Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Smiley's People (Moving Days B)

The idea of building a new library building had been in the works for years before I started working there, but it gained momentum only a couple of years after I came aboard. Not that I had anything to do with it, as this was all in the hands of our board of directors, led then by the now late yet still infamous Mr. Kreskin.

Yes, Mr. Kreskin has passed on. Not long after I'd started at the "liberry," I learned that he had been diagnosed with a couple of different slow-growing yet ultimately terminal forms of cancer. And it was not long after this diagnosis that plans to build a new library building were put into a higher gear than they had been running at. I believe he saw that he had a limited amount of time on his hands and decided to make the new "liberry" a reality. From what Mrs. A has told me, Mr. Kreskin saw the project as his legacy to the Tri-Metro area.

There had been a couple of false starts to the project in the past, such as the proposal to buy up existing buildings in the area and convert them into a new library, but time and time again the issue of lack of parking reared up and we were forced to return to the idea of simply building a brand new facility, with triple the space for books, a gigantic multi-purpose room that could be booked for use by the public, much improved story-hour and craft facilities, handicapped access on all levels and, naturally, adequate parking. Grants were applied for and attained, outside donations were sought and came pouring in, century-long leases were acquired with the owners of the land on which the new building was proposed to be built, architects were hired, meetings were had and everything seemed on track.

Once a design had been accepted and approved by the local historical preservation society, a number of public viewings were arranged for the plans for the new building. And since it was still early in the process, these viewings were also forums for anyone with differing opinions as to the validity of the project to voice said opinions and become a part of the process. One such soul with a differing opinion was a long lost rogue of ours, Mr. Smiley, the Second Grumpiest Old Man in all the World. Mr. Smiley attended each of the public meetings regarding the new "liberry," looked at all the plans, heard all the explanations, ate the provided hors d'oeuvres and said nothing whatsoever yay or nay. Then, as soon as contracts were signed and ground officially broken on the building project itself, suddenly Mr. Smiley couldn't make enough public complaints ag'in' it.

Now, keep in mind that this is a man who, according to Mrs. A, spent the previous twenty years complaining bitterly about how inadequate to his needs our library was, how small it was, how there was never any place for him to find a moment's peace within it without being disturbed by the voices of children or--and I'm not making this next part up AT ALL--the ticking of clock hands, etc. You would think, therefore, that a new facility that offered a respite from all that would have been of great interest to him. Not so.

See, in addition to being the second grumpiest old man in all the world, Mr. Smiley is also an old hippie protest-marcher from the `60s who spent a great deal of his time back then fighting against The Man in all his forms via said protests as well as through a hippie protest-marcher newspaper publication of which he and the future Mrs. Smiley were editors. Now, from his age, clothing and demeanor alone, I could have guessed his identity as a former hippie, still bitter over his cause's side having essentially lost. The full details of his story, however, I later learned via a nonfiction work written and self-published by Mrs. Smiley which serves as a history of their time as cause-warriors around the country, specifically the work she and Mr. Smiley did with their publication. And I might have remained unaware of Mrs. Smiley's book and their history had a copy of it not been donated to the "liberry" at the height his campaign against the new building. It made for interesting reading and certainly gave us an idea of what Mr. Smiley was capable of when it came to causes he cared about. It did not, however, shine a lot of light on precisely why he cared so much about stopping the construction of our proposed new library building. This isn't to say that he and his small cadre of followers didn't offer many explanations for why they opposed it, but most of the offered reasons fell firmly into the category of Things We're Pulling Out of our Collective Ass in Order to Derail this Project By Any Means Possible, (which is a pretty standard delaying tactic among cause groups of all stripes).


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, lordy, your Second Grumpiest Man in the Whole World sounds exactly like my coworker.

Please god, retire and go be bitter in some other public sphere.

An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.