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What Do You Say to A Naked Congressman?
(Inspiration in the locker room)
I just have to tell this story so I can give credit where credit is due.
I am like most people in that I'm fond of thinking that I am unique. I love imagining that many of my ideas originate from the brilliant depths of my mind.
Sometimes I even like to fancy that I conceive of never before visionary ideas or novel ways of changing the world. Then I come back to earth and realize that I am instead merely an average mortal with more often than not run-of-the-mill ideas of which other people over the millennium have thought of ad nauseum.
However, I do differ from the bulk of humanity in one regard; I am more often that not... open to the great ideas from other people. Unlike most people... I am not threatened by intellectual functioning of those who possess mental processes more efficient than my own. I pragmatically look at everyone around me as a potential mental prosthetic adjunct to my own average intellect. After all they are there for me...are they not?
This very site has come to fruition from an Oregon, Congressman. Yes, that's right, what I hope to accomplish with this site is originally from the soil of this wonderful congressman's fertile mind.
No doubt he would be shocked to know this... and of course I have adapted his ideas, which of course true to my obsessive nature I have stepped up his advice several notches. (After all, if you've got to be obsessive...you might as well make full use of it...don't you agree? Don't you agree? Don't you agree... ).
When did this illustrious legislator hand me these insights, you may ask?
Well, believe it or not... he threw these pearls of wisdom at me when we were both sharing a little bit of naked time together. No...it is not with you think. This is not a confession of bathhouse affair or a man with man romantic fling. Nor, is he a page turner like some of our legislators in Washington, D.C. who have come out of the closet to fess up about the dark secrets of their private lives.
This may not have been a bath house experience, but we did share naked time together... openly... and in public. Yes, there were lots of witnesses. If he is ever indicted by a grand jury to investigate these allegations, he would be unable to state without perjuring himself that he had never had naked time with that man (Me -- Vinny).
He could chose to be a bit Clintonesque and say, "Um, well Mr. Prosecutor, it depends on how you define naked or for that matter naked time." Unfortunately for him, this would prove to be a slippery slope, much more slippery than the soapy shower floor we both stood facing each other those many years ago.
Aside from all that, the legislator I am talking about is a happily married and a regular stand-up guy who possesses a gift that most legislators do not. He has the common touch and he has it in spades.
Okay... by now you're no doubt wondering what this naked time and common touch has to do with this site... or anything for that matter. Good question.
Years ago...when I was fighting the federal agency for which I worked; to stop them from willfully breaking laws that put the public at risk. I was frantically exploring all the options that my coworkers and I had available at our disposal... one of which is contacting your congressman
Whenever this particular congressman was back in his home state from his arduous duties in D.C., he took every opportunity to find free time to lift weights. He loved to work out at a hard core weightlifting gym that I also often frequented. He was unlike most legislators in this regard. Most people get into politics so they can distance themselves from the rabble of humanity...preferring to hangout at exclusive and private clubs as if rubbing shoulders with the common folk would soil them. They also orchestrate their aids to deal with troublesome constituents.
Not this congressman. He goes out of his way to rub shoulders with his constituents...even in places that potentially put him at great personal risk.
Anyway, it was at this gym that I had just finished my workout and as I made my way towards the showers when our nation's leading legislator and I nearly collide as he is coming out of the shower...so close we could have almost kissed. (I was tempted...Na, just kidding!). The data collection part of my brainstem that does not worry about political or legal agendas was taking this opportunity to size up his nakedness.
It was immediately apparent that his intensive lifting and cardio regime kept him very fit. His body was very sinewy and devoid of excess fat. In addition, I could also see that besides being very fit...he...ah...had certain...ah, endowments. What do I mean? Let's just say that because of his Italian heritage and certain attributes of his anatomy, he would be considered fair game to be tagged by my former neighbors with a colorful nickname. If he had grown up back in the Italian area of the mean streets in the "City of Brotherly Love" from where I hale; my Italian wrestling buddies would have tagged him with the moniker "Big Feet Pete ' (his last name)"; I suppose this explains why an otherwise average looking guy working in an exclusive world of politics, where tall men with thick hairlines are more the norm than not; this congressman always has an invincible look of smug self-satisfaction.
Once the analytical data collecting reptilian part of my brain completed sizing him up... I shifted back to my forebrain to address my political and legal agendas. I couldn't resist this unexpected opportunity to corner him, so eager I was to rant about my disappointment regarding all federal agencies; to rant about the total lack of legal accountability that federal administrators have to contend with whenever they commit evil.
In the heat of passion and because I am of Italian-American descent, I forgot our nakedness and leaned in close to him while I made many sweeping gestures to emphasize each point. My passion and my wild gestures, I'm sure was not an issue core to his discomfort, since as I have mentioned, he is also Italian-American...it is after all an Italian thing. No... what was more than a little disconcerting to him was that I was simply much too close to him, even for fully clothed Italian men, let alone a naked man on a rant.
He had the look of a trapped coyote desperate to gnaw off a limb to make his escape. I saw the look, I felt sorry for him and embarrassed for me, and yet, I could not help myself... I continued to rant. His look was not one of fear...just intense discomfort. I knew that in our youth we had both wrestled in the same weight class, however, as much talent as I had been in high school, he was the real deal in wrestling...he was a champion in college. I'm certain if he had to, he could have kicked my ass. I think he was certain of this too, but I'm betting the thought of having to subdue a naked man on a rant in a double leg takedown, or a fireman's carriage, or even...God forbid a half-Johnson -- gave him cause to pause as he frantically pulled up his tightie-whities to put at least one layer of fabric between us.
Once he was dressed, he regained his composure and his patience. He educated me on the nuances of what I needed to do. He lamented the fact that with the exception of a handful of my coworkers, no one came to his office to file complaints, no one called or wrote letters asking for his help. He pointed out that even our Union representatives absence was dismaying to him. He essentially said that their absence was hamstringing him from helping. I mentioned to him that everyone I worked with was afraid of coming forward. Everyone was afraid that whistle blowing would get them fired. Eager to defend my coworkers, I mentioned that we were hamstrung because of this reality and because there were no laws that held federal administrators accountable for the evil that they habitually committed.
I ranted about our anger concerning our uncaring, negligent lackluster legislators. I tossed these accusations in his face almost accusing him of this personal betrayal.
This congressman smiled ruefully. He mentioned that on two occasions, federal employees from the same agency, from another town had come to his office in force - with their family and friends. He said that since they had a valid complaint and because they came to see him in force and that each federal worker along with their family and friends filed a complaint... he was able to help them. He pointed out that their show of solidarity protected them from getting fired and it enabled him with the ammo that he needed to solve their problems.
Then, he told me something that made my world reel!
He said, "Vinny, in every federal agency...the worker's representatives and the employees have been complaining about this lack of accountability since the beginning of American history. Yet, none of you as an individual or as a collective have ever lobbied for tougher laws that would change this.
To say I was stunned would be an understatement. After all...it is beyond my understanding how any one person or any organization could spend years bleating and mewling about this injustice, this obvious obstacle, and yet... not even make the effort to lobby. It was unthinkable!
How could all of those people as a collective be so weak and so willfully impotent? This congressman saw the look of betrayal and disbelief on my face and he actually put his arm around my shoulders to comfort me. (By now...I was also fully clothed). He said, "Vinny, I hear you, and you're right, we do need tougher laws. It would solve a great many things. However, there are a lot of senators and representatives that side more with big business and have conflicts of interest with many of the public agencies.
I simply can't go to the floor in Washington with only you at my side to push the type of laws that you and I both know are needed."
I sighed, "What can we do?"
He leaned in and pointed at my chest emphatically, "What would get all of those politicians that don't care about the worker up on their hind legs - is if every lowly federal employee...along with their family, extended family and friends were to organized and lobby for these laws.... it would happened, he snapped his fingers for emphasis.
Until then, forget it."
I pleaded, "There must be something I can do."
He looked at me with great compassion, "You could write a letter or a proposal of what you and your worker's reps know needs to be done. Then you could collect signatures and encourage people to make phone calls and
e-mail and send letters, and just like you go to each of their legislators offices."
So that is what I decided I would do. That is why I am taking the time to educate the public. Hopefully my efforts will facilitate the framing of tougher laws. Hopefully, I will be able to prevent other unnecessary deaths. I have lost a few of my friends to the evil machinations of a federal bureaucracy. I am imploring all of you, don' t lose your friends. Don't stand idly by and allow evil agencies to cause the death of your loved ones.
FAST FORWARD A FEW YEARS - THIS CONGRESSMAN IS AT A TOWN HALL MEETING TO DISCUSS ALL ASPECTS PERTAINING TO SOCIAL SECURITY.
A friend and former coworker at the federal agency where he is still currently employed and I went to listen to this particular congressman's ideas on how we should save our social security system. He also had other ideas of how our government should offer all American citizens the option of investing in TSP - (Thrift Savings Plan) - A retirement package that he, I and all federal workers enjoy. He had a true grasp of what we need to do with social security and all of his ideas were excellent. However, he had more than his share of adversaries in the crowd. I wanted to come to his aid. I moved around the town hall for a few hours with my hand up, trying to get his attention so he would call on me, just as he was calling on dozens of other people with their hands up.
The problem was.... even though I was fully clothed, I could tell he recognized me from the naked time we had shared two years prior. He had that trapped coyote look again... certain I'm sure, that I would froth at the mouth until security would have to drag me out.
Seeing the look on his face filled me with both shame and hurt. I really wanted to defend his stance on social security.
Finally, he called on a woman who was a few rows to my right.
"The Lady with the brown sweater, he invited, what would you like to share?"
She smiled sweetly, "I would like you to call on the young man with the Marine Corp tee shirt. He has been trying to get your attention for the past two hours."
The crowd laughed. They also had noticed that I was being pointedly ignored.
The Congressman's expression was a mixture of a grin of chagrin and a rictus of apprehension.
He then looked at me directly, his voice was both affable and edgy. "Yes sir?"
"Sir, I mused, what happened to Vinny. I thought we were on a first name basis."
I was so happy to voice my opinion that I managed to bury my disappointment of his studied formality.
I took this golden opportunity and made many key and salient points of which he failed to mention. I was glad to share with the crowd my insight which came from years of government experience. I looked at each of his adversaries as I went point by point why their ideas would be disastrous for most citizens; then I went point by point to expand on a few key issues that this congressman had also glossed over earlier in the meeting..
When I finished I thanked him for the opportunity. He looked at me with gratitude. Grateful for both the support and not mixing my one agenda with that evening's agenda.
When the town hall meeting was over, my friend and I sidled over to shake his hand and chat. I almost let slip a greeting, "Yo, yo Pete! How's it hanging?" which is a common greeting between Italian- American men from the Northeastern United States; a greeting common, even among the some of the social elite. But considering the history he and I shared, I quietly greeted him with a formal, "Hello, it has been a few years." This congressman and I shyly avoided the topic of our naked time and instead busied ourselves with the macho talk of wrestling and the rigors of starving to make weight.
It occurred to me then that this congressman possesses some of the admirable qualities of the mythic leaders of a bygone age. He wasn't working the crowd in a way we are so familiar with observing used car salesmen, disingenuous union reps, or unctuous politicians; no, instead he was fully immersed with personally and genuinely engaging with the people who had elected him to lead. Unlike other fearful legislators, this congressman put himself at great risk as he walked among the people he served, much the way Jesus or Alexander the Great would do with both their colleagues and constituents. Most people are not aware of the great courage this willful act of walking among the crowd takes. There is after all, danger from assault from some nut case...or an affront from a naked man on his way to the showers. Unlike most politicians, he dares these risks, to be one with the people.
My former vulgar friends from the mean streets of the Philly area may have nicknamed him "Big Feet Pete"; However, after much consideration I think it is appropriate to call him "Peter the Great"!
As I pondered his new title...my friend from the federal agency for which we both worked, started on his rant about the how congress was being lied to by this agency with regards to money they allegedly didn't have. He ranted about them using the Arthur Anderson - the same infamous accounting firm involved with the Enron scandal. He accused my former agency of "cooking the books".
"Peter the Great", blinked and said that he was not aware of that information and he promised to look into it.
My friend started on another rant, (federal agencies seems to cause this phenomena with their employees), I decided it that it was time for us to go, so I dragged my friend towards the door.
As this congressman and I parted company....I think we both realized that the naked time that we had so fondly shared in the shower room - would very likely be our last.
"What will life bring next, I mused?"