Smile, even though…

Scott Lohman, created the famous "Smiley" and it's a good bet he never imagined it would become the trademark of the haredi mayor in Jerusalem.

Lupolianski smiley 88 (photo credit: )
Lupolianski smiley 88
(photo credit: )
Scott Lohman, a research professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, created the famous "Smiley" back in the 1980s, he probably could not have imagined the place it would take in our life. And it's a good bet that he could never have imagined that it would become the trademark of the haredi mayor in the Holy City of Jerusalem. And yet, that's exactly what happened. This week, our beloved mayor has gone one step further in his efforts to turn his famous eternal smile into a real asset, not only for himself, but for the denizens of this city. As of this week, municipal employees who deal with the public will have to participate in special training sessions in which they will be taught to… smile, to become masters of "small talk" and - yes, really! - to tell jokes. So let us imagine the following scene as if it were real, and not a stand up routine: You arrive at Kikar Safra after a night of tossing and turning in preparation for the harsh encounter awaiting you at, let's say, the arnona department. You have prepared your most formal Hebrew (even if it's your mother tongue) and have drawn on all the assertiveness training you've ever had to endure. After waiting for some length of time, you approach the municipal employee ready to make your case that you've already signed the standing order with the bank so why do you keep getting those nasty letters threatening you with the worst punishment if you don't hurry to sign a… standing order at the bank, of course. So here you are, ready for the worst to come and… dear God, why has no one told me that the Messiah is already here (or if you prefer, why didn't anyone tell me that Israel has moved to Switzerland)? The municipal clerk is… can it be… yes, the municipal clerk is smiling. You're uncertain, you stare and then, suddenly, he's asking you about the weather, as if the two of you were chit-chatting at a mundane cocktail party. "You know, we have air conditioning in here," the clerk says, smiling. "My wife keeps telling me it's bad for the muscles but what can I do?" You grab the sides of your chair, but the coup de grace is yet to come to what's left of your assertive plan. The clerk tells a joke! And then, as he continues to smile, the clerk says, "Now don't you worry at all. This is a new project. You see, we want all the citizens of our city to enjoy our new policy and changed attitude towards the public. So we find ways to bring them here so we can show them our brand new smiles and tell them the new jokes we learned at the seminars and workshops they sent us to. "No, no, we don't pay for it," the clerk reassures you. "I even heard it might be considered overtime." So who pays for it? "You, of course," the clerk answers with a smile. "You and all your neighbors, through your taxes." The clerk looks at you carefully. "You look a little depressed, madam. Perhaps you should also smile from time to time?" Yes, dear readers, the municipality has initiated a new project in which "municipal employees will be specially trained to serve the public with the use of small-talk, smiles and even telling them nice jokes, in order to create a better atmosphere." Please do not consider me a misanthrope. Smiling and the judicious use of small talk are not bad things in and of themselves. It's just that the mayor himself doesn't always use them in his own contacts. For instance, last week - and this is not an imaginary scene. It really happened.. Last week, the mayor, in violation of all rules of procedure, without adequate notification and at the last minute, canceled the regularly scheduled council meeting. Not, of course, because he had no small talk to make or jokes to tell. The reason was far from small or funny. Mayor Lupolianski had intended to bring to a vote his controversial decision to fire the city's legal adviser, attorney Yossi Havilio. Although a recent commission established by the Interior Ministry denied Lupolianski's request to remove the advisor, they did not forbid him from bringing the issue to a decision at the municipal council. But at the last moment he found out that one of his coalition members, Rabbi Avraham Feiner, from Lupolianski's own United Torah Judaism party, was abroad. The mayor wouldn't have had a majority, and that's not a laughing matter. So the mayor canceled the meeting and refused to set a new date - since no one knows when Feiner will return. The smiley project had been approved previously... and that's no joke.