A note I made for this column:
Sitting in a bar. Watching television news. Guy next to me, guy with plaster dust on his boots, sees something about former President Jimmy Carter's habit of helping build houses for the poor.
"You know why Carter did that?" the guy says to me.
I brace myself. I brace myself when anyone says anything even slightly political.
"No," I say.
"He's the only one of 'em who knows how to DO anything. Guy was a farmer."
"One of who?" I ask.
"The presidents," he says.
The guy with plaster dust on his boots left. I wrote down what he said and stuck it in the inside pocket of the blue seersucker sport coat I was wearing, a coat that identifies me as someone who doesn't know how to DO anything.
Fair enough. I did blue-collar work until I got out of graduate school. Then, I went to work for newspapers. As a blue-collar worker, I was always hired for the "pick it up and move it over there" jobs at the bottom of the skill ladder.
But my five-second friend on the next bar stool got me thinking.
Carter was a farmer for a lot of his life, and he is the only president to have lived in public housing. Imagine that you own a roofing company. One day, every former president from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump shows up looking for a job. It's steady work, and it pays $25 an hour, so even the dead presidents show up.
Who you going to hire? You give a hammer to most of those guys, they're either not going to know what it is, or they're going to steal it and sell it to one of your competitors, an act some of them will call "trickle-down economics."
The farm boy says he's never been on a roofing crew, but he's patched a roof or two, built some fence, that kind of thing. When you hand him a hammer, he holds it by the correct end and then hands it back to you.
"Can you be here Monday?" you ask.
"Yessir," he says.
Meanwhile, Clinton is flirting with your secretary, neither Bush showed up on time, Obama's already agitating for better working conditions, Reagan is checking his profile in the side mirror on your work truck, and Donald Trump stalks off, barely holding back the tears and muttering, "It's not fair." Trump will be back that night to slash the tires on your work truck, or at least he'll get someone else to do it for him.
And you go back inside your house trailer office and get a sour-tasting cup of coffee from the pot with the brown burn marks on the bottom. One of your foremen, a guy named Frank, walks into the office.
"I'm still one guy short on my crew," he says. "We got a lot of jobs coming up, too."
"It's alright," you say. "I just hired a guy. He starts Monday."
"He any good?" Frank asks.
"Some Georgia farm boy," you say. "He oughta do just fine."
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest book, a collection of his best columns, is called "Devil's Elbow: Dancing in the Ashes of America." It is available in paperback from Amazon.com, and for Nook, Kindle and iBooks.
Photo credit: FlashBuddy at Pixabay