Tuesday, April 29, 2008

ex officio

Well, that was different.

Instead of wondering where to sit, my seat was assigned.

And I spoke to more articles last night than I spoke to in all the sessions of the previous two years combined.

And my hand wasn’t all cramped up at the end.

Very different indeed. Unfortunately, the peculiar way I have spent all my previous meetings has left me frighteningly unprepared for this. I barely looked up before. What do the people at the front tables do? What is the etiquette of facing the audience?

I was afraid to look at my friends, lest I grin and wave. Do I scan the crowd? Stare at the folks in the first couple rows? Gaze blankly into some non-specific spot in the distance? Looking at the person speaking is fine, unless he or she is at the podium or at the other table, neither of which I could really see.

And most of all, what do I do with my hands?? No wonder people knit. Sitting there for a few hours with my pen and notebook retired was a fidgety torture.

Then there’s the whole posture and body language thing. Sit up straight. Try not to cross my arms in a manner that seems hostile or bored. Try to keep my feet flat on the floor. Like, sit up straight! Stop fussing with my scarf. Resist the urge to froof my hair.

So the bad news is, I just can’t blog these meetings anymore, and I’m sorry about that. I really enjoyed doing it, and I felt good about providing that kind of a record of what we did and how we did it.

And I learned SO MUCH. Taking those kind of notes, and turning them into (mostly) coherent summaries forced me to understand the articles and the arguments in a way I probably would not have otherwise. And though I never would have imagined it two years ago, this was a major factor in landing me at the Select Board table now.

You probably know that I am now writing about Select Board stuff here, and trying to maintain inAmherst.com in some form.

Which means there’s a great big opening in the TM blog/coverage department that is just begging to be filled.

Whaddya think? It’s fun. It’s free. It’s helpful. People appreciate it. And you just never know what kind of new experiences it might lead to…


Chris Hoffmann said...

Well jeez, Stephanie, if you were really devoted to this town you'd watch the sessions again on ACTV, take notes, and then post to this blog.

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised. At the same time, don't say NEVER AGAIN quite yet. For one thing, you will get much more relaxed sitting up there (it's just fine to look around the audience, and even an occasional half-smile at someone is not a disaster, though generally it is wise to cultivate and consistently display a poker face). And since you have already developed a discreet way of taking notes at Select Board meetings to produce your very detailed summaries, you may over time develop an equivalent technique at Town Meeting. Just see how it goes, and do what feels best.