into play when the discussion about the words Minimum and Maximum continued for more than 15 minutes. One woman was hemming a skirt, spread out over her table; several were doing needlework or knitting. There was some subtle canoodling. Lots of Ipod activity, mostly by people under 50. The smell of a submarine sandwich wafted over several tables. People with nibbles put them in the middle of the table. Nuts and M and Ms are popular.
The high school freshman class supplied coffee and coffee runs serviced the table.
There was soft talk, and comparison of views of the articles.
Magazine reading was abundant. And none of these activities interfered with understanding the articles or making intelligent choices. Let’s face it: A lot of the discussion duplicates what has been said and doesn’t add to your knowledge. Well-informed people softly promote their point of view, no arguing just exchange of information.
For the record, the evening of the discussion of the disposable single serving water bottles. From my view there were an equal number of plastic water bottle and reusable containers, plus aluminum cans with soda or water.
I would like to urge all people who are undecided about where to spend Town Meeting to head to the auditorium and leave the cafeteria to those of us who enjoy Town Meeting for its social benefits as well as the ability Concord affords to take part in the town governance. And I want to encourage all the people who come to Town Meeting only for an issue that directly affects them to try it just for the fun of it. There’s a lot going on in town and it is good to be part of it.