Tuesday, November 2, 2010

If you knew Suzi.

Foreigners like to depict Americans as being uninformed and uninterested about other countries, but that's a gross understatement. We don't know much about the other states within the US either.

I mean, who outside California can name its governor? It's bound to be somebody we've never heard of.*

But there is the slight chance that even non-New Yorkers have caught wind of the corruption and cronyism and deep dysfunctionality of our state government. Google the name of the capital, Albany, and every citation is preceded by the words "the mess in."

So today was election day, a chance to vote for a new governor. (To recap, Eliot Spitzer stepped down after a bare year in office following his involvement with a call-girl ring, although he's recently resurfaced as a pundit on CNN. His term was served out by his lieutenant governor David Paterson, famous beyond state borders for being regularly lampooned on "Saturday Night Live." But at least he doesn't shoot moose from a helicopter.)

It's also our chance to jiggle up the State Senate, although I ended up doing the knee-jerk thing and voting for Democratic incumbent Suzi Oppenheimer, who's already been a state senator for a quarter of a century.** This is despite my irritation with getting four recorded phone messages yesterday plugging her candidacy. Hey, I have all my lines forwarded to my cell phone, these are my minutes, guys!

But I'm already regretting it, if the phone call I got this afternoon is an indication of why things are so bad in Albany. It went something like this:

"This is Mrs. Brown. Am I speaking to Mr. Beechey?"


"Sir, I'm calling on behalf of the Suzi Oppenheimer campaign, and --"

"I already voted, you're too late."

"Oh, you did? Well, I just wanted to remind you that today is election day, and the polling stations are open from six o'clock to nine o'clock."

[Mystified] "I said I already voted. There's no point in telling me this. We're in New York, not Chicago."

"I see, sir. For verification can I have your first name?"

"I'd prefer not to. Anyway, don't you know who you called?'

"It's just for verification, Mr. Beechey. Why can't I have your first name?"

"Because I can't think of any reason why you'd need it."

"Then can I confirm that the number I called to reach you is [my home telephone number]."

"Yes, but why don't you know the number, since you just called it . . . ?"

A good job this gang isn't trying to shoot moose. At least it's not our tax dollars that are at work here. Alas, it soon will be.

*Yeah, right. And who's his lieutenant governor, Danny DeVito?

**Even her campaign slogan, a relentless exhortation to "Keep Suzi," was a reminder of her incumbency, a dubious tactic this year. I couldn't help taking it personally, since I have a recurring character called Susie Beamish in my books -- she features prominently in This Private Plot -- and I was wondering if I should bring her and her cleavage back for the fourth Swithin title, which I'm currently planning, even though it takes place in New York, not London.

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