And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
This week’s happy moment starts with a sad moment. A couple weeks ago, my Moment was about a happy face painted on plastic, covering a window in a building under construction. Waukesha’s new City Hall is being built right across the street from me, and the sudden appearance of this smiley face just brought me moment after moment of uplift. I looked at it several times a day, and I’m sure others did too. You can read about it here, or just by looking back to 4/30/20:
But right after that blog appeared, the construction moved into a new phase. First, the 24-hour lights were shut off at night and the smiley face no longer glowed with a yellow background. It was okay, though – when you live in a city, nights are never truly dark, and so city lights kept those two white dots and curved smile visible, no matter what time of night I looked out.
Then I noticed some of the plastic was coming down. On Tuesday, I watched the steady creep of windows being opened, heading toward my smiley face. That day ended with the window just before mine, and I breathed a sigh of relief that night, right before I went to bed, when I could look outside and still see the face smiling at me. I smiled back.
For the weeks it was there, even if I read horrible news articles right before bed, I went to sleep smiling. And in the mornings, before I turned on my computer, I stopped at my deck door and grinned good morning at the smiley face. It grinned back.
It was silly, I know. But the fact that a construction worker found a way to send a positive message to the downtown area, and that positive message just kept greeting me throughout the day and saying goodnight to me at night, just HELPED. There’s no other way to say it. It helped.
Then I got up on Wednesday morning. I walked to my deck door, looked out…and the smiley face was gone.
I knew it was coming. It’s a City Hall, for heaven’s sake. They’re not going to build a lovely new building for government offices and keep up a smiley face painted onto a plastic sheet, protecting the inside from the weather. There would be glass. The whole building will shine and sparkle with newness.
But the smiley face. There was no one smiling at me. And so I didn’t smile back.
I glumly got my breakfast ready, then returned to my desk. I looked outside again, just to make sure I wasn’t mistaken. I wasn’t. And then I sat down at my computer.
And here we go. I looked up the email address for the mayor of the City of Waukesha. His office is in the old City Hall, which will be attached to the new City Hall. So somewhere in there, behind my missing smiley face, was the mayor. I sent him a copy of the blog. I told him what that silly smiley face meant to me. And I asked if they could, first, find the plastic that held the smiley face and let me have it. If it couldn’t be put back on the building, I could hang it from my third floor deck, and he would continue beaming at those of us who live and work downtown, and those of us who go on and off buses at our transit center. Second, I asked if the construction worker could be found and thanked. I hit send, I sat back, and I truly didn’t expect to hear anything.
At the end of the day, the opened windows were covered with plastic again. But none of them held smiley faces.
I didn’t go to bed last night with a smile.
Then this morning. And an email from the mayor. “Kathie,” he said, “please see the email trail below.”
First, the mayor contacted a city engineer. He asked her if she could find anything out about the smiley face. “I wasn’t aware of this until I read the email!” he said.
The engineer contacted the construction company. “What do you guys think?” she asked. “And thank you for making a citizen very happy!”
The project manager of the construction company answered, “We believe it is still wrapped up on the floor in the building, but I will need to verify. If we find it would you like us to drop it off?”
The engineer said I lived across the street and would walk over and get it. (Yes, I would!)
But then the project manager came back with, “Unfortunately the plastic had already been taken to the dumpster and we weren’t able to find it. We did forward on the message to the worker who made the smiley face so he knows the impact it had on this citizen, and I will leave it up to him if he wants to be “known” or contact her. Once the glass is installed I can look into options for getting another smiley face on a large window if you would like.”
Ah, well. So of course, the happy ending to this moment should be that I have the smiley face. I don’t. He’s in a dumpster somewhere. And yes, I was tempted to go over to the site and dive into every dumpster I could find. But I’m sure they were thorough.
But here’s the thing. I think there are many people who feel that the government, at any level, doesn’t listen to the citizens. Maybe we feel ignored. Or maybe we feel like we don’t matter to anyone on an “official” level. I know I’ve felt that way.
But you know what? The mayor listened to me about a simple painted-on smiley face on a piece of plastic tacked over a window on a building under construction. And he set things moving. Then there were other people who tried their best to find that smiley face and put him back in place.
And…I know there’s a construction worker out there who knows he made a difference. Not just for me. But for anyone who looked up at that smiley face and grinned in the middle of all this chaos.
And…there might be another smiley face!
I’m watching. I’m smiling. And I’m looking out my own window with hope.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.