Friday, May 25, 2007

Civic Duty

On Memorial Day weekend, my town business association hosts a big bash called the Art and Wine Festival (locals occasionally call it other, less polite names). From Saturday morning through Monday afternoon, the only road that runs through our town is clogged with traffic north and south.

On Friday afternoon, therefore, the locals go to town to stock up on groceries. Most of us, particularly those of us who live north of town, will spend the weekend holed up in our houses, thinking dark Puritanical thoughts about art, wine, and the long lines of automobiles that keep us from our accustomed activities.

By Friday afternoon, the main street is lined with booths, and the vendors have arrived. The grocery stores are filled with people with carts piled high. Stockers work late in the evening, and all the registers are busy. The clerks rush around, too busy to stop for a chat, and too harried to laugh at my jokes.

We're all a little awkward this Friday afternoon, not quite comfortable with what is happening in our sleepy little town. Sure, the festival pays for important civic goods like the street-sweeper and public trash receptacles. For a weekend, however, our town is an alien place full of alien forces. The vendors come from all over, and they bring items that were made in China or Malaysia. Visiting tourists crowd the pavement, sipping wine.

On Monday, we'll take possession of our town again. It will take a few days to clean up after the mess, but, soon enough, the town will slide into its summer routine. By the 4th of July, we'll have forgotten the inconvenience of this weekend and settle in to enjoy the parade.

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