Last weekend I was enjoying a very brief, kid-free Me-Party at Connecticut Coffee when two women sat down at the next table, talking about AROD.
Like a lot of people, I am more sick of Wilton’s AROD than I was around this time last year of the cheating, doofus NY Yankee. And from everything I’d seen online lately, I felt confident this AROD discussion would descend into madness: anger, conspiracy theories, CONSPICUOUS USE OF ALL CAPS, bad people, greed, insider politics, the sinister and corrupt Peeeeeee and Zeeeeee, overflowing sewers, displacement of waterfowl, and of course when all of that fails, lawsuits.
I surveyed the place for escape options but decided to shelter in place to ride out the rhetorical shinola storm that was descending. I read Facebook, after all. This was going to be ugly.
But something incredible happened: the women chatted about AROD and plainly disagreed, but somehow did not (!) call each other names, hatch cockamamie conspiracy theories, or insult one another. None of that, in fact; just two people talking.
“I must be in a parallel universe,” I said to myself. “From what I’ve seen online lately, people around here don’t talk to one another like grown-ups.”
So I bought a chocolate glazed donut. I needed to think. How could I traverse the time space continuum and return to reality? Did I want to? Is the time space continuum thing really a thing or is it just from Back to the Future? How many calories are in this donut? What would Wilton Bear say about all of this?
I checked my phone and descended into one of the Wilton Facebook pages. Normalcy, at last; it was all still there: the customary throw-down at the Facebook hoe-down, Wilton neighbors squabbling and plotting against one another, etc., and all the anger, vengeance, alliances, and palace intrigue one would expect. A Wilton Game of Thrones.
The women continued talking, so I finished the donut and ordered a one of those glazed cruller things that are like crispy on the outside, donut-y but sort of doughy on the inside – to provide sustenance during my time and space travels.
But did I want to go back?
The obvious health benefits of my two donuts kicked in, and my thinking became clear. Aside from the fact I’d be submitting another article to Good Morning Wilton, I thought deep thoughts: we’ve all just endured a horrendous national election cycle culminating in millions of votes for NOT THE OTHER ONE, WHO BY THE WAY IS SO STUPID AND CORRUPT. We’re also more connected with some fourth-tier high school acquaintances from the Duran Duran, Disco, and bee hive eras than we are with our current, next-door neighbors. And what passes as “debate” online would get participants in the real world permanently cut from the high school debate club and an invitation to The Jerry Springer Show.
It is one thing to Tyler Durden some faceless Trump supporter from Akron, Ohio or a Clinton voter from Madison, Wisconsin in your online, rhetorical fight club. Have at it. (Jer-ry! Jer-ry!) And I am not naïve about serious issues facing this town, including those who would be affected by AROD. This is serious, consequential stuff for many people. But when it comes to Wilton issues, we have to stop talking to one another like we are Facebook strangers and quit being sucked into the online insanity.
Whatever your position, the people on the other side are probably not evil, disingenuous creeps. In fact, they may be sitting across the way from you at Connecticut Coffee eyeballing what’s left of your cruller. (Hypothetically.) And the decision makers in Wilton do their best, mostly do all right, and sometimes make bone-headed decisions. They are also volunteers, not profiteers and kleptocrats (and anyone who is interested in getting more involved can peruse the rolling list of town board vacancies).
AROD raises difficult questions. But it is reasonable to take one view, and it is reasonable to take the opposite view. That’s almost always the case in Wilton. Now excuse me while I finish my cruller.
Bill Lalor lives in Wilton with his wife, Jennifer and two kids, Katelyn and Evan.