This afternoon I had to call a guy who may or may not have been trying to impersonate a writer at the paper where I work. I found the whole thing somewhat comical. Most of the time, no one in this town would dream of pretending to work at New Times. We’re not so popular and we pride ourselves on it.
Anyhow, I called the guy, and got his voicemail message. I wish I’d taped it. I used to keep a tape recorder hooked up to my phone at work (it’s legal to tape calls within this state, even without telling the person you’re taping — Linda Tripp’s problem was that she lived in Maryland, where it was not legal) but I rarely do that kind of phone interview anymore. I don’t even know where my tape recorder is.
So I can’t tell you exactly what this guy’s message said, but it went something like this, delivered in a hearty, super-annoying, trying-too-hard tone:
Hey there! Thanks for calling, please leave a message for THE GUY’S NAME AND COMPANY. And don’t forget to support a person with Down syndrome for president, since at least that way we’d get some someone loving and hate-free in the White House.
OK, I hate shit like that. Really. If I still said such things, I’d say, “How retarded.”
First, I hate it because as much as I love Sophie, it would be nice to go a full 15 minutes during the day without having to stop and dwell on her challenges.
I never knew the topic of Down syndrome comes up so often in random, everyday life. Or for that matter (and this will confirm how hyper-sensitive I am, I fully admit it) the word Down. The first time this happened was when Sophie was a few days old (must have been weeks, I was driving, post-C-section) and I drove past this enormous sign in Phoenix (I just passed it today, in fact) that said DOWNS Florist.
More to the point is the time I profiled this really odd pop culture enthusiast (for lack of a better description) in town who had done everything from production for South Park to promotions for some truly grotesque, bizarre performance artists. He also had a lot of really smelly parrots.
Sophie was a few months old at the time. This guy popped in a video one day, during the course of an interview, showing off his work, and suddenly there was a film montage of close-ups of people with Down syndrome at the Special Olympics. He just liked the way they looked, he said. (A la Crispin Glover, yet another future topic….)
ANYHOW. I picked a big fight with this kid with the obnoxious message and he of course pulled the, “I’m close to someone with Down syndrome” card and I snottily shot back, “Well, I can guarantee you don’t take care of someone with Down syndrome every day or you would never say something so stupid” and snottily got off the phone. (Ha! I was right. I later heard he has a COUSIN.)
[NOTE: I never said I was a nice person.]
The thing is, in this culture, we’re raised to believe that our kids can be the next President of the United States. Or a doctor or a lawyer or something else equally snobby requiring really expensive degrees. But not our kid with Down syndrome.
Yes, I am quite certain that Sophie will achieve greatness. (Frankly, I think she already has. I’m quite convincd she read the words “Muppets in Space” tonight.) But she will not (and for this I do thank someone up there) be President of the United States — the worst job in the universe, as far as I’m concerned. Can you imagine what kind of FREAK you’d have to be to imagine you could lead the Free World? (Yes, you can, you’ve been watching way too much cable news.)
So no, I don’t want her to be president. I’m not even sure I want her to be Prom Queen.
But I certainly don’t need to be reminded of my daughter’s challenges in the middle of the workday, from some loser who thinks it’s cute to trivialize the developmentally disabled to make his anti-war point.
Yes, I’m cranky. I’m also cranky about the presidential election in general and the fact that John McCain — Arizona’s not-so-favorite son, the politician I covered not quite to death in the 90s and stupidly left for political roadkill in the 00s — is in it. (More on him later, unless I can avoid it.)
For a moment tonight I even thought that maybe that voicemail guy was right, that sweet Sophie WOULD be better than mean McCain. Then Sophie, who had been cuddling against me on the couch, suddenly punched me in the boob and yelled, “Pretend fight!” — cracking herself up and making my point.
At least, one of my points. I’ve lost track.
I was reminded today of a bittersweet (now I just recall it as sweet) moment right after Sophie was born, also involving voicemail. My dear friend Rob, who lives across the country and hadn’t yet heard that Sophie had DS, called to leave a message congratulating us on Sophie’s arrival and explaining that the baby gift was in the mail.
“I found the perfect gift!” he said, between giggles. “A baby tee shirt that says, ‘Smarter than President Bush’.”
I dreaded calling Rob back, to tell him.