Sorry for smiling

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After the mayoral candidates’ meeting on the evening of October 6, opinions seemed almost universal that the meeting was well moderated, civil, and generally productive, with much ground covered. As the meeting wrapped up with little to no complaining and plenty of constructive niceties, suddenly the positivity party was over, and I overheard a small group of ladies complaining to our Editor, David, with my name being thrown around in concerningly high frequency. 

It turns out these ladies had a very specific issue. Apparently, I smile too much. Well, of course that’s not how they put it. David was told that I behaved unprofessionally by “texting my friends” throughout the meeting, “smirking” whenever mayoral candidate Colleen Lynas was talking, and “passing notes” like a schoolchild. Oh dear. Assumptions! Assumptions everywhere! It seems that claiming to know the damning truth without investigating any facts is a problem that has plagued us steadily this past month. 

Allow me to clarify things that I really shouldn’t have to clarify. Firstly, working the candidates meeting on October 6 was one of the duties of my employment. For a paid employee, I probably didn’t look like I was doing much. I certainly didn’t say anything out loud. Brian was, by all accounts, a great moderator, so talking from me was not necessary (thank goodness). But there is much work that gets done behind the scenes to make an all-candidates meeting function. Three newspaper personnel were on site, plus two independent parties whose help was sought to ensure neutrality, plus two additional staff who were helping to run things remotely.

Maggie was one of the staff helping from a distance, and it is with total honesty that I can say that the only app that was open on my phone during the meeting was the Messages app, and the only person I communicated with was Maggie, about matters related to the meeting. Don’t get me wrong – I am honoured by the assumption that I have friends, and that they are interested in local politics, but, unfortunately, assumptions are often simply wrong. I didn’t even text my wife during the meeting, only Maggie. What about? She noticed a possible glitch in the live feed, so I showed her message to David, who directed me to go up to the control room and report the issue. She noticed that time was getting short and wanted me to ask David about the possibility of extending, which unfortunately was not possible. We worked through two options of how to proceed. These are two examples of the things that came up behind the scenes.

There were microphone lineup issues which I had to ask David about. In one instance, there was a logistical issue which I decided to ask David about privately, and it appears that even that was scrutinized after the fact. And, of course, I was “passing notes” of gossip. Assumptions! Other than a half dozen or so residents’ questions handed in by Ashley and I, there were only two notes passed, and they were given to Brian. The content of these notes is not a secret. One asked him to remind audience members that time was running short, so no new people would be allowed in the microphone lineups; and the other reminded him to give a word of thanks before wrapping the meeting up. Such gossip.

Before I ramble too much, I must remember to make amends for my wrongdoing: sorry for smiling. Ask my mother if you wish – she will confirm that, in childhood, my teachers gave me the incredibly creative nickname “smiley” because, you guessed it, I smile a lot. I also happen to work at an elementary school full time and spend my day making sure that at least one face the young children have seen in any given day had a nice, bright smile.

I was proud of the meeting we were hosting on October 6, and in my mind the smiles I was displaying were a show of positivity, both of the Times as an organization, and of the simple fact that beautiful democracy was in progress. As someone with a Master’s degree in counselling psychology, I must also point out that confirmation bias exists. We tend to notice things that confirm prior beliefs, such as the prior belief that I dislike Colleen Lynas.

I don’t remember sharing, in print or otherwise, my views on either mayoral candidate for this election. This is because I have, in fact, not shared my views on either mayoral candidate for this election, nor any of the candidates for councillor for that matter. Some may even notice that I only shook Colleen’s hand before the start of the debate. Save your assumptions – this was simply because Colleen and I had never met previously. I am already acquainted with Nancy from covering media events, and didn’t feel comfortable being one of the hosts of the meeting without first introducing myself to Colleen as well. My political views are private, and the beauty of our society is that they are allowed to remain private.

Let’s end on a note of positivity. A kind gentleman, who I shall not name to respect his privacy, was of great moral support when the ladies began to complain about me to David. If not for him, I would have left feeling much worse than I did. If anything, the controversy my smiles created prove that I am not a nobody. My kids will be so proud of my fame, perhaps even more so than when David said my name on livestream (livestream!) during the previous meeting. I guess it’s true what they say: the smaller the fame, the bigger the ego. Go off on your day today and spread some positivity: Smile!

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