At this same point during last year’s Oklahoma legislative session, I brought you the first installment of the “Adventures of Captain Oblivious.”
My previous post was a recounting of a fictional conversation between an unnamed legislator (“Captain Oblivious“) and an educator from his district during the middle of another “highly productive” legislative session.
Captain Oblivious is that legislator who knows way too little about way too many subjects. No one is really sure how he was elected other than the fact that he ran unopposed in a strongly Republican district.
His superpower is his keen attention to detail about obscure and insignificant issues. Yet, like kryptonite to Superman, Captain Oblivious is paralyzed by things which move fast or are complex, so he has developed a well-honed capacity for complete inattention to almost all things going on around him.
Fast-forward one year and Captain Oblivious has reappeared at the State Capitol.
This time he is joined by his two trusty sidekicks: Sergeant Hellifino and Standoffish Girl.
Sergeant Hellifino is impeccably groomed, pleasant, and well-intentioned. He is also rather clueless about most things. His superpower is his capacity to obscure his ignorance of key issues using rhetorical smokescreens, purposeful redirection, and bombastic obfuscation.
Hellifino hears things that please him and repeats them, like a mockingbird tending its nest. He is highly skilled with the use of irrelevant phrases like “If it was good enough for our founding fathers, it’s good enough for me,” “It’s a complex issue worthy of further study,” “This is what my constituents tell me they want,” “Taxes and big government are BAD,” “We need to make Oklahoma great again,” “OIL!” and his trusty standby, “Because God says so.”
He also knows his way around the Capitol and is famous for signing on as a co-author of other people’s legislation after passage is guaranteed. Despite all that, people like him.
On the other hand, Standoffish Girl emits a negative vibe which effectively keeps pests at bay, including fellow members of the human species. At first, you might think Standoffish Girl lacks confidence or is possibly a little shy. Nope, she’s just genuinely aloof and unfriendly.
Unless you’re a fellow legislator she probably won’t give you the time of day. Her superpower is her ability to process literally hundreds of emails from constituents in only seconds using the Ctrl-A and Delete functions on her keyboard. She also uses her special cloak of invisibility when citizens stop by to talk with her. If you happen to go to Standoffish Girl’s office, you’ll be informed by her administrative assistant that she “just left for another meeting and will get back with you, someday.”
Don’t count on it.
We pick up the action early Thursday morning. Captain Oblivious, Hellifino, and Standoffish Girl are having a private meeting in a custodian’s storage room in the basement of the Capitol Building.
Captain Oblivious: Thank you both for agreeing to meet in my office on such short notice.
Standoffish Girl: Umm, this is NOT your office, idiot. Does the fact that I’m sitting on a mop bucket give you any clues?
Sergeant Hellifino: Hey, easy there, Standoffish Girl. It’s better than sitting in the dirt like our founding fathers and Jesus had to do.
Standoffish Girl: (Glaring at Hellifino) I was not talking to you, Dipstick.
Captain Oblivious: C’mon, both of you straighten out. I chose this space so we could meet without interruption. I need to strategize with you on how we can deal with this teacher pay raise issue. My phone is ringing off the hook. These teachers are such pests. I keep telling them if they don’t like being poor they should just go get higher paying jobs. I think they are insulted by that for some reason. I’m not sure. They just keep blabbing about their life’s purpose, helping kids, lack of respect, blah, blah, blah.
Standoffish Girl: You should do what I do and change the topic to something I want to talk about. Also, keep your arms crossed and keep checking your cell phone or watch. Be careful not to ask any questions, make eye contact, or nod your head in approval. Otherwise, they might get the impression you’re actually listening to them. If all else fails, do like I do and train your secretary to pop her head in after three minutes and say you’re late for an important meeting. That seems to work well.
Sergeant Hellifino: That’s good advice, Standoffish Girl. I also like to remind them that we have a huge budget shortfall because our citizens pay too many taxes. I ask if they want to go back to the days of high gas prices and runaway inflation we experienced under President Carter. I also like to throw our some random numbers and percentages to make it sound like I understand how the budget works. Finally, I tell them that I need to study the issue further before making any promises. They also seem to like when I offer them a cookie, pat them on their shoulder, and give them a concerned look.
Captain Oblivious: Hey, I don’t need any lessons from either of you on being oblivious – that’s my damn superpower. What I need to figure out is how to make it seem like we’re giving teachers a pay raise without actually doing anything.
Sergeant Hellifino: Well, I don’t know what I don’t know. But, I do know that I don’t know what most people know about the state budget. There are just so many numbers. I know that more taxes would be bad and won’t help Oklahoma be great again. Just thinking aloud here, can’t we do like we did with the lottery and give them more money with one hand while taking it out with the other? I also liked the idea from Representative Whathisname about capping teacher insurance and using that money to give them a raise. That’s clever. Most teachers wouldn’t realize they got hosed until we’re long gone.
Standoffish Girl: (looking up while texting on her phone) This is a boring conversation. Can we talk about my trip to Cancun last week?
Captain Oblivious: Yeah, how was the weather? Wait, no – nice try. Let’s stay on topic, Standoffish Girl! These teachers need to realize we have other big issues to deal with than just their stupid pay raise. We have the tanning booth bill, the Ten Commandments, liquor on Sunday, drone protection – lots of important stuff. Plus, we’re trying to do all this during March Madness. It’s HARD!
Sergeant Hellifino: Don’t forget OIL tax breaks, too! Our founding fathers didn’t have tanning booths and drones and they did just fine. Plus, God says we shouldn’t drink on Sunday because we should be resting. I do have another idea. How about we pass a pay raise bill to show our concern but don’t attach any funding to it? That way we can blame someone else when it fails. Or, we can say the other house has to approve budgets because, you know, the Constitution.
Captain Oblivious: That’s genius, Hellifino. I will submit a bill immediately to propose a 10% increase on taxes for things Oklahomans love – cigarettes, gasoline, license tags, donuts, dresses with spaghetti straps, trailer homes, deer stands, Bud Light, cheese enchiladas, white pickup trucks, moon pies, BBQ, casino parking, taxidermy, and handguns. We can say that 63.8% of the new revenues will go to the teacher raises while the rest goes to the general fund. That’s a real-sounding number, right?
Of course, it will never pass the other house, but we can say, “We really, really tried but those OTHER guys hate you!” We can go at it again next year if oil goes to $200/barrel and we eliminate the state income tax for people with jobs.
Standoffish Girl: Thank goodness! Are we done here? I just got a text from my secretary. I have another important meeting to get to. Or, a nail appointment. Or, a root canal. All of those are infinitely better than sitting in this closet with you dolts.
Sergeant Hellifino: It’s good for me, too. I have a lunch meeting to get to. It’s with some oil executives to discuss their idea of the state actually PAYING them money to drill for oil. I think it’s an issue worthy of further study.
Captain Oblivious: Terrific, we’ll probably bump into each other again soon, unless I see you coming first.