(HOST) Someone once said that “all politics is local”. And during the recent elections, commentator Willem Lange was reminded that it might also be said that “all politics is personal”.
(LANGE) I’d heard for years that the Adirondacks were a poverty patch, but I’d never believed it till after the summer folks left and the pickings got slim. I painted a million screen sashes and raked tons of leaves. By the time of the first snowfall in October, most of the men in the village were carpooling to the unemployment office.
Something in me rankled at that, so I kept scratching around for work. I tended bar in exchange for supper, and swabbed it in the morning for breakfast. Luckily, I had plenty of venison.
One evening I heard they were hiring over at the bobsled run, and couldn’t get enough guys from the unemployment office. Next day I borrowed my boss’s car and drove to the Olympic Bobsled Run. It was operated by the State of New York.
“Sure, I can use you!” the run superintendent said. “Go get the okay from your local committeeman.” Well, I had no idea what that was. He turned out to be a local politician who, instead of working, sold insurance and real estate. He had to certify me for any municipal or state job.
Had I voted in the recent election? Sure, for Rockefeller. How had I registered? Independent. All right, he heartily assured me, I’ll call you.
A week later, he hadn’t called. So back I went. Turned out, he informed me, first priority went to married Republicans. Then single Republicans, then married Democrats… You get the picture. He could do nothing for an unmarried Independent.
I marched home in a stew and wrote a letter: “Dear Governor Rockefeller…” I never received an answer unless it was a phone call three days later from the boss at the bob run. “You still lookin’ for work?” Yessir, I was. “Then you get over here somehow this afternoon, and we’ll put you on.”
I’ll tell you, I’ve had lots of great jobs, but that one was as good as any. The technology was pre-industrial; the old guys on the job were, too. Alumni of logging camps, they were used to living, getting along, and working from before dawn till after dark, in large crews. Each of them had more stories than Scheherazade. It was like dying and going to Heaven. And getting paid for it, besides! Seven days a week, no overtime till after 5 o’clock.
When the run finally opened, I was appointed announcer, because, the boss said, I had no accent. All day long, with headphones feeding me information, I sat in my glass booth describing the action on the run. Sometimes my pals mooned me from the snack bar across the way, trying to crack me up. If things were slow, I’d put an edge of excitement in my voice to see how many people I could get to turn around and watch. It was the first of three great winters. And the last time, by God, I voted Republican.