My watch read 6:52. Eight more minutes and no sight of my friends yet. I waited outside the front doors. Inside, men in suits and ties swarmed, shuffling paper and toting reusable water bottles.
"You made it!" Another green task force member stopped to thank me for coming. She introduced me to her husband and then they filed inside.
Finally, I caught sight of two green book club members walking from the parking lot. One smiled and waved. The butterflies in my stomach stilled. I raised my hand in return.
We shuffled through the doors together. "Are you speaking?" I asked my friend. She glanced around the room and then up a the city emblem on the wall. "Yes," she responded, straightening her shoulders. "I will." We both filled our names and agenda items on a slip of paper and approached the platform. The clerk took our slips and thanked us.
As we turned back to find a seat, I scanned the room. Not recognizing anyone new, we slipped in behind the task force member and her husband.
"It is 7 p.m. and the meeting will begin," the clerk announced. "Please rise for the Pledge of Allegiance." I stood hesitantly, feeling like a grade schooler as I laid my right hand over a quickly beating heart.
The door opened and a friend tiptoed in - too late to sign up to speak. She didn't see us and took the first available seat.
The meeting began. Minutes were read. The fire chief stood to speak. "Next agenda item". The police chief approached the podium. Out of the corner of my eye, another friend entered - this time from the left. She grabbed the seat closest to the door. Swiveling, she peered back into the audience until our eyes met. She smiled and waved.
"Agenda item number 7," the mayor announced. A city official launched into an explanation about greenhouse gases and our city's share. Leaning forward, I watched his charts and graphs sift through the projector. We could cut there but perhaps that or that area was beyond the city's control and so it went. Finally, the mayor thanked him for his time and his report. Council members peppered the official with questions and then suddenly it was our turn.
Agenda item number 8. Pick up of residential food scraps for composting. My friend and I shifted in our seats. In front of me, my fellow task force member gathered her stack of petitions. To my left, another friend lifted her chin.
We were ready.
The city manager explained the proposal - weekly pick up of "organics" (food scraps, pizza boxes, soiled food containers, paper towels) for $2 a month. The paper slip I'd handed to the city clerk an hour early appeared in the mayor's hand and he was calling my name and the name of a friend and of the task force member. We rose and lined up behind each other.
I was first to the podium, heart pounding, pushing a smile out as I greeted the council members. This proposal will divert a great amount of waste from the landfill. I told them what they already knew. It is very popular with city residents, I promised. It turns waste into a resource - compost. It helps us live a greener life. It sets our city up as a green leader, I coaxed.
And then I was done.
Returning to my seat, I watched proudly as my cohorts took their turn before the council. Spoke their piece.
The council members buzzed back and forth amongst themselves. One strongly supported the measure. Another thought it was unnecessary. A third was on the fence, he stated, staring out into the audience. He studied the faces of those of us who had stood before him minutes earlier. Finally, the mayor spoke. He believed the city needed to approve the proposal. It is the right time. We must do this to make our city more sustainable.
Then the vote came down. Two in favor. One opposed. The remaining council member - he who had straddled that "fence" - scanned the audience one last time. I felt his eyes on my face. I saw him look to my friend next to me, to friends dotted throughout the room, all nodding their heads vigorously. "Yes."
Yes! It was through. Passed. Approved.
Applause is not permitted at city council meetings but I will admit that a few of us - as our eyes met across the room - put our hands together. More so, we silently pumped fists. Grinned. And flashed V for victory . . . and for veggie scraps.