Town Meeting Day is coming up

Town Meeting Day is coming up.

That sentence causes anxiety attacks, depression and irritable bowels for those stalwart souls who’ve made it their duty to stand up on Town Meeting Day, Mar. 5, and tell us what the heck’s going on behind the town curtain. It’s the day when all the little Oz’s of America step back from the machine and explain it to everyone else.

“Why, this button? This is how we control the budget. Oh, think we’re putting in too much? Ah, you just want to know where it goes. Well, here. Let’s follow this tube…”

Town Meeting Day is one of the great American secrets — one of the last unknown whispers on the breeze in the American winter. It comes down from the mountains and it’ll flow right past you while you’re trying to figure out what it is. One day.

But you can inhale that breeze. It’s better for your strength than a protein bar. Better for your heart than an hour in the pool. Better for your soul than a perfect cup of coffee on a Sunday morning.

Town Meetings are like portals opening for one day in all the backroads and long-ago-paved Main Streets of the U.S.A. Muddy pickup trucks occupy the icy parking lots of old schools, chimneys puffing out clean white smoke. Ice fishermen in big flannel that smell like charred jerkey hold the door for spindly men in perfect suits with perfect ties radiating Old Spice aftershave. Women in jeans with shoulder-length hair and steaming thermoses stomp up the stairs. Younger women in dresses with their hair back and their hands crossed in their lap are already inside. They’re sitting with their grandparents and parents. They’re all laughing with that great guy with the great mustache and the great corner store. It’s the store with the mounted deer head, selling official town sweatshirts depicting a fish jumping out of the water.

Town Meeting Day is a secular, humanistic church gathering. Victor Hugo would be mopping his tears in the corner. Classes fall away. The divide between administrators and administrated drops like clothes in the ethereal bedroom.

And there we all are, sipping coffee so bad a practical person might think about saving some cash and putting it in their engine instead of 5W-30 (practical Town Meeting vets are those with the thermoses), pushed together in folding chairs in the elementary school gymnasium with a faded scoreboard and glass windows that some kid playing baseball probably smashed in 1915. That kid isn’t even alive anymore, unless he was Hugh Hefner.

But here we are, dancing to his musical soul echoes long down the line, stuck in another part of time. The human ritual. Town Meeting Day.