Friday, October 23, 2009

The Senator

This morning I was sifting through the local news on the South Florida Daily Blog, when I noted the site's quote of the day from Charles Madigan. Among other things, Madigan, in this quote, talks about the problem of the staggering number of people in this country who know "nothing about nothing." And when I read this quote, I was in absolute, total agreement. Most people in this country have no clue about politics or current events outside of cheap celebrity gossip.

As a teacher, each week I am in the classroom with over a hundred young people (and a couple of middle-aged people as well). They know nothing about politics or current events. They're interested in sports, pop-stars and reality TV. I don't fault them for this. Their average age is about nineteen, so they're young yet. They don't know any better. I won't go into a speech on the apathy of youth these days. That's not it. They're just young and need to be made aware of the world around them and how it affects them. I make sure that happens as much as possible in my classroom. Then, when I give them some exposure to events and issues, they often become interested and concerned. We don't need to worry about college students being apathetic. They're learning. They're in college. Most of them, if they stick with their educations and watch The Daily Show every night, will be just fine. Sadly though, educated people of all ages are the minority and it's the majority of ignorant people who we need to worry about.

Outside of my few yearly visits to my hometown Millpond, I occasionally forget just how backward a large portion of our country actually is. Most of the US, I fear, is a big, sprawling trailer park punctuated occasionally by equally horrible urban 'hoods. There are moments of hope in many cities and suburbs of cities, as well as in lovely little university towns here and there, but overall America is a trailer park and it's in the middle of being obliterated by a tornado of ignorance.

Yet still, sometimes I forget this, being surrounded as I am by them university liberal elites all the dang time (yeah, please). Then, every now and then something will happen which will make me realize anew how most people really do know "nothing about nothing."

One thing you may not know about me is that I am the daughter of a US senator.

OK, ok. Not really. I kid. I really do. I am NOT the daughter of the US senator and far from it, but one evening, in a bizarre twist of events, I was mistaken for one. This situation showed me that pretty much no one knows who their state senators actually are, which is really a shame being that we should all be writing to them regularly (not in like a stalking way, but in a 'hey you work for us and this is what we want' kind of a way.) This evening also showed me that "Jay Walking" is definitely not scripted and it probably takes Jay Leno less than five minutes to find a clueless fool to say dumb things on camera whenever he goes looking for new material.

One night I was out at a very well known, fancy restaurant that is corporate owned. I was with my family and some of my dad's friends and we were celebrating. The celebrating became a bit rowdy and one of my dad's friends started teasing him about how friendly and diplomatic my dad is in every situation.

"You can talk anybody into anything!" the friend said, "You're like a politician!!"

Everyone agreed and laughed and had a few more martinis. My dad's friend, as a joke, started calling him "The Senator", which was hysterical because everyone was tipsy. You know how sometimes things seem much funnier than they actually are because of alcohol? It was like that.

Soon the waiter comes over and as drunk diners often do, my dad's friend began to engage the poor server in slurring conversation.

"You know who this guy is right here?" my dad's friend said pointing to my dad.

"Umm, no, I'm terribly sorry," the server replied.

"He's a Senator!! Senator Lawns!! State of Florida Senator. Right here. HAHAHAHAHA!!"

Everyone laughed and called my dad "The Senator" some more, but the server had disappeared.

The manager came with our bill and questioned us extensively on the food and service. We swore everything was fantastic. The manager even escorted us outside when we were done and comped our valet. We thought nothing of it other than that the service at this place was great and that we wanted to come back.

"Good night Senator!" the manager called as we left.

My dad laughed and waved.

A couple of weeks later my dad called the same restaurant to make another reservation. These types of restaurants keep a sort of database of all their diners with notes on special needs, who's a big spender, etc. so that the servers can give personalized service and create the illusion that each customer is so special that the server remembers everything about them.

"Mr. Lawns? 8pm, six people? Is this Florida Senator Lawns?" the hostess said over the phone.

My dad thought nothing of this. He thought she was referring to his new nickname and that the restaurant remembered him because our party had been kind of rowdy.

"Haha," he laughed, "Yeah, that's me. Look, I have to apologize for that night. It was a celebration. I hope we didn't get out of hand. We had a great time though."

"Absolutely not Senator. We were honored to serve you. We're thrilled you're returning. Will you need a private room?"

"Oh no. I promise we'll be quiet this time."

"Do you need extra tables?"

"Umm, no. There's just six of us."

"OK sir. You are confirmed. Thank you so much Senator. We'll see you at 8 for 6 people."

Again, he thought nothing of this. He thought the hostess was joking with him.

We arrived at the restaurant greeted by a full security detail staff. There must have been six or seven armed guards at least. They saluted my father and all shook his hand. The managers all came out to greet us immediately and whisked us away to a private table in a room off to the side where the security guards could stand at the door.

"Senator, we are so sorry that last time we weren't prepared for your visit. We had no idea and we hope you can forgive us," the manager said, "You see, Corporate has strict policies on how to handle political dignitaries visiting the restaurant and had we known last time, of course everything would have been arranged. You may have your office call anytime for reservations for now on and we'll never be unprepared again."

To say this was an awkward moment is a severe understatement. I was practically crapping in my pants thinking we were all going to get arrested for impersonating (however unintentionally) a politician and his family. I could tell my dad was equally as horrified. The restaurant had gone to a lot of trouble and expense to set this all up. My dad hadn't realized they didn't know it was all a silly, drunk joke. If he mentioned that he was in fact, NOT a senator then it would be horribly embarassing for everyone involved.

"Thank you," my dad said and that was that.

We ate quickly and got the hell out of there as fast as we could. We never went back to that restaurant, but my dad did call the next day before dinner service to speak with the manager and explain the whole situation. Everyone involved was deeply mortified.

Of course, all this could have been prevented if anyone had a clue who the real Florida Senators actually were. There are only two. No matter where you live, you should learn these two names. Even if you never write to your senators (which you should) at least by knowing their names you will never mistake my dad (or anyone else) for a dignitary and cause an embarassing fiasco.

If you live in Florida, please know that our senators are Bill Nelson and George LeMieux.

Here is a complete list of US senators with their Washington, DC contact information. Please note that no member of my family is on this list.

24 comments:

MtnMama said...

Thank you for expressing this topic in such a thoughtful - and entertaining - manner. I agree that much of America is sadly and woefully ignorant, and I worry about my daughter's future country. I have always been politically aware and active, and fully realize that I am in the minority.

jm_kaye said...

That was absolutely terrifying.

Anonymous said...

Mine are Bunning and McConnell... I think that says it all right there but I do write them all the time but they really don't care one whit about what I say... might have something to do with the fact that they differ from my personal ideology as much as night does day.

LegalMist said...

That is both hilarious and horrifying.

My first reaction was to doubt that it happened.

But then I thought about the extreme level of complete ignorance that exists in America and now I'm convinced you are not making this up.

I may have to go cry, when I'm done laughing!

JTN said...

I hear ya. In my intro classes every semester, I have at least 1 student after the first lecture who comes up and says "I got those 2 branches you mentioned... congress and presidency, but what was that other branch of government again?"

Calamity Anne said...

Makes for a great story!!!

Michelle said...

I don't believe the majority of American's are ignorant. You live in Florida so it just seems that way ;)

kerry said...

Count me as frightened, horrified, and in complete agreement. I mean, it was funny, but still bad.

We're doing Annie in the theater this week, and we're all kind of wondering how much of it the school kids are getting (the schools bus kids in for two days of daytime shows). References to the president (who is in a wheelchair), Hoovervilles, the New Deal, etc. We're kind of sharing bits of ignorance we've run across. It's awful.

I know my Senators names' and can probably recognize one of them. I've written to both a few times; Sen. Boxer and Feinstein. I've even gotten responses.

My Representative is the one who doesn't care what I think; he's ideologically opposed to me and so doesn't care. He sends me responses along the lines of "thanks but you don't really matter." I don't know that I could recognize his face but I'd know his name.

JoeinVegas said...

Yea, a senator's daughter with a blog, gee. How can he afford to take all that time off to travel to LA in a motor home?

Anonymous said...

I'm really starting to believe it's South Florida. A big, expansive, trailer park. In Seattle, NYC or DC, I don't think that would have happened.

tuesdayal said...

what you need is a good serve of australian all around nonchalence. not only would we not know who our parliamentarians were but if we did recognise one we wouldn't say anything but gooday al (always using his/her first name) and nobody would think two hoots about providing any security or treating them any different. at least we have integrity (the differrence between british colonies founded by crimiinals and founded by missionaries perhaps). in jest. the aussiegal. get here quickly if you want to witness this, we've just signed a treaty to become the 53rd state and all will change! (hee hee)

Anonymous said...

Could the restaurant manager have believed that your father was a "State Senator," that is, a member of the FL State Senate? There are 40 of them ... although I doubt that anyone rolls out the security detail for state senators.

Laurie said...

You have got, by far, the BEST life stories. That was absolutely horrifying, but really, really funny.

Off to write to my senators now...:)

seryan said...

Suddenly those quarterly flyers my local MP (Member of Parliament) sends out have a rationale behind them.

Anonymous said...

I liked the story about your father, but the rest of the blog seemed a bit..snobish?

I agree that our country needs to stay on top of politics and current events, however I don't think watching The Daily Show is going to help. :-)

But I don't agree that most of the country is a trailer park.

Renee in Seattle said...

Not one of those restaurant staffers knew the names of the senators?

I'm going to go check my kids and make sure they know who our criminal senators are right now.

Wide Lawns said...

The Daily Show part was a joke because that's about as much as I can get out of my students at this point in their lives.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anon 10:44.
I could make an argument that the people outside of the liberal educational elite, the so-called regular folk, would handle the country far better, and are as aware or more so than the so called "smart" people. But I generalize...

Anonymous said...

Great story as always. I love how not only do we fools not know our basic civics lessons, but we easily laugh at our fellow fools who end up on tv not knowing their basic civic lessons. At least we don't call the kettle black.

Just wondering though, are you in the works to finish the story about working in the kitchen? Also, I think there was one you started to write when you first "restarted" your blog about how your parents met that I was hoping to hear the conclusion to.

Because obviously you have no life other than to write blog posts at my discretion for my enjoyement :D Hope you slap some sense into your students!

Thanks as always,
R

Raine said...

That is crazy! People never cease to amaze me.

Anonymous said...

You do know that Leno stole most of his stuff from the Howard Stern show right? Not that he didn't make it palatable for the masses but that's still wrong of him to to that.
A great story! Thanks for sharing another wonderful moment of your world!

Amy said...

Yes, the majority of the country is a giant trailer park. We are in the process of turning into a third world country and it scares the crap out of me.

Anonymous said...

"The Daily Show part was a joke because that's about as much as I can get out of my students at this point in their lives."

Ah, I get it.

No matter what, I love your writing, and look forward to your updates. That includes days I may not agree! :-)

Anonymous said...

i find it baffling when people actually believe their elected representatives give a flying fornication what they think.

the new aristocrat class knows what's best for us, folks. they're going to do what they want to do no matter what because it isnt about you, it's about them! when election time rolls around they'll be there to smile and nod and pretend to care. people are so easily fooled by this that they keep electing the same liars to office year after year, even when they fail to make good on their promises to the point of revealing themselves as total liars.

but the next term rolls around and right back there they are. no wonder they dont listen to you. they dont have to!

it's not just south florida. the entire nation is that ignorant. even if they know who their congresspeople are, both by name and by their broken promises, they still vote for them. again, and again, and again.

the west is doomed.

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