NEW BEDFORD, MA—In a true display of democracy, a town hall meeting held at the New Bedford High School auditorium Monday gave the crowd of approximately 550 residents the opportunity to publicly voice every last one of the inane thoughts and concerns they would normally only have the chance to utter to themselves.
Though the meeting was ostensibly held to discuss a proposed $21,000 project to replace the high school's grass football field with synthetic turf, City Councilman Thomas Reed inadvertently opened the floodgates to a deluge of ill-informed, off-topic diatribes on inconsequential bullshit when he allowed those in attendance to demonstrate their God-given gift of language.
"I don't want to have some kid's torn ACL or ALS or whatever on my conscience," said 42-year-old contractor Tom Wareheim, who had apparently not heard the portion of Councilman Reed's opening remarks just moments before explaining that the risk of injury on grass and turf is virtually the same. "I also heard somewhere, I think from my cousin, that the fibers in that stuff can cause cancer."
Citizens quickly lined up at the podium to exercise their freedom of speech—for which countless Americans have died—to publicly drone on and on about everything from the root causes of the football team's poor performance last year to whether high school students should be playing sports at all.
"Now, I don't know much about this turf stuff, but you all know me and you know what kind of business I run," said hardware store owner Dan Schilling, 54, seizing the opportunity to hear his voice echo pointlessly off the auditorium walls. "I've been saying this to my wife for years, and she agrees with me: The garbage trucks in this town are way too loud and I came here tonight to see what's being done about it."
Schilling's grievance instilled an undeserved sense of confidence in the rest of the crowd, emboldening others to abandon the practice of forming cogent thoughts and instead allow streams of mind-numbing nonsense to spill ceaselessly from their lips.
"Who's going to fix the roads?" said 49-year-old Gordon Winters, a bona fide, class-A moron. "Do I have to fix the roads myself, or is somebody going to fix the roads? What's it gonna be? Fixed roads? Or not-fixed roads?"
After an awkward, 15-second period of silence, Winters thankfully moved away from the podium, only to be replaced by 32-year-old Laurel Hale, who seemed eager to prove to every citizen of New Bedford that she had the brainpower of an autistic dog.
"I'm just going to say one thing because I don't want to take up too much of anyone's time," said Hale as her 6-month-old daughter pawed at the microphone. Hale then somehow managed to link the synthetic-turf issue to the lack of places to sit in public areas, her inability to get the buttons at the crosswalk to work, and the apparent overabundance of cable television channels.
Added Hale: "Also, Councilman Reed, you need to get us out of Iraq. Now."
Over the course of the six-and-a-half-hour meeting, the only variation on the endless monotony of inconsequential concerns was the occasional tone of entitlement.
"This town used to be so different," said 67-year-old Doris Miller, as if she were starring in a film in which one person's impassioned speech is so powerful that it leaves the rest of the audience in stunned silence. "Kids are different. Adults are different. People. People are different. What happened? How do we get back to the way things were? How, Councilman Reed?"
"I fought in Korea, and by God I would do it again," said 76-year-old Ronald Schroyer, who immediately retook his seat.
With no conclusions reached about why the town has no zoo, which restaurant serves the best pizza, or what to do with the football field, Councilman Reed opted not to shoot himself and let his brains spray over the crowd, instead adjourning the meeting and thanking everyone who had taken the time to speak.