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Thursday, April 29, 2004 06:10 am

Grace about town 4-29-04


First I must bring up one thing that's been bugging me for a long time. It's this billboard I keep driving by. Initially I paid no attention. Then I started to notice it. It made no sense. Then I started thinking about it. Now that I finally get it, I'm amazed at what a stupid billboard it is. It deserves a prize for being the most horrible billboard in Springfield -- perhaps in all of Illinois, or the world.

It's on South Sixth Street, right over the new Mel-O-Cream shop. It's a photo of a big van perched on four wooden chairs. The caption reads, "There's No Butt Big Enough." It's an ad for the very sturdy chairs. I finally realized it's saying that even if you are as fat as a truck, you won't break one of these chairs.

Did somebody receive real money in return for thinking of this brilliant advertising campaign?

That is all. I feel better now. I hate that billboard.

I've been getting lots of responses to my Very Exciting Contest about ways to improve Springfield. You have until Friday, April 30, to enter, so your time has almost run out. Some of the ideas are quite clever, and I'm going to give you a full report next week. However, I'm seeing a problem as I read some entries.

It appears many people in Springfield are not happy. Although my intent was to find suggestions, useful or outlandish, for brightening up our fair city, I was shocked to read that the source of unhappiness seems to be other Springfieldians.

Maybe people thought I only wanted complaints, but an alarming number of people who wrote seem to dislike other human beings. Other folks annoy them. Quite a bit. For a wide variety of reasons.

Remember my napping idea? We need to implement that today. We need to start it yesterday. At the very least we need a serious attitude adjustment around here. Napping promotes cheerfulness.

We must quit complaining so much. We need to think about the fact that this is it, our one chance to live. This is not a dress rehearsal for some perfect life in which you love everybody. This is the way people are. We (and when I say "we," I really mean all you people who dislike others so very much) need to mellow out. We need to give each other a break. We need to stop whining about others and focus on doing something good for a change -- help others instead of bitching about them.

I decided to listen to people talking. Super-duper high-level investigative reporting, that's what I did. Taking the pulse of the city, getting the scoop on what truly matters to people. Is it really all about complaining?

I went to Panera Bread, where I spread out my notes for my one-woman show. It's coming along nicely and will reveal all kinds of new and exciting things about me, Grace Smith. I hope to see you there, 8 p.m. May 19 and 20, at Stella Blue, downtown above Sebastian's. Tickets are already on sale at the Cardologist and at the Engel's on Edwards salon.

Multitasking, that's what I was doing: working on show, spying on others. Damn, I'm good. Is that the right word, "spying"? I don't think that's very newspaperish. "Sleuthing"? No, that's what Nancy Drew did. "Eavesdropping." I like that word. It sounds so elegant; English-accented people sip martinis while a mysterious figure eavesdrops.

I've never been described as mysterious. "Spying" it is.

Panera was stuffed with people last Saturday afternoon. I found a table smack-dab in the center of activity, and I listened.

I soon discovered that people mumble. A man and woman sat next to me, but I couldn't hear the man at all. I scooted my chair closer, and the woman said something about another female, something about this person's "tics." And then she said the other female had stuff in her feet because of ... smoking? Hmm. Next she said, "She's just now 1 year old." A 1-year-old smoking? With tics? The woman said that she herself didn't have an addictive personality. Does that mean the baby does? Highly troubling.

And then she said, "Springfield is really ..." and "It doesn't matter what part of town you live in ..." but I didn't hear her concern about Springfield! I came extremely close to saying, "Would you please speak up?" but I controlled myself.

I leaned backward, trying to hear the people behind me -- almost tipped over, which would have been quite embarrassing. This woman sounded cheerful; she had had a great time lunching downtown at El Presidente with somebody. Good, a positive person. But then she said that all year she's been wanting to take off, get in the car, and start driving north!

As I was leaving, one man said to another, "I just kept yelling at you, and you kept ignoring me."

Hmm. Attitude adjustment needed everywhere. I realize this is a rather small sampling of the voices of Springfield, but I'm adamant about the urgent need for much more good-naturedness all around.

To see Grace's latest video click here.

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