It was about two weeks since we got back from an extra long stint in Florida, we completed two jobs this time, one in Naples and the other in Tampa. We were gone for about 6 months this time, it was a long time to be away from friends and family and it was great to be back home.
On this day we had a visitor, my husband Ray was out in the garage talking to my former friend who I thought at that point was still a friend, I joined them and the conversation after I finished up what I was doing in the house. They were discussing the DDA and Michigan Main Street as I walked out the door, Ray was talking about going to the DDA meetings and my former friend was in opposition to the idea. I chimed in when I approached them and said I was interested in what was going on and I was also interested in the director position and I was going to go to the next DDA meeting.
My former friend looked contemplative and concerned, vision fixed on something on the floor with one hand grasping an elbow and the other hand in a half closed fist under the chin. I was perplexed by the dissent so I watched and waited for clues…or answers. Ray walked back in the house and a moment later my former friend uttered, with eyes still fixated on the object on the floor, “I hope you don’t F-up what I’ve got going on”. “What have you got going on,” I asked? No answer, I waited a moment and asked again, “what could I possibly screw up that you’ve got going on, what are you working on?” I never got an answer but I did get another statement, “I guess I can quit” my former friend said. I replied in disbelief, “why would you quit, I don’t want you to quit, why would you have to quit?” Although none of those questions were answered that day, the answers became clear much later – long after I found out about the affair – complete with MMS trips to other communities and a week-long “just seeing the sights” tour that was completely out of character. This gave a whole new meaning to getting involved in your community.
The sequence of events that followed was certainly disturbing; however, I never related any of it back to that discussion until well after…I guess the proverbial knife in my back was so sharp, I never even felt it go in. I must have made an enormous effort to dismiss the fact my former friend had anything to do with what came next.
My first DDA meeting, I walked in and sat down with a notebook and pen in hand. Kay Brown stood up to propose that the DDA spend $5,000.00 a month for her hand-picked company in exchange for supplying the downtown merchants with entrepreneurial training, I raised my hand and objected because there were all kinds of resources out there for that…for free, and I listed a few. Kay Brown swung her head around to see who was opposing her proposal, our eyes met and she regrouped, softening her expression from how dare you to mild annoyance. I later offered a suggestion to alleviate a problem they were discussing about fertilizing the flowers downtown and I made another comment about the facade grants. I also signed up to help the “Art at Your Feet” organizer Peg Whiting to create some funding opportunities for her event.
After the meeting, the F-troopers that were attending that meeting all swarmed me in a best friends kind of warmness to find out who I was. Lynn Southward came walking down the center aisle with a grin and said “we’ve met before haven’t we”, he asked as he extended his hand, still grinning. I shook his hand and introduced myself. He continued, “now those are just the kind of ideas we need from a Main Street Manager, you don’t happen to know anyone that would be interested do you?” Well, that was weird, I thought looking behind me to see if he was talking to anyone else. That introduction should have been the tip-off my former friend had already been discussing me and a plan of action was already being implemented to deal with me. I sat for a couple of minutes with Peg to give her my contact information, a moment later Andrea Cueto sat down huddle style, suggesting we should have a dog parade for the art event. I politely countered Cueto’s idea with a suggestion that new things added should really be related to the event. I didn’t think dogs and street painting mixed very well.
Before I left the meeting, I had a couple of invitations to meet at the Brown’s home the following day at 4:00 pm. for a volunteer committee meeting. Lynn Southward had issued one of those invites. I had said to Southward that I have some idea’s I’d like to put together for him. I worked on them that night and submitted what I had to Southward at the Brown’s meeting the next day, explaining it was an incomplete rough draft and will resubmit the final version.
As it turned out, the next day was the first warm day of spring in 2010, everybody congregated on the porch, all wanting to stay on the Brown’s porch and have the meeting outside. We were all hanging around, ambivalent at the thought of going in to sit around a table. I watched my former friend walk up the sidewalk and waited for the distance between us to close or get eye contact, whichever came first. There was no looking up at me to acknowledge I was there so I just said hello, the response to my greeting was muffled, quick and cool – making it obvious my presence was unwelcome. I was snubbed by the only other person I knew there. Now I was equally in the cold as well as being in the dark, I persevered anyway. I came to participate and I was going to participate. Whatever it was my former friend was dealing with was going to have to deal with it.
In the next post, I’ll tell you what happened in that meeting and at subsequent meetings. For those not in the know, it’ll be most intriguing to read how our elite leadership operates.
Arrogance, ostracizing and sabotage – part 2