The Joys of Local Government

“And now, if we move on to the next paragraph, as is congruent with clause D…” droned on the county commissioner, flipping to slide 492 of 837.  Inside the confines of my head, I screamed loudly.  Several times.

Swiveling slightly in the high-backed office chair, I gazed down the row of other City Council members, trying to see how they were managing to stay sane.

On the far side of the curved table, Steve Sonneman was leaning back in his chair and tossing pencils up into the composite tiles of the drop ceiling.  Several already hung precariously above his head.  Next to Councilman Sonneman, Karin Herbert was contentedly knitting what was meant to either be a very crooked scarf, or an extremely long tube sock.

Next to me, Duane Olson was hunched forward and snickering.  I scooted closer and peered over his shoulder.  Councilman Olson was holding his smartphone below the table.  I winced as I caught a glimpse of the screen.  The councilman was enjoying some very offensive pornography.  With a lascivious wiggle of his eyebrows, he turned the phone towards me slightly.  I held up my hand in protest and looked away.  Olson shrugged and returned his full attention to the video.

Great.  I looked up at the main projector’s screen, now displaying (on slide 495) a graph with no title, legend, or labels on its axes.  The head councilman had to at least be listening, right?

I leaned forward to look at Jim Valentine, the duly elected head councilman, seated at the center of the table.  His head was bent forward, presumably in deep concentration.  However, as the commissioner fumbled to once again replace the batteries in her laser pointer, I saw a long bead of drool slowly descend from Head Councilman Valentine’s mouth to sit, glistening, on the table.  So he was asleep, then.

Slumping back in my chair, I thought back to the chain of events that had landed me here.  It was actually quite a short chain.  I was technically filling in for Greg Pomeroy, due to his “temporary personal leave of absence.”

What this meant was that Greg had realized a couple of days ago that this council meeting would conflict with his fishing trip.  He had asked me to fill in for him, and because I was already on my second beer, and I owed Greg twenty bucks besides, I had agreed.  Like a fool.

Now, trapped and entering the third hour of the meeting, with no end in sight, I bitterly regretted that decision.  I should have just coughed up the twenty.  My brain, desperately seeking some form of escape, directed my eyes in a longing glimpse towards the fire alarm on the wall behind me.  I actually caught my hand reaching back, acting out of its own self-preservation.

Fire alarm, sprinklers, water everywhere, being forced to flee the building . . . wait a minute, that was the answer!  I stood up abruptly, causing the county commissioner to pause in her litany.

“Yes?” she asked, glaring at me for daring to interrupt her carefully prepared five-million-point speech.

I gestured at the doors.  “Bathroom,” I said, and dashed for the exit.

Fortunately, the local watering hole was only two blocks from the government center, so I wasn’t too out of breath when I came in the door.  “Hey Charlie, beer me,” I panted to the bartender as I sank, gratefully, back into my usual seat.

As Charlie brought me a mug of frothy beer, I nodded at the TV behind the bar.  “Hey, would you mind putting on the city council meeting?” I asked.  “I’m very interested in local government,” I added to his raised eyebrows as he switched the channel.  I settled back in my seat with my beer.  Now, this was how the meetings should go!

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