Occasionally with my job, I have the opportunity to attend a community/public meeting where I get to talk to members of the public regarding a project I may be working on. These meetings are usually fun for me as it seems as though every wack-o comes out of the woods to tell me how stupid I am or some crazy idea they have had for the past 50 years about how to improve their city. I had the opportunity to attend one such meeting this week in Fayetteville, NC.
For those of you not familiar with Fayetteville (including me until my visit) it is the home of Fort Bragg, one of the Airborne and Special Forces bases. I was asked to help with the redesign of a 6 1/2 mile stretch of road on the north side of town. During the community interaction process, members from the public can stop by and let you know what they think of the design, what they know about the history of the area, etc. Usually these meetings are pretty standard but there is the occasional "character" that may stop by. This week, I had the opportunity of meeting "Mr. Burns."
Mr. Burns is a retired Army paratrooper, lives at the far end of the street I was redesigning and is 84 years old. His wife (who I never met) is 64 years old, so essentially he is a cradle robber. Mr. Burns came to every community open house (there were five) and would stick around until we shut the lights off. He was a nice man and he wasn't shy in sharing some of this thoughts on some key topics. Below is a except on some of Mr. Burns' favorite topics.
The best way to explain my Conversation with Mr. Burns is with a narrative.
Mr Burns: You know, I heard one of them icebergs in Iceland broke loose last month and is floating in the ocean.
Heth: Oh really.
Mr Burns: Yeah, it's just floating around out there in the ocean. I heard it's about 26 square miles. That's bigger than Anson County. Wouldn't it be somethin' if that thing floated towards New York City and crashed into it?
Heth: That would be something.
Mr Burns: I think they oughtta do something about them icebergs. That's the reason the Titanic sunk, you know. I think they oughtta go and melt all that ice and keep them icebergs from floatin' around in the ocean.
Heth: Well, we kind of need those icebergs.
Mr Burns: Wouldn't it be somethin' if we could get an 18-wheeler full of gasoline on that iceberg to spread gasoline all over it? Then we could light it on fire and melt the whole thing. Wouldn't that be somethin'?
Mr Burns: Yeah, a truck full of gasoline would take care of that iceberg real fast. You know what would work better?
Heth: What's that?
Mr Burns: One of those atomic bombs we dropped on the Japs. Now that would finish off those icebergs for good. No sir, no more icebergs in the oceans. Wouldn't that be somethin' if we could drop a lot of atomic bombs on all of that ice?
Heth: That would be somethin'.
This conversation was between Mr. Burns, David (my client) and I. I have to be very careful when it comes to subjects like this because you never know the "orientation" of the people, or clients, you may be working with.
Mr Burns: You know what I don't understand? How can a man in his right mind be attracted to other men with so many good looking women out there?
Heth: I don't know the answer to that Mr. Burns.
Mr Burns: Well I do. He just ain't right in the head. There's somethin' wrong with a man who wants to kiss another man.
David(client): Well, Mr. Burns, some people are just born that way.
Mr Burns: No, that's not true. There's just something wrong in their head.
Fayetteville is in the process of constructing a Interstate 295 to loop around the city. Currently the interstate is about half built but construction is scheduled to begin once again in the near future. Within the first 10 minutes of his arrival, Mr. Burns asked "When do you think they will continue work on Interstate 295?" I was told the state was just a few weeks from beginning agin so I told Mr. Burns this. The only problem is that he asked this question SIX MORE TIMES... Each time I would tell him the same thing but I would get the same exact question within the next 30 minutes. I don't know if he was forgetting due to his age or if he liked to feel like he was in on some information that the public may not know (he always asked the question when someone new entered the room).
Overall, the meeting was a sucess and there was no screaming or yelling. I have been to meetings and been refered to as "that moron," "that idoit from Charlotte" and "A-hole." But I have to say the folks in Fayetteville were very cordial and polite to us the entore week.