It's just this little chromium switch, here... (derspatchel) wrote,
It's just this little chromium switch, here...

storytime saturday

I wrote this piece in November of 2001 when I was living in Marlboring, laid off from the job that brought me there, 30 miles away from any friend and connected to the world with just a teeny Ethernet cable. I felt compelled to pull it up and noodle with it slightly, performing emdashectomies wherever possible, because I realized that a lot of people I now know have never heard this story. I do believe this little tale is one, like the story of the cat who fell in the toilet that had a training seat on it and then ran down the hall with the toilet seat around his middle, that bears repeating every now and then. So here t'is.

Spatch meets the Mayor
Nov. 3, 2001

I've been up all night.

Mostly pinball coding, with a bit of MMORPGin' on the side to satiate my urge to run around in a 3D environment chopping things up. I still am up. I don't think I'll be sleeping at any time soon. I can't leave this game code in a state of flux. I need to squash certain bugs while they're still fresh in my mind, or I'll forget them the next time I fire up the program (which looks to be sometime next week, if weekend plans go as, well, planned.)

But it is Saturday, and it is Saturday morning, which means a pleasant little ritual as far as Saturday mornings and rituals go. I have to go to the Post Office and buy a stamp.

I scrub up a bit in the shower and put some Decent Clothes on. In this state of disarray and chaos, "decent" translates to "not pajamas and not sweatpants and definitely not the pajamas with the holes in the rear." The closest I can find are jeans, a shirt with as little cat hair on it as possible (postage before laundry, that's my motto) and --huzzah!-- clean socks. Last in the drawer. There's nothing like putting on a fresh pair of clean socks. It can do wonders for your day. Skipping the prerequisite cup of coffee because "I'll only be gone a few minutes," I step out into the Real World, blinking at that strange ambient light which seems to be everywhere.

It's drizzly outside. Gray and not so cold but not a pretty happy day. We had some wind overnight and fresh clumps of soggy, wet, sad leaves are piled up on the sides of the road. It's Election Day this Tuesday, and people have seen fit to puncture their front lawns with all manner of signs political, advertising candidates for various offices and wards. I can't remember the last town/city/whatever I lived in that was so big, it had wards. I associate the word with hospitals, anyway, so what good are they? Yes, I will vote Sam Fritterson as Head Nurse of the Trauma Ward. Whatever.

(It's also moot, because last time I checked, I was still registered to vote in my old hometown. Dad keeps reminding me of that and he doesn't mind, really and it's nice getting to visit every November, but it's a bitch getting Jury Duty notices for the other side of the state.)

So I drive by a whole bunch of election signs, noting which ones have fallen over in last night's winds. I can just hear certain supporters cheering over the fact that God is obviously on their side because Sandy Mirsky's signs all fell down while Phil Dunlap's are still standing, upright and full of fortitude: just like Phil! Phil, however, better not see the carnage that ensued a few streets down, when a couple of his signs toppled over onto Barry Grodin.

I get to the Post Office and notice some folks canvassing outside, holding signs, trying to get passing vehicles to honk. I'm not so sure about that whole honking thing. It's early enough in the morning that some folks are probably trying to sleep as late as they can and honking cars right outside their window must not be too much fun. If I were trying to sleep and some idiot was outside getting cars to honk for his favorite candidate, I sure as shootin' wouldn't vote for that loser. I've seen who purports to be his friend! A vote for LoserBoy is a vote for... honking horns! Noise pollution! No sleep! NO SLEEP, SIR? I MIGHT AS WELL VOTE FOR HITLER INSTEAD OF YOU... AND HITLER'S DEAD!

The car horns are slightly muted in the stately, ostentatious Post Office lobby. Ok, I exaggerate with the greatest of ease. The Marlborough post office is one of those long, squat, soulless buildings constructed in the 1960s. Devoid of any architectural uniqueness, it wastes real estate like so many other municipal buildings of its time. Marlborough's original post office, a grand and glorious granite structure, was neglected to the point of being condemned, at which point the New One was built. Let's hear it for civic pride! At least the New One was built with windows, unlike certain buildings constructed during the Energy Crisis of the 1970s. My Junior High School building was half-Brutalist, all brick and cinder block with tall, thin slits that functioned as almost-windows, giving the damn place the look and feel of an actual, working prison. Municipal architects in the 1970s were not noted for their keen grasp of irony.

At least I don't have to wait in The Room, a small holding pen where ten people will wait twenty minutes for a thirty-second transaction. No, sir, I get to use the Stamp Machine today! There's something weird about the postal employees in this fine borough, though, something that almost justifies an unearthly wait midday if your timing is right. See, there are a few clerks who work The Room. Only three are working at any given time (if you're lucky.) Among them, we have this motley trio:

One fellow with thin, wiry red hair.
One man with a semi-permanent scowl and a thick black bowl cut.
One jovial, chubby, nearly bald guy.

That's right, we have Larry, Moe and Curly working the booths in The Room.

Of course, there's also a woman who occasionally works The Room, but she doesn't seem to be of the Stooge type, and she looks like she'd probably deck you if you attempted to make the comparison.

In the spacious and inviting Entry Foyer, out of sight of the Stooges, I haul off and feed thirty-five cents to the Stamp Machine to receive a handy first-class stamp in return. I also get a one-cent stamp in change, because the Post Office figures as long as they've got me, they might as well give me something that's almost but not quite currency. I like getting stamps from the machine because they still require lickin' before stickin'. These newfangled "pre-moistened" stamps you buy in the books just don't feel right, dammit, and it's not just because "pre-moistened" looks and feels so damn obscene. It's not a real stamp unless you yourself get to lick it and stick it on the envelope! These pre-whatevers (I shudder when I see the aforementioned pre- word) are more Lisa Frank than USPS to me. I mean, I might as well affix shiny glittery "Unicorn Magic" stickers to my official correspondence if I'm peeling first-class postage off its protective backing instead of giving it a good lickin. But that's just me. I'm also always ready for the nigh-impossible chance that an urban legend comes true and I unknowingly dose myself with a little lysergic acid diethylamide while on goverment property. Bring it on, Yippies!

Letter sent, I stride purposefully out of the post office, ready for a fine day of avoiding doing whatever it is I'm supposed to be doing next in life. But I cannot get to the sidewalk without first braving the gauntlet of Candidate Supporters. There's a lot more than there was when I stepped in not a few moments ago. Most of them are carrying signs and saying "hoo-ray for our side" and whatnot, and getting the passing cars to honk even louder. But there's one guy in the middle of the group, dressed in a casual button-down shirt and dark pants, and he's turning to approach me.

He just looks like the kind of fellow who'd occupy an office in the local government. His demeanor is folksy yet professional, his hair is majestically whitening with wisdom and age, and his handshake is about as polished and practiced as they come. Had there been a baby around we'd have been able to gauge his baby-kissing prowess, but that is not to be. Instead, he's shaking my hand with the aforementioned polished grip and saying something to me in English, a foreign enough language when there is caffeine in my system but even more bewildering when I'm completely stimulant-free. His speech goes something like this:

"Words words words words Bill Wossname words words words Mayor words words Tuesday."

I shake his hand, thankfully relieved that I haven't just had a psychic Dead Zone moment and found out he'll start World War III if elected or something, and then he says some more words to me. I vaguely begin to decipher his messages and deduce that he is asking me some questions about what changes I'd like to see in the city. This takes me by surprise, since I am not of the type who is regularly polled by the elected officials to see just what I'd like in the city ("More pinball, less SUVs!" isn't a proper platform, I don't think. Though now that I think of it, it's a damn good one.) I am stumped, I am at a loss for words, and who can blame me? I wasn't expecting rational political discourse at 9 in the morning.

Just then a car drives by, honking at Bill Wossname. The guy leans out the window and says "Job security! Job security! Job security!" a few hundred times as he goes by. I'm not sure if that was meant sardonically or in support or as a desperate plea, but Bill Wossname seemed to take it in stride. I get the light bulb. Jobs. Yeah, jobs are good. Job security is even better. I mumble something about moving here because of the jobs, and I'd like to keep it that way. Bill seems pleased, and says something about how glad he is Marlborough has a lot of jobs, and how he'll keep it that way too: keeping jobs local is always a can't-miss mayoral platform.

I neglect to mention I was in the Post Office today to mail out my bi-weekly unemployment claim.

I still know nothing about this fellow. His ideals, his political affiliations, his stand on cleaning up certain neighborhoods, who he thinks is gonna win Survivor: Africa, nothing. And I am growing increasingly uneasy standing around with him. Part of this is the fact that my political ignorance can be measured in metric boatloads at this point, but the biggest contributor to the unease comes with the realization that, when I went out the door this morning, I neglected to put on a belt and at this point my pants have begun to slowly inch their way down my waist.

I can't grab ahold of a convenient belt strap and hang on; the jacket covers the pants. I weakly try to grab on to the jacket and the pants, but it looks as if I'm clutching a weapon or something. At least, that's what it feels like. I am uneasy, I feel weird, I cannot understand the words coming out of Bill Wossname's mouth anymore, but he's doing his darndest to be friendly so I smile back. That's when he asks me if he's got my vote on Election Day.

I really don't know what to say. I have run out of things to say. I don't want to display my ignorance in front of the guy and I don't want to say "Sorry, I don't vote here." At least, that's what I think now what I wanted or didn't want then. Back there, at the post office, on the damp sidewalk under drizzly overcast skies, pants at half-mast, shaking the hand of some guy who looks like the jovial businessman who always sits behind you at the steakhouse and chitchats with the waitress -- back there I didn't have a clue that I was capable of thought, much less speech. Brain engaged, muscles working, something is pulling my strings now, something has gotten ahold of my coordination and we've broken atrophy, yes, we've reached entropy. We're gonna say something! We're gonna do something! And do something we do. I hold out my hand.

"Um, I have a stamp."


No, it's definitely not the brightest moment in this highlight reel.

Bill Wossname respectfully declines my offer of a one-cent stamp. He might have been able to use it, but I figure he's an affluent-looking fellow. If he can afford to run for mayor, he can probably afford a few penny stamps should he mail something heavier-than-he-thought to someone else. We shake hands once more, I blearily wish him luck (if the electorate's like me, he'll need all the luck he can get) and toddle off to my car, left hand slung down low, hiking my pants up cowboy-style. I sure do hope I was the weirdest person he meets today. I'd hate for that title to go to some guy who comes up to him and says that, as Mayor, he should do something against the mind rays from Mars that create potholes and pit neighborhood pets against each other, or something.

It's not until I get back home to the safety and sanctity of my hermitage that I do a little research online and find that I missed an important word when Bill Wossname said a lot of words at me. That word was 'incumbent.' Yep, good ol' Bill is actually the mayor of this city as I speak, and is hoping to continue that illustrious reign for the next two years. No wonder he has the handshake down and the look-of-office about him. He's had practice, dammit! He's the real deal, this Bill Wossname! And there I was, trying to remember how to open my mouth and make do words come out. So much for my chances of nabbing a lucrative, do-nothing post within the city government.

Still, it's not every day I get to say "I met the mayor, and my pants almost fell down, and I offered him a stamp." And all this before 9:30 in the morning, even.

It's going to be a great day.

Postscript 8/11/07: Bill Wossname actually did win re-election that year, though under a different name, of course. He went on to do an okay job; at least, I never had any complaints, though I never did get that do-nothing government job.

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