Another “Smile at the Infirm Day” wraps up but there’s plenty of work left for the sweeping crew. Each year the city dumps over 400 pounds of confetti during the final half hour of the Smiling and demands that the roads be drivable by morning.

What stood out this year was the deep sincerity of the smilers. Each one of us was truly happy to be there, looking directly at those in our community who go most unwashed. No sight of electronic collars or tethers among the smilers, sure signs the smiling is being done at the behest of a court order. 2011’s smilers brought genuine good cheer and good wishes that will last well into the hard winter months ahead.

The Town Clerk marked the end of the smiling with a customary pistol shot. And with that sound, the caretakers begin their swapping, choosing different patients to take back than they brought. It’s a thrilling “fresh start” for everyone.

Although each caretaker must return with the same number of people they brought, there’s always a few infirm, some that have fallen out of their beds, others in electric wheel chairs stuck turning in an endless circle, that are left behind. These get swept into a pile and later forced down into the sewers by immigrant labor.

As for the smilers themselves, although it’s often said that bringing joy to people that cannot in any meaningful way respond is reward itself, no one believes that. Including God, who rewards each smiler who lasted more than three hours with an extra day on earth, attached to either the start or end of their lives. (Smilers are responsible for any taxes or other fees.)

For myself, I’m just glad I did it. I’m glad I was able to make a difference. And I felt like I was able to make a real connection with the 50% of the infirm not tarted up with glass eyes.

Chris Weagel

Chris Weagel writes about the intersection of technology and parenting for Wired Magazine. No he doesn't. He can't stand that shit.

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