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The Election

The Election

Sweating male and female delegates frantically hustled and bustled through coils of swirling cigar smoke filling the stable walls of the Royal Order Moose Lodge:  At such meetings people were bound to light up—even those who normally don't. Their small talk dabbled with laughter intermittently escalated into smatterings about a better and safer future—and accordingly their faces crimped in stern consternation.

However, the secondhand-clouded-giddiness was a ruse, a two-step before the Tango: The delegates were all there for the large talk that was soon to fill the ancient hall of arbitration:  They were all there to elect the next President of the United States.

The Royal Order Moose Lodge may have been many things, but a circus tent it was not; it was the real deal. It was home to everything that mattered.

            Many male delegates clinched big, smoldering stogies firmly in their lips, and above those lips firmly holding those stogies there grew robust mustaches. And like awnings jutting out over the shaggy collared cheroots protruding from lips drooped wide, twitching, character noses which held together faces defined by hardball understanding.

           In conformity with their uniform bad habit and furry lip collars and magnificent beaks, they all wore the same blue dress pants and button-down white shirts with two buttons from the top unbuttoned and sleeves rolled up to elbows.

         Their female counterparts stood alongside them and displayed, like their male matches, first-rate proboscises, but, unlike their masculine equivalents, clinched no cigars between lips collared with hair. It might have been a liberal era of politics, and burning little Havana torches of freedom might've been a reasonable thing to do, but they couldn't: It simply wasn't in their genetic dispositions. A tree trunk might display a few monolithic nubs and bumps here and there along its length but never a mustache—and it's always been understood that to smoke anything one must first have fur to collar the vice holding it in place: The women had no fur to collar stogies. Even liberal eras of politics are limited by nature—if not by tradition. The lip awnings may have provided, at best, an additional bit of shade for the women's lips and feet, but they dispersed no Cuban fumes.

         Most of the women wore the same attire as the men. (Blue dress pants and button-down white with two buttons from the top unbuttoned and sleeves rolled up to elbows shirts have nothing to do with genetic dispositions.) The few women who didn't conform to the dress code only did so slightly: They chose to wear blue, ankle-deep skirts instead of the pressed polyester pants...which were a smart choice considering how hot and stuffy it was.

       Now that I've been there and done that, I understand it's a tough thing electing a President of the United States and that every bit of decorum helps—blue pressed pants or skirts and white shirts with two buttons from the top unbuttoned and sleeves rolled up to elbows go a long way in a hot and stuffy hall of arbitration...especially one designated to elect the next President..

As for me, I sported a short sleeve, wrinkle-resistant sky blue and kelly green plaid shirt and khaki shorts (the kind with clever little pockets everywhere).  I had no whiskers, and I had no rolled Cuban, but I did have a full-figured character nose.  If I would have known beforehand where I was going to be on that afternoon I would have definitely grown the furry lip-collar—and I would've worn a blue skirt. You see I usually don’t go to these sorts of things, but on that day it was hot outside, and the Royal Order Moose Lodge always has air conditioning.  Well, at least that’s what I thought.  Much to my chagrin this one didn't—well it did, but it was broken—and seeing that I initially went there for the cool air, I was the random maverick in attendance:  My lips lifted no shaggy carpeting nor did they clinch a stogie, and my decorum was anything but proper.           

I had entered the Royal Order Moose Lodge on that day wanting only to get out of the heat, and then had watched our electoral system in action (and coughed) for what seemed to be a really long time before finally a man shouted over the noise and smoke:  "OK, we need some names for candidates!"  I could tell from the gruff in his voice that he wanted to get down to business—it is after all an important thing electing the President of the United States- In retrospect I have to say that it was his gruff voice that had triggered me. It was like the bell I hear at the dog track. I now understand that that was the spark igniting my political aspirations...but I'm a bit thick, so it's only now in these moments of reflection that I comprehend this then-change that had occurred.  .

The room continued to live on without notice of the man. Everyone was discussing politics amidst the loud bursts of guffaws and sporadic roars—the fervent, shrill voices and guttural blasts all sound testimony to everyone's commitment to the process. In regards to specifics of the lively conversations I really can't say that I remember much, but I am certain that all the topics were of an utmost serious nature—all and sundry may have been talking politics, but every man jack was discussing politics.    
           The man repeated himself, but now with much more volume. "I said we need naaaames!"

Ignoring the man's demand, the room pushed on in its independent life despite itself—despite the fact that its very essence was called into being for the purpose to which it yet appeared indifferent.
            A woman got up on top of a table. The smoke made it hard to see what she looked like, but I could tell she was robust,  and I could also see that in addition to a button-down, white shirt, she had on a long, shapeless, navy blue skirt.  Matter of fact, as I peered deeper into the thick, heavy smoke I could see many women wearing these long, puritanical dresses. The woman then yelled, her words launching from underneath her charmingly stable nose with reassured conviction, "He said we need to elect a President!"

As it goes without saying, everyone stopped talking and turned their attention to the woman—when a square toothed, stout woman clad in freshly pressed blue propriety starts hollering from atop a table you know all hell is about to break loose.  

The man who had tried to lead the procession with curmudgeonly voice  stood next to her, looking around the room, glaring and twitching his nose at those still talking. A few seconds passed before the room finally fell silent in the coiling clouds surging from blazing wrapped Cubans.           

"Oh well," the man mumbled, sort of to the woman standing on the table next to him, sort of to himself, and sort of to everyone in the room. One thing was certain in his gesture:  It bespoke forfeiture of his authority to the much more resolute woman standing on the table.

            The woman wiped sweat from her brow, then went on:  "We are here today to elect the next President of the United States of America, and we need some candidates.  We're ready to take suggestions." She was now in charge, and rightfully so. She had an air of confidence that the man obviously didn't. Nothing commands more respect than a great schnoz, but a superior schnoz combined with a modest skirt makes a world of difference. Nose and dress aside, one could also hear in her speech suitably determined and reasonably convincing twangs:  She was a capable leader amongst noses, mustaches, stogies, dress pants, and skirts. If the man's curmudgeonry was a bell at a dog track then hers was a gong at the beginning of an apocalypse. What the man's voice had ignited within me the woman's had set ablaze. 

            Through the shifting haze of smoke a man hollered, "How about Frank, I heard he wants the job?!"

"Oh God, what a nose!" someone responded through the murky miasma.

 "Yeah, that's a name. People like his daughter and sons," replied the woman on the table and shook her head positively.  "And his nose is definitely a king amongst peasants."

  "How about Bill again?" bubbled a voice from a vague spot in the opaque hall. A tremor of dissatisfaction followed.

  "Yeah, that's a name, too," responded the woman, trying to sound positive, as she unconvincingly shook her head yes. "And we do live in a democracy," she added on a high note.            

   The exchange continued in this manner for about fifteen more candidates while a man with a nose much like that of Howard Cosell’s, and who stood at the back of the room, wrote down the nominations on a chalk board. 

Just as they were about to wrap up name calling, I decided it was my chance. I'd never been one for politics, but all this chatter and excitement in the Royal Order Moose Lodge had instilled me with a new sense of civic duty. The fire of civil service blazed within me. 

  "Ah," I started to speak, but hesitated. Thinking quickly, I cleared my throat to make it seem like I wasn't unsure, but only a little dry in the mouth—I needed to find my curmudgeon. I then, with moist lips sheltered by a superb beak, hollered, "I'd like to nominate myself!"  There was a sudden swell of grumbling voices—not necessarily notes of disapproval, but what could be better described as dins of disbelief.

  "Quiet! Quiet!"  The man who'd first tried to hush the room spoke over the rippling murmurs.

  The woman atop the table hollered, "Please keep quiet!"  And as if her words were enchanted, the hall immediately fell silent. "OK then, what's your name?" she asked, and her head, remaining stationary, made no gestures of approval or disapproval.

   "Nathan Knorrs," I spoke aloud, totally relaxed and cool—like I said, I might not be the best dresser, or have a single hair planted above my lips, but I do have a magnificent nose. My schnoz exhibits command as well as demands respect.

    "OK, write it down," she ordered, and then wiped her forehead again. "Any other names?" The room was quiet for a few seconds before a woman articulated through the smoke, “Janet Turkel". Her voice was assertive if not aggressive and  twanged as though everyone already knew who she was.

I spied her through the thick smog, and I could see from the way she stood there with her fists resting on her hips that she believed her nose purveyed confidence...she was creating an illusion of having a nose in the mix. Sometimes illusions make the best political friends. My nose was the real deal—no illusions: my nose is big—and I already could feel that this woman was going to give me problems. Such people, the kind who pretend to have a legendary honker, usually despise those who do have one.

Once again the room burst into a torrent of shouts.

 "Who!?" the woman atop the table shouted over the delegates deluging voices, causing them to purl.

  "That's my name. Janet Turkel," she continued with clarity and self-assurance, though her nose revealed very little character. Her long, blue skirt was exceptionally smooth—she must have spent hours ironing that thing.

   "Yeah, good. Then I think we have enough names. Someone get Nathan and Janet the job application forms," ordered the sturdy-nosed woman atop the table. "We need to add up the qualification points for our candidates in the primary. It's a hot day today, and this is going to take a while as it is; so let's get going here!"            

As she finished speaking the room came to life again. It seemed that now that the first part of the election was over everyone could relax a little. I heard lots of laughter this time around. But the woman atop the table was right:  The election was far from over.

   The questionnaire was nothing special:  Name. Date. Place of birth. Mother and Father’s names. Mother and Father’s places and dates of birth. Everyone's occupations. Everyone's work experiences. Favorite discounter. Least favorite Taco Bell item. Lost or American Idol. Shoe size. Right or left-handed. And then came the questions:  Why do you want this job? and Where or from whom did you hear about the position of President? I was never good at writing, and so I convinced myself it would be better to just explain these last two questions when the time came.

As I thought about all of the important questions regarding my specific qualifications for the job of President a warning bell sounded…this was no dog track starting bell or apocalypse herald, but a message telling me my time was ticking. Feeling pressured, my first reaction was to ignore all the questions, but I knew that being President was an important job, and filling out the application needed to be done right. I quickly reflected on my life (as much as one can when put on the spot) and I came to the conclusion that I had made some serious errors in judgment in the past and that before I answer any of the difficult questions I should at least know what I’m talking about—especially seeing that I was the only person standing there in the Royal Order Moose Lodge without a mustache, cigar, or proper attire.

Finally, after calming my temporary insecurities, I came to the conclusion that it might be best to ask someone who has experience or at least someone who has facial hair, a stogie, or the correct attire than to just go ahead and answer the questions incorrectly. Although I was there serendipitously—I had come for the cool air—I really did want to become President. Not being particular as to whom I asked, I turned to the nearest person—a man—and politely engaged him in some trivial conversation before asking for his help—but I gave off the impression that I was a clever person seeking good, sound advice, and not just a guy who was in serious doubt. I do have, after all, a beak that is superior. If I had had a mustache some people might have even thought I had already been President once or twice before.

"Excuse me, but could you give me a hand with some of these questions? I don't have a mustache," I said to him.  He looked at my nose, not even taking notice of the naked flesh above my lips and below my jumbo jet, and nodded agreeably—I might even say there was a bit of envy in his eyes.

He was a good guy, and we both laughed when we got to the question about my parents’ birth dates—I mean it was after all a long time ago. And that's what he suggested I should write on the form:  It was a long time ago. I said no, although I didn't really care either way. I mean if my parents had been born yesterday would it make me a better candidate for President? But I wanted to look like I had an opinion, and that’s why I shot him down. Eventually, after a few friendly exchanges, we decided that although neither of us had an idea as to what one should answer when being asked about a parent’s date of birth, there must be a good reason for such a question: They don't make questionnaires without thinking about what they're asking. Seeing that I didn't know when my mother and father were born I left the questions blank—as well as a few of the other questions on the form. Meanwhile, most of the delegates were working hard at the chalkboard, trying to narrow down the choices. I guess all the candidates, excluding Janet and myself, already had applications on file.

  Three groups of names were now on the board. At the top were the names of overqualified candidates: Those who might get carried away with their work or try to run things like a dictatorship. I was sad to see George up there in that set of names. I thought if I didn't get the job that he'd be a good President. He wasn't so bad the first or second time—at least I didn't think so. Why is it that people with too much personality, character, looks, charm, wit, intelligence, and charisma always get a bad rap? Then the average Joes, the ones without an overabundance of these virtues, always get the job and —as if they were expected to eventually go sour—we, in our anticipated expectations, eagerly and condescendingly give them names like “lame duck,”  “tricky dick” or “Ten-Cent Jimmy”. Or, on occasion, we elect boneheads, and then everyone gets mad and says stuff like, “This person is a bore” or someone flippantly carps, “This President doesn't say anything interesting or funny.” And when the President turns out to be a real knucklehead, it’s guaranteed someone will remark: “What was wrong with that last President we had? He might have gone sour, but at least he could remember his lines.”

If we don't get a dullard this time around, mark my words, after this next election we will have another fruitcake in office. Then people will decry:  “Who elected that nut!' and “He's made a mess of things!” or, this is the clincher, “He shouldn't eat Japanese food like that!” Maybe then George will have a better chance at getting elected a third time. He was, after all, someone who had an opinion and was willing to take a stand—even though he did go sour.

Janet and I were finished with the forms and now the crowd wanted to see what we had. I started off by showing my nipples. Everyone liked that. "He's got humor!" someone shouted from the back. To show my thanks for everyone’s support, I did my cerebral palsy imitation. "He lacks respect and is ignorant!" shouted one of the women in a blue skirt and white shirt.  A couple of the men laughed. But despite the few objections from women in proper attire, my Presidential performance was first rate, and it momentarily lifted the oppressive heat of politics:  I was entertaining. And, to my advantage, the AC, as if by divine intervention, kicked in. Suddenly I was cool:  real cool.

AC aside, my monolithic nose was giving my audience an extra bit of kick; feeling smug, I then held, "I'm a licensed auto mechanic." With my aplomb in full swing, I knew the delegates in the convention hall were mine for the taking:  I was damn entertaining. "And that don't mean I can fix a car!" I continued as Doc Severson and his Orchestra began to play a Benny Goodman tune. "But it does mean that I can read and I have a driver's license." I did a short tap dance and let my hands and arms fly open as if to say my act was over. The man in the back with the Howard Cosell nose wrote down my quality points on the board. It was looking good. What I lacked in looks I made up for with personality. And as for charisma, I scored above average. I definitely had and have style—my nose was only the icing on the cake. I made it past the primaries. I was a candidate.

Janet was up next. She was in the limelight, center stage, and everyone got a better look at her. She wasn't pretty—inside or out. Some people reveal themselves immediately, and Janet was of this type. Her nose said nothing and was almost unnoticeable. She was fat and wore glasses. She wasn't witty or intelligent.The air stagnated once again as the truth of politics reared its ugly, button nose face. She scored negative points on charisma and charm. Some could say that that is a style in and of its own ... but as President? No. She was categorized into the third group, next to Donald.

One shouldn't take something like this personally. Not everyone can be a candidate. Not everyone has a nose of superiority. She should have looked on the bright side of things:  She was a name on a chalkboard. But she couldn't see the beauty in the simple things in life, and she was bitter. She was bitter from the start, and that was the reason for her failure.

I shouldn't have been responsible for her loss, but I became the target of her aggression. I was, in her eyes, the cause of her faileing campaign. This was obvious as she glared at me through the pall of smoke and rush of voices. Although it really didn't bother me, it should have. I should have foreseen the events before they unfolded, but I was, in that moment, too happy and excited in making it past the primaries. I was a candidate. I was having a good time.

The room was alive again. No one was discussing politics: They were “talking politics.” The smoke was thick, and people were arguing and laughing—it was getting hot again.  We had made it past the primaries, and we were now on our way to the final election.

"You were born in XYZ!"  Janet shouted from the table where she had been looking over my application. "I'm older than you!" she barked. Her characterless nose twitched without a mustache or stogie. She then glowered at me and defiantly pushed up her glasses resting on the tiny bridge of her mouse-dropping-size nose against her sweaty, greasy forehead—no matter how well the AC was working, she would never be cool.          

The smoke was now rolling through the hall in thick waves, but I could still see that she was hideous.

"I was not! LMNOP!  I was born in LMNOP!" I shouted, trying to convince everyone in the room that she was a liar.

 "You can't be younger than me," she said as though she was going to start balling.

 "I am" I said, trying to make her cry. At this point, the man and woman delegating the convention were, along with a handful other mustaches, stogies, blue skirts and twitching noses, the only ones paying attention to our heated exchange.
            "I'm twenty-nine," I said, and the few people who were listening shook their heads in approval. This joust of words was just the breath of fresh air needed to make things a little more exciting:  The passion in our fiery debate lured the until that moment disinterested delegates, like honey drawing flies, back into the large talk of the room. Suddenly all eyes and ears were upon us, and every mustache, stogie, white shirt, and blue dress pant and skirt hung on our every word. Once again, it was real live politics happening in the Royal Order Moose Lodge. 

"Ha!" Janet shouted, "You have to be thirty-five!" At this point all of the delegates were tuned into our heated political exchange, and, to my advantage, everyone could see the sweat trickle down Janet’s insipid face. I definitely had the sympathy of everyone present.
            You bitch! I wanted to shout, but didn't.  I was much too clever for something as childish as that. "Yeah", I said, "I think you're right, but I can get a fake drivers license."  Everyone shook their heads in approval.
            "He's a smart one," I heard someone holler in the background.
            "He'd make a good President!" someone else commented.
            I smiled, and thought to myself, “I have her.”  I was standing there in the Royal Order Moose Lodge Hall feeling self-assured and good.
Maybe I'll be President after all. 

Janet wasn't looking at anyone. She was looking down, picking through the rest of my application. She wasn't giving up yet.
            "Here, here's something!" she shouted. "He didn't fill in the second to last question.  Where or from whom did you hear about the job of President?" She then looked up at me. "How could anyone get so far and have done so little!" she snapped.  Boy was she mad. She wanted justice for her own lack of a nose and personality—and at my cost.
            Everyone in the room was interested in what she had to say. I was, after all, a Presidential candidate. I had made it past the primaries.
            "Yeah" I said, once again relaxed and cool. Everyone else was still sweating and wiping their brows dry:  Our heated exchange had raised the temperature in the room again. "It's no big secret we're electing a President today—that's common knowledge," I nonchalantly spoke, and a sly smirk spread across my mug.
            Lots of heads were now shaking in agreement. "He's well informed," a woman shouted.
            "Good, we'll give him that. That is a dumb question," conceded Janet, curtly. Then a snide smile lit up across her kisser, and her repulsive button nose shined with machinations. The question was a ruse; a pretense meant to reveal my shallowness—as if she and her nose weren’t the embodiment of superficiality itself! 

"But what about the very last question: Why?  Why do you want to be President?" she grilled; however, her tone, although not cool, was definitely now  restrained. Vengeance would be hers. 

To be honest, I really didn't know the answer. I was just swept up in the moment. I hadn't given it much thought—and I didn't expect some jaundiced, nose-less woman to be on my ass. Normally, nobody ever reads these things. Then I thought, if I get elected President I'll make sure all women get a nose job:  That would solve one problem.
            I had to answer quickly, and it needed to be good.  I paused first, and then, with great eloquence, I addressed the room:  "Because I want to be President." 

“That's a profound answer,” murmured dozens of delegates. 

"That's a new one!" someone shouted. 

"He definitely has style!" cried someone else. 

"Honest and direct!" praised another.

Janet was unimpressed, and she looked again to my application with resolve.

One would have thought that I was on my way to becoming the next President of the United States… and I was. I performed magnificently for someone who had just come in from out of the heat for some cool air. My nose carried more than enough charisma to fill these shoes of responsibility.  And I did, after all, campaign with all my heart and soul… but sometimes these things aren't enough… sometimes the nose can't cut the mustard. 

I didn't win this election. Janet finally got me on a grammar error on one of the few questions I did answer on the form.

           I was at the time disappointed, but one has to look beyond the frustrations resulting from one's failures and to see the bigger picture. If I ever get swept up in anything again, I will make sure to pay more attention to the women who have very little or no noses at all.  

With all of this in hindsight, I can say that something greater did come of this whole experience. I can honestly say that this time I had learned my lesson. I was never any good at grammar, and I figured that some people, although perhaps qualified in many ways, were just not meant to be President. So this was my first and only campaign, but I know now who I am and what I should and shouldn't be doing.

After my failed but well wagered Presidential campaign, I retired my political career and moved to southern Illinois to become a potato farmer—an Idaho potato farmer to be exact. And for this I was later to receive a certificate of recognition from Ripley's Believe It or Not for being the only Idaho Potato farmer living and farming in Illinois.