And next on the agenda…

I have a new obsession. Some people get caught up with endless musing on Heidi Klum or Brad Pitt. Others take to hobbies from skateboarding to knitting like ducks to water, and spend many an hour boring friends on their latest jump or – erm – stitch. And some become couch potatoes, frantically racing home from the office in order to tune into the latest crime scene or cop show (I could just save you the bother – the culprit’s always the nice friend who you saw briefly in the third scene).

But none of those are for me. After all, I’m all about the TV box sets these days, and it’d probably take me four years to knit a scarf that went around Action ManGI Joe’s neck. Instead, I’ve discovered community meetings.

As far as I’m concerned, there are two types of meeting. There’s the community gathering around to take decisive action for the improvement of all, and those meetings and collectives can can be pretty inspiring. Indeed, I’m (relatively) active in one such group, to bring a food coop to the part of Brooklyn in which I live.

In terms of real entertainment value though, you have to go to the events where the people who don’t otherwise get to talk much in life get let off their leash. These gatherings generally have a vague theme, whether it’s security in the neighbourhood or environmental concerns. But essentially they turn into an ill-disguised competition in which the participants attempt to make the most tangential leap between the topic at hand, and the subject that they want to talk about. In other words, if you go to some kind of forum on improving public transport, you will almost certainly end up listening to a 30 minute diatribe on how the penne arrabbiata at the local Italian has gone downhill since Giuseppe left. To be fair, he left on a bus, but that’s hardly the point.

Then there’s the person who is prepared to stick to the topic, but wants to dissect the most trivial point in enough depth to write a thesis. The effectiveness of the subway system is an important topic to most New Yorkers; whether the word “Metro Card” appears in blue or green on your weekly pass, not so much.

And don’t forget the person who speaks with incredible authority but actually doesn’t know a single thing that he or she is talking about. I can listen to those people for hours, as they make outlandish claims after outlandish claim, as if they’ve taken a bet to see who can make the most ridiculous suggestion in a public setting. As a result, I’m now well-versed in concealing my laughter/anger/astonishment* (*delete as appropriate) behind literature collected at the door, as if I’m paying particularly close attention or taking notes.

It’s an obsession I need to get under control before it gets out of hand. If I’m not careful, I’ll find myself infiltrating young Republican gatherings, just to hear their views on climate change. And no amount of paper infront of my mouth will save me then.

Perhaps it’s time to take up knitting after all?

8 thoughts on “And next on the agenda…

  1. Trixie Trouble

    Yup I used to go to the committee meetings for the Crescent Garden purely for entertainment reasons. Free wine and nibbles and a bunch of eccentric people from Holland Park. Can’t buy that kind of cabaret.

  2. tqe / Adam

    This is brilliantly written!

    I find all kinds of odd things entertaining, and I have to admit I attended more than my fair share of city council meetings back when I lived in the States.

  3. carrie

    ha! that last set of people i can’t be around, i lose all will to live and my head feels like it will explode. it’s all i can do not to take their shoulders in my hands and shake them into reason, but i know that would be futile.

    good on you for participating, that coop sounds wonderful! i love the one i go to. this post did remind me that i’ve wanted to look into what’s going on in my community and how i can get involved… this proves though that i will have to likely see a therapist BEFOREhand just to be able to handle the crazies.

  4. Expat Mum

    God, I hate committees and meetings with a passion. Having spent my professional life in the States trying to run them, and then foolishly being the (volunteer) President of my kids’ co-op nursery school, I have had my fill of the people you describe. Now? I work on my own, (or with Mike from Postcards..), volunteer for rolling-sleevs-up-projects only, with no major decision making on my part, and steer well away from anyone with an ‘opinion”.
    Misanthrope, moi?

  5. Sven

    An old colleague once said, and it became an office mantra, that all committees should have an odd number of members, and three is too many. But then how would you get your kicks?

  6. gabi

    I should invite you up to the ones in my neighborhood. I’m trying to go after the liquor license of a restaurant that isn’t really a restaurant across the street from my house…it’s a front for an escort service…and the local cops use it. Neighborhood’s gone down the tubes. Fun times.

  7. Urban Panther

    You’ve been to meetings at my workplace????? Because you sure have nailed what I experience every day. I wonder if all the people at my work then invade community meetings.

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