I was walking into the bathroom at city hall when I bumped into him. I was there to pay my Excessive Oxygen Usage Fee. He was dressed in gray coveralls, and busy cleaning the mirror over the sink with some paper towels and a clear blue liquid in a plastic spray bottle.
"I work here," he answered, and then, without missing a breat, he vigorously went to work cleaning the sink using the same supplies. "This is where I do my best thinking."
I couldn't argue with that, so I took the opportunity to ask him about the plastic bag fee the city is thinking about adopting.
"Well, it's like this," he began, putting away the paper towels and picking up a scouring brush for the toilet. He gave the bowl a few squirts with the magically versatile blue liquid and enthusiastically began scrubbing the commode. "The city's so broke we can't even afford to pay attention, so we're looking for additional ways to increase revenue. In fact, I'm glad you're here. Let me run some ideas by you."
"We don't say 'shoot' anymore. Now we say 'shinola,' as in 'you don't know the difference between.' It's a federal mandate."
"Of course, Mr. Mayor."
He put down his supplies, picked up a broom, and briskly started sweeping the floor. "You know and I know that when we talk about fees, what we're really talking about are taxes. Just like when President Obama talks about investing in America or everybody paying their fair share, what he's really talking about is taxing and spending. So let me know what you think about our using the following words in lieu of the word taxes: compelled contributions, minimum due donations..."
"It still sounds like taxes to me."
Done sweeping, he got the mop and energetically began mopping the floor. "Well, then, in that case the only thing we can do is come up with more fees. What do you think about these: a fee for grown men wearing their pajama bottoms as pants in public? A fee for wearing your pantaloons below your hindquarters? A fee for thinking about Sarah Palin when you should be thinking about your wife?" He was done mopping, and we stood by the bathroom door. "So... what do you think?"
"You know me, Mr. Mayor. I think raising taxes in this economy will only make things worse."
"No, I mean, what do you think about the bathroom?"
"It looks good, Mr. Mayor," I told him, honestly. "You did a good job."
"Thanks," he said, standing back and taking it all in.
He was genuinely proud.
Fifty Shades of Funny