Thursday, June 5, 2008

Formative Moment #13a

In high school, I did a lot of activities. I was in a couple of plays; I played in the Pep Band at basketball games; I was on the track team. There were some other things. I basically kept busy with one thing or another.

At the end of 11th grade, my friend Matt and I decided to run for class president and vice president for the next year. Matt was an interesting fellow. He was a tiny bit taller than me, and he was kind of a proto-goth/punk/stoner kind of guy. He was on the chess team, and I've seen him turn chess into a contact sport. (SLAM! "Checkmate!") His ancestry was Eastern European, but when his family came over on the boat, the family changed its name from something like Ogorek to O'Garrick. Our friends all decided for a while to try the same thing. The funniest was when Dave made his name "David O'Huang-ski."

I haven't seen Matt since graduation, but I did find his e-mail address on the Goog a while back, and it turns out he has a doctorate in electrical engineering or something. He and I got along famously.

Anyway, neither of us were jocks, and since this was an all-boys Catholic school with a strong sports program, we were already behind in the polls because of that. We decided to take a different approach to the election. All of our posters were as subversive as we could make them and not have the teachers or administration take them down. We put up posters that promised to lobby for free stuff, but that we weren't confident that we would succeed. We promised to be realistic about student government expectations. In essence, I think we ran Mike Gravel's campaign.

Our school librarian was an old woman who scared the students. I'm sure she had her reasons, but she had the reputation for yelling at freshmen just because they were freshmen. Heaven help you if you talked out loud in the library. Her name was Mrs. Webster, and the joke was that she was so old that she had written the dictionary. Now that I think about it, it would have been funny if her first name was Miriam, but I don't think it was. Behind her back, the students referred to her as "Ma" Webster.

Matt and I took some of our posters to the library for her to photocopy. We were a little afraid to approach her about it, because we didn't know if she would refuse to copy them for us. At the time, photocopies were ten cents, so we decided we wanted fifty copies. $5.00 fit in our campaign budget without having to have a fundraiser. Mrs. Webster took the poster and read it. She made the copies and brought them back out. "That will be $5.00," she said.

Matt gave her a $10 bill. She took it over to the small cash box she kept for late fees and such and pulled out change. She very carefully counted out one $5 bill and five ones. Matt stood there for a moment, then he asked her, "Is that right?"

She stood up straight, all five-foot-nothing of her, stared up at 6'3"+ Matt, and said in a firm monotone, "Yes."

She passed away about ten years ago. Rest in peace, Mrs. Webster.

We posted the flyers around the school. The administration did a bunch of eye-rolling, but they otherwise left us alone. After a couple of days, it was election day.

The frontrunners in the race were the captain of the football team, Joe McHenry, and another football star, Steve Mattson. On the day of the election, Joe and Steve were standing outside the front door of the school with flyers. Whenever an 11th-grader passed by, they'd recite, "McHenry and Mattson!" and hand the student a flyer.

Matt and I went inside, grabbed a trash can, and stood right inside the door. Every time someone with a flyer would walk by, we'd hold out the can and say, "O'Garrick and Lastname!" I don't think any of the flyers made it past us.

After the election, the teacher in charge told us that we had gotten zero votes. Matt and I both knew that this was a completely bogus result, since both of us had voted for ourselves. Neither of us felt energetic or motivated enough to challenge the result, and we were pretty certain that we would not have won, anyway, so we laughed it off and went on with our lives.

Now that I think about it, this school is in the same geographical region as Diebold's headquarters...


CrankyProf said...

Ah, high school...where we all learn the realities of politics!

Faith said...

They should call it Politics 101. I would have voted for you!!!

Jen said...

I never ran for office, I most certainly would have not won but I was on the swimming team. I was not very fast, I was not the least bit athletic but was forced to humiliate myself each summer. I always came in last. One race I was up against the fastest, brattiest, snobbiest, girl on our team, before the race my brother gave me a pep talk and a quick lesson on form. I listened and actually came in first place. For a moment I had the blue ribbon in my hand. The girl on my team, whom I defeated, threw such a stink and frankly a compelling argument that I couldn't have won since I always lost, and the powers that be took my ribbon and gave it to her. She was the popular girl and I was not. I think I just assumed that was going to be my lot in life and sucked it up and moved on. I heard a few years back she had a meth problem.