You Are Right. I Was Wrong.

Seven years ago, I waited in line at the Post Office while the man in front of me was being served. As the postal worker handled his transaction, she asked, as they always do:

“Would you like to purchase any stamps today?”

This set him off. No. No. He didn’t want to buy any stamps today. If he wanted to buy stamps, he’d ask for stamps. Had he asked for any stamps? No, he hadn’t. So why was she asking him if he wanted to buy any stamps today? Does she know how irritating it is for a customer to be asked if they want to buy something they don’t want to buy?

On and on he went, and the postal worker was just standing there taking it, and finally I said: “Hey. Hey. That’s enough.”

He turned to look at me, and I said, “She asked you if you wanted to buy stamps. It’s either ‘Yes, thank you’ or ‘No, thank you’.”

He turned back, completed his transaction without further word, and left.

I stepped up to the counter. The postal worker quietly said “Thank you. We can’t say anything when something like that happens.”

After mailing my package, I walked outside to find the man standing next to his pickup truck, which was parked next to my car. “I think I owe you an apology,” he said.

“You don’t owe me an apology. You owe the lady inside an apology. She didn’t deserve that kind of treatment for asking a question she’s required to ask. And she can’t say anything back to defend herself.”

He nodded and said, “I guess I overreacted”.

“Well, you’re lucky it was me in there,” I said. “If my 80-year-old mother had seen how you were treating that lady, she would have kicked your ass.”

***

You are right. I was wrong.

At the June 8 Selectmen meeting, we discussed a proposed plan to conduct Town Meeting on June 22 at Algonquin Regional High School. The plan called for the meeting to be held entirely indoors, splitting seating between the gymnasium and the auditorium to provide for 6-foot social distancing.

Public response to that proposal has been quick and consistent: that the indoor plan is inadequate, and an outdoor plan is preferred; that the facility does not provide proper temperature and ventilation control; that the plan does not adequately address the safety concerns shared by many citizens, particularly seniors and immuno-compromised individuals, about participating in a large public gathering; that those citizens would be disenfranchised from participating in the public process.

To their credit, my colleagues on the Board each expressed reservations about safety aspects of the plan, where I expressed none. There isn’t any excuse to be made to explain my lack of sufficient consideration for these concerns, a lapse completely at odds with my statement here, on the About page, that as a candidate I intend to support “recommendations that prioritize public health and safety”.

Those concerns have been received and are being acted upon. Town staff is exploring alternatives for all-outdoor and hybrid indoor/outdoor configurations that will offer greater accommodation for these safety considerations. We will hear more detail about these alternatives at the upcoming Selectmen meeting on June 15.

When you make a mistake, the right thing to do is to acknowledge it, apologize for it, and commit to do better. You have my apology for not having placed greater priority on public health and safety, and I will make it my focus as we move forward with plans for Town Meeting.

You are right. I was wrong.

***

When it comes to social media, I am socially distanced. I’m on Facebook, but don’t follow it in real time. I don’t Insta. I don’t Snap. I don’t Tweet. I am not a Northborough Mom, I am not a Northborough Dad, and I Did Not Grow Up In Northborough. The comments in those and other online venues are largely beyond my view. Undoubtedly, comments about my lapse in this meeting are highly critical, and rightly so.

Whatever is being said there won’t be the worst I’m going to hear about it.

***

I wasn’t kidding when I made the remark to the man outside the post office.

This weekend, I’ll call my mother, now 87 years old, and we will talk about how she’s feeling; how many calories she’s burning each morning on her elliptical machine; what the weather has been like lately; whether she’s taken any walks around the neighborhood; how many days have elapsed (she’s counting) since she’s been “under house arrest”, as she puts it, due to social distancing; what the latest happenings are in my home town in Vermont; and so on.

Then the conversation will turn to me: how is everyone in the family (fine); am I still working from home (yes); am I getting as much exercise as she is (no); well, I should be getting more exercise (yes); and so on.

When we’re done with all of that, I’ll tell her about this Selectmen meeting.

And when she hears about it, Dolly is going to kick my ass.