Thursday, January 26, 2012

this newspaper column didn't make the paper

Because of spatial limitations, my weekly column for the St. Clair Times didn't actually make the paper. And that's probably for the best, because the crux of it is me comparing politicians to waitresses at Hooters. Anyway, you can respond here, or by finding me on Twitter. Thanks.
Politicians: They're not really your friend, you know

Here’s the best way I know to describe politics in this country.

We’ve all — or, I should say, most of us — been to one of those restaurants where the quality of the food was secondary to, um, the ambience. I’m probably not bound by any rules that keep me from actually calling these establishments by name, but just to be safe, let’s be intentionally vague.

In any case, most likely you know what I mean. The servers are almost uniformly young women, almost uniformly what our society might call “attractive,” and all dressed in a way that accentuates their, um, attributes. Which is the whole point of having the restaurant in the first place.

(Note: This is somewhat uncomfortable. And it’s about to get worse.)

In addition to their dress code, many of these girls apparently are coached — I say “apparently” because I have no idea what actually goes on in management meetings — to, for lack of a better term, flirt with their customers. The theory, of course, being that their customers (mostly middle-aged men) are likely to stay longer and tip more if they feel they’re receiving special attention from a young lady. So they use terms of endearment (“honey” and such as that) and attempt to strike up awkward conversations (“You’re an Alabama fan? No way, me too!”).

All of this is in place, of course, to mask the fact that the food is mediocre on its best days, the drinks are lukewarm and the seats are uncomfortable. Way too many guys (metaphorically) eat this up, unfortunately.

Here’s why I’m bringing this up: If you aren’t aware these things are taking place, and if you’re starved for attention, you could very easily delude yourself into thinking these ladies have a genuine interest in you as a person. They do not. They have a genuine interest in you as a customer with money to spend, and nothing more. The relationship begins and ends with the check.

I think about this sometimes as it relates to politics. Thankfully, most of our politicians don’t wear the scanty attire. But they are masters of the other part: pretend to empathize with regular people’s problems, reassure them that you can solve their woes … make them think you care about them beyond just the election.

It’s a game as old as democracy itself. But it’s just that: a sham. A politician’s empathy for his constituents goes as far as the next election. They’re not going home with you to meet the family; even if they do, they’re only staying long enough to take a photo and move on.

Actually, the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of the restaurant experience. At least with the restaurant I get some cold cheese fries.

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