Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Politics and Tallahassee
By Richard E. Noble
At one point in my tenure here in Franklin County, I made the mistake of getting involved in the local politics. The oystermen were upset about something or maybe I was upset about something and we were going to Tallahassee to tell the Governor and his cabinet all about it. The Governor at the time was Martinez. Leroy Hall, president of the Oystermen’s Association, called me and asked if I would go with him and some other representatives of the oystering community. He wanted me to prepare a speech. So I did.
We were on the “agenda.” I didn’t even know what an agenda was. But for those out there who are as apolitical as I, you must be on the agenda. If you are not on the agenda you will not be allowed to speak, you will not pass go and you will not collect your two hundred dollars.
We were on the agenda but the agenda was timeless. Everybody on the agenda had to show up at nine o’clock in the morning and sit through the proceedings until their name was called.
The Governor sat in the middle and his cabinet fanned out on both sides. There was one woman, a couple of dapper young guys and a few crusty old fogies.
There was one old cabinet member who I remember in particular. He was secretary of something. He had a belly that could hardly be contained and the skinny part of his tie extended bellow the thick part. One button on his shirt was undone exposing his T-shirt and he kept falling asleep. His nose was so big and red that I kept waiting for it to change to yellow or green.
Whenever Carol sees a fellow that is dressed like this gentleman she says, “Clearly his wife is out of town and he had to dress himself this morning.”
My wife is a female chauvinist. She puts up with me as a part of the cross that she feels each woman is forced to bear in order to pass through the gates of heaven. Men are “obstacles.” I think that I have been a great obstacle for over 30 years now. I am proud of my obstacle status. I just don’t want to turn into an obstruction.
This funny looking Secretary was there as a part of Southern Heritage and Florida law. It is a law in Florida that on every governor’s cabinet there must be one old Cracker with an outrageous Southern accent to say dumb, stupid things. This is to assure that Florida will get some national news attention.
We sat there all morning. They voted on a hundred things and spent several million dollars. My buddy, Mr. Secretary of whatever, only woke up one time. There was a dispute over where the legislators could park their cars. This actually turned out to be the biggest agenda item of the entire day. It must have taken an hour and a half of heated discussion. Naturally our buddy wanted a guaranteed free space close to the entry way. He gave an impassioned plea much in the style that famous Southern orator John C. Calhoon or maybe John “Kingfish” Calhoun of Amos ‘N’ Andy fame. He was great though.
We went to lunch. When we returned the governor’s cabinet room was once again packed. It was loaded with reporters. They were the ones with the note pads and constantly aflutter. The people on the agenda were the ones with the long, frustrated, angry faces. Like me they were in attendance not to listen to a debate over free parking spaces but to be heard on some issue crucial to the betterment of their community - or special interest group.
As the afternoon drooled on the newspaper reporters began filing out. After each agenda item person spoke, more people evacuated. The crowd got thinner and thinner. Finally everybody was gone except me, Leroy, and four other oystermen - each dressed in their best Sunday T-shirt and a new, bright, white pair of Bill’s discount bargain sneakers.
I thought for sure that when I got up to give my speech the Governor and cabinet would get up and leave also - but I guess they can’t. It must be the law. They must listen to any and every dufus who has been smart enough to figure out how to get his name on the agenda. If it was late though, they could have adjourned and left me to come back in the morning. That was not going to happen, I assure you.
I gave my speech in an empty room with nobody taking notes. When I finished, the Governor said, “Thank you Mr. Noble.” He and the cabinet then all got up and left.
It was clear to me that I did not make a big impression. All the way home my mind wandered. My deepest thought was that if I had skipped the Governor and cabinet meeting and went oystering instead, I could have been a hundred dollars richer. Politics is clearly a rich people’s game.
Richard Noble is a freelance writer who has lived in Franklin County for thirty years. He has published 5 books and they are all for sale on Amazon.com. If you would like to stock any of his books in your store or business contact Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-850- 670-8650.