Rain was pouring when I ran from the car into the small borough building in a one-stoplight town, but the rain couldn’t drown out the smell of pizza from the small restaurant right next door.
I was late, or else the borough’s clocks were fast (and since this is the second month in a row I ran in thinking I had a few minutes to spare and found them making the roll call, I think it’s their clocks). But I slipped into a metal folding chair and smiled a greeting at the restaurant’s owner turned councilman, pulled out my damp notebook, and was ready.
But it’s a singular problem here, taking notes, because really nothing seems that big of a deal. There’s balls from the ballpark escaping into a neighbor’s yard, and the homeowner wants a net put up. Did PennDOT replace the missing stop sign up by the bank yet? No? The secretary will call tomorrow. The council’s vice-president is a World War II veteran, who just wants to make sure the money borrowed from the reserve fund to help the borough hang on until taxes start coming in gets paid back asap. He seems suspicious that it won’t get put back, and asks about it every month.
The audit finds… two small procedural details to fix. Anyone want a brick for the athlete memorial at the ball park? Still time to buy one. And can we put a new meter out in front of the senior center?
And so it goes, for an hour or so – long for this council – and the vice-president looks bored. Everyone gets excited when it comes to sweeping the streets. They were supposed to do it this week, but no one swept their sidewalks like they were told. Now if the borough sweeps the street, then homeowners sweep the gravel from winter plowing back off their walks, the streets will be all dirty again.
The restaurant owner is irritated, and ready to take matters into his own hands. He’ll send his busboys out with push brooms, they’ll get it done in an hour. Someone has to take pride in their property around here. And everyone tells him that’s real nice, they won’t stop him, and he shrugs, it’s not that big of a deal, as he unwraps a butterscotch candy.
It’s a short drive home through the rain and a quick write-up, once I decide what of the small points of daily life matter enough to be included, and what could possibly be my lede.
And I can’t help but think: if you’re biggest problem in town is folks refusing to sweep their sidewalks? You’re doing alright.