The residents of my condo complex, Civility Commons, are being tested for civility and I admit that we haven't come out ahead. In fact, we've turned into a pack of snarling beasts.
We no longer reflect our benevolent name. No more Mr. Nice Guy for us. It's all-out warfare to save our homes and serene, leafy-green environment.
Corporate America wants in. They want to build a Big Box store the size of two football fields, a behemoth of a structure right on our perimeter.
We'd rather have a Big Cat preserve move in next door.
First, though, Big Box needs city approval to build. Recently, I found myself at City Hall for several hearings of the Zoning Board. I first laid eyes on the Big Box team who had come from out of state to Norwalk to push this project down our throats.
And they looked formidable. With swagger and intimidation, the Big Box team came in like a herd of wild boars.
They walked tall (most were tall, massive, six feet, at least), self-confident, wearing dark business suits to let us know that they meant business, a tactic surely meant to bully members of the zoning board, who on this hot summer night were casually dressed.
In my vision, these Big Box guys wore black hats and packed six-shooters.
The Wild West had come to Norwalk. They hired a local pit bull of an attorney who told us how grateful we should be to Big Box for putting an empty, weedy lot to taxable purposes.
An out-of state traffic expert argued that a simple computer reprogramming of red lights would solve any potential traffic problems.
And finally, an architect told us how "green-friendly" Big Box would be. ... It was all a lot of PR that fell on the deaf ears of an audience whose lifestyle they uncaringly sought to diminish.
As the meeting began, the exchanges between Zoning and Big Box became feisty and confrontational. Because this was an information-only session, we audience members could only sit and seethe.
The meeting ended with no feeling of victory for either side.
But we at Civility Commons wondered if we stood any chance against these invaders from beyond our borders.
Two weeks later, Big Box once again went up against a sub-group of the Zoning Board for permission to place Las Vegas style directional signs near the proposed store. A"sign-age" expert appeared equipped with stacks of presentation boards to argue for erecting four huge, lighted signs mounted on 14-foot high poles to guide customers to the new Big Box store. Incidentally, the signs would be 100 percent larger than that allowed by code.
She argued that the lack of easily recognizable signs would present a hardship for their business. An angry resident barked that shoppers could just follow the traffic jams and they would end up at Big Box.
That night many residents spoke with eloquence about the clogged streets, excessive noise levels, death of mom and pop businesses, and blinding lights from the presence of a big store in an unaccommodating neighborhood like ours.
I sensed a turning of the tide. Meeting over, the Zoning members cast their votes, and it was nearly unanimous -- the monster signs were denied.
After defeat, the black suits hung their heads in subdued conversation and we neighborhood residents celebrated the win.
It was a small victory over matters like wattage and sign size, but we were buoyed by the success and vowed to continue the fight to keep Big Box outside our city limits.
Barbara L. Smith is a published, produced playwright and literary consultant. She welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.