Until a few years ago, I paid an exterminator to do my killing. A gentleman of about sixty, came every few months and moved quickly through the house, squirting liquid death in corners and along baseboards. And during these visits his voice was constant. It began innocently enough.
“What kind of bugs you been having?”
“Roaches. Ants. And spiders. Lots of spiders,” I told him.
I expected him to pause while compiling my response then go back to his truck to blend a cocktail of insecticides just for me, but he went on about his business, speed-walking around the kitchen with the metal can he came in with, noting how carefully he serviced homes with children.
“And I can’t do anything about ants. Not really spiders even. They’re harmless anyway.”
I know they’re harmless, I thought. But I want them dead!
“Do you like having a boy and a girl?” he asked, lunging to the top of the stairs.
I had a boy and a girl, it was true. But I never thought of it as a choice, either in regards to their sex or in my liking them. “I guess so!” I shouted back.
I mean, what would I do, what could I do, if I stopped liking them? Could I trade them in for newer models? Did they have reset buttons? I’d always assumed that liking my children was required. Suddenly, I didn’t like thinking about my kids anymore. And it would go on like this. He’d ask me what I thought about an upcoming football game, while I made a list of orphanages and adoption services in the metro area.
After a few more visits he began adding personal, and sometimes sordid, bits of intelligence gathered from other customers in the area. One family had an ongoing dispute with a neighbor about the toxicity of the mosquito service he provided. And another woman had part of her bottom removed. For a few weeks after this, I couldn’t stop staring at neighborhood fannies, consumed by a curiosity to know who this poor woman was. And even though I wasn’t inviting him to share any of this, I still felt guilty, as if I should have crammed toilet paper into my ears when I saw him pull in the driveway.
And presumably by mistaking my usual silence for agreement, he soon began vomiting out his political views. This candidate or party would save us from the moral and economic decay we faced. The other candidate or party was the antichrist.
So here was a man, who, although a little odd, was otherwise pleasant, and appeared to be able to hold down a job. He also knew how to drive a truck and was good at lacquering cabinetry and toys with poison. But at the same time, he had assembled a collection of political opinions with the care that a three year-old takes in wiping his ass after a shit. Honestly, if there is process that turns a human into a pile of feces on a bathroom floor more quickly or completely than politics, I don’t know of it.
I get that there is competition for this honor, so let me address a few of them. Atheists might argue that religion is such a process, but, although not a true believer myself, I can see how some religious writings are rather practical. Take, for instance, if you were seeking a wife, the Bible tells you to find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails, and give her new clothes. Voila, you have a wife (Deuteronomy 21:11-13). And also guidance in labor relations – it is okay to beat a slave to a temporary crippling as long as you don’t damage his teeth, in which case you must set him free (Exodus 21:26-27).
Or perhaps some women feel that sexual urges have this impact on men. But from my 40+ years with a penis, it seems perfectly logical that closing a box of cereal (slipping tab A into slot B) can divert blood from one head to the other. And anyway, according to Ephesians 5:21-25, it is my right to do so with my good lady wife.
No. When I see Ann Coulter and Keith Olberman at the front of their respective lines for the shit buffet, I’m sticking with politics.
So what does this have to do with David Sedaris? Well, this past weekend my wife and I went to hear him speak. Sitting behind us was a “girls night out” gaggle who, to express their free-spiritedness, removed their shoes, put them on the backs of our seats, and began moaning about politics before the reading began. How awful things would be, they said, if Romney became President. And they made a pact, then and there, with their toes on my collar, to move overseas if Romney won. Unlike the same pact they made before Bush’s re-election, this time they were serious. They were really going to leave!
After his readings, Sedaris took some questions, one of which was about his essay “Undecided” published in The New Yorker before the 2008 presidential election. He briefly said how odd such political indecision was, likening it to confusion over two choices of entree – chicken, or a “platter of shit with bits of broken glass.”
I understand that Sedaris is a humorist, and one of the best at that, who probably couldn’t resist the temptation to comment on politics and poke fun at the same time. And I must admit that I am decidedly decided in the upcoming election. I have an opinion, so I, too, am subject to the following criticism.
Who cares what your political opinion is! And why is it so important to have a political opinion anyway? Isn’t it possible for a person to listen to crapstorms over betrothing, buggery, and bullets and say “Okay, I’m not sure how these effect me. I’m already married. My wife doesn’t allow deliveries through the back door, if you know what I mean. And I don’t enjoy shooting people in the face.”
So, for the politcally-minded who believed Obama would close Guantanamo and substantially pull us out of wars and economic sludge, and for the people who believed this country would go to hell within months because of “socialism,” maybe you made the right, obvious, and noble choice – chicken. Too bad you’ve been eating shit with broken glass all along.