It’s not easy being popular. I should know — some popular people told me. I could’ve asked them why it’s not easy, but I was a freshman at the time, and I figured the best strategy was to keep quiet until they were done sitting on me. Recently I’ve been enjoying my own brief Joe-the-Plumber-like moment in the national spotlight taking phone calls from the two presidential candidates: first, Republican senator John McCain called in August, and on Saturday Democratic senator Barack Obama gave me a ring because of “equal time, fairness doctrine, gotta get the message out, you know the drill.” The following is an excerpt from our conversation:

Me: So I’m not the “October surprise”? You’re not calling because you want me to replace Biden on the ticket?

Obama: No. Unless you count this phone call as a surprise. Because it is October.

Me: Alright, I’ll take what I can get. It’s still better than last October, when my girlfriend “surprised” me with a pregnancy scare.

Aimiee: That was in December, jackass!

Me: Aimiee, I told you to hang up as soon as I picked up! I can’t believe this!

Aimiee: Hi, Barack!

Obama: Hello, um … is this Aimiee?

Aimiee: Yep!

Obama: How are you, Aimiee?

Me: I’m sorry about this, Senator.

Obama: Don’t be.

Aimiee: I’m great, Barack! See how easy it was for him to ask that simple, thoughtful question, Robert?

Me: Dag, girl!

Aimiee: Barack, I’m calling you Barack because McCain won’t, even though you called him John in all the debates. What’s with him? I don’t like him. He’s a jerk. Boo!

Obama: Now, we don’t need to resort to name-calling here.

Me: Yeah, Aimiee. And I didn’t see you complaining when he hosted Saturday Night Live or showed up on The Daily Show all those times. You thought he was hilarious. You said he was “the liberal’s conservative” and “the twentysomethings’ cool uncle who’s also a little scary if you bring up those Chuck Norris Missing in Action movies around him.”

Aimiee: He was different then. He was a good mix of blue and red — he was purple. He used to speak out against Jerry Falwell, not speak at his university. And he used to support Roe vs. Wade instead of saying it should be repealed.

Me: Oh my God, are you pregnant?

Aimiee: No!

Me: Then don’t scare me like that!

Aimiee: I’m not! You’re just paranoid!

Obama: Robert, Aimiee, if I could just say something right here—

Me: Hey, has anyone ever told you you sound a little like Ross Perot when you talk? Same kind of cadence.

Obama: Uh … no, I hadn’t heard that before.

Me: Maybe it’s just me.

Aimiee: It’s always just you.

Obama: Well, look, what I was trying to say was—

Me: That’s another thing. When you start off a sentence with “look” or “you’ve got to understand something,” it makes you sound professorial and condescending, and people don’t want to be talked down to.

Aimiee: Leave the man alone! He has charisma. He’s the best shot Democrats have had at the White House since Clinton.

Me: Look, little girl, I’ve had just about enough—

Obama: Guys—

Me: All I’m saying, Senator, is that the “folksy” thing works for some people. Like with Perot. Or Bush. He won twice, for God’s sake. That’s one more than his dad, which has to hurt, don’t you think? Hey, have you seen Oliver Stone’s W. yet? It’s all about G.W.’s daddy issues, apparently. Boo-hoo, right?

Aimiee: I think the senator was trying to say something, Rob—

Me: And the folksy thing works for Sarah Palin, too. Among other things, know what I’m sayin’? I have to admit, when she winks at me on TV I get a little tingly.

Aimiee: Ugh. I’m hanging up. Senator, good luck on November 4!

Obama: Thank you, Aimiee.

Aimiee: Bye. (She hung up the phone — finally.)

Me: Gets her every time. Not a fan of the winking. Or when I bring up Governor Palin in bed. But here’s what I’m getting at, and don’t worry — you’ve already got my vote.

Obama: With friends like these …

Me: What? See, you’re getting professorial again, because I didn’t get that joke. By the way, you need to develop a sex addiction or say crazy malapropisms if you want to keep late-night comedy writers employed for the next four years. Maybe impersonate Perot every once in a while, but don’t tell anybody that’s who you’re doing. Could be fun.

Obama: I’ll keep that in mind.

Me: Now, as I was saying, if you can merge “folksy” with “professorial,” you may just win over all those undecided voters in the next two weeks. You were a lawyer once, so why not wear some seersucker suits like an old-timey country lawyer?

Obama: I think it’s too late to divert campaign funds to things like wardrobe and makeovers.

Me: Okay, then what about wearing suspenders and tugging on them when you’re speaking? Or chewing on some straw or a piece of hay when you’re listening, or starting off sentences with “A wise man by the name of Aloisius Cornwinkle once said to me …”? You know, really Foghorn Leghorn it up.

Obama: I think it’s best if I just stay true to myself and stick to the issues at hand, Robert.

Me: You’re right. You’re right. It’s just … I don’t know … sometimes I feel like presidential elections are just about seeing whatever you want to see in a candidate, then telling anyone who disagrees with you that they’re wrong. It’s like religion — you believe what you want to believe — to the point where church and state seem like the same thing to me. Father, can’t we all just get along and be tolerant of everybody’s pompous opinions regardless of their party affiliation?

Obama: Um … I agree … but why did you just call me “Father”?

Me: I did?

Obama: You did.

Me: Sorry about that, Fa— I mean, Senator. So many people treat you like a saint, I guess I forgot you’re not a holy man for a second there.

Obama: This isn’t some sort of trick to get me to talk about Reverend Wright, is it?

Me: No. I promise. But if Bill Ayers was black, do you think McCain would be talking about him now?

Obama: That’s not for me to say.

Me: Okay, then I’ll say it — if Bill Ayers was black, McCain wouldn’t bring up a guy you know from the University of Chicago who set off bombs in his own country when you were eight years old.

Obama: And you’re entitled to that opinion.

Me: I also think that if I were black, my book How Black People Feel About All Kinds of Stuff wouldn’t be taking so much heat from the NAACP.

Obama: Wait, what?

Me: But I still like McCain. Though I prefer his early, funny work. So I didn’t vote for him.

Obama: Oh, so you’ve already voted?

Me: Yep. I was in Tijuana a few weeks ago to pick up a shipment of … Corona … and, uh, there was a guy on the street handing out ballots, so I voted early. It’s really easy. I highly recommend it.

Obama: You can’t vote for me in Mexico.

Me: Uh, yes, you can. It’s an American territory. See, you’re getting professorial again. You’re talking down to me.

Obama: Mexico isn’t part of the United States. You’re thinking of Puerto Rico.

Me: Really?

Obama: Yes.

Me: Well, what’s the holdup? C’mon, that’s prime real estate! You’d think a former governor of Texas would’ve done at least one thing right in the last eight years.

Obama: You’re going to have to vote again on November 4. Go to an actual polling place. Don’t just accept a ballot from a guy on the street.

Me: Okay. But I need to go back to Tijuana next week to get more … Corona … so maybe I’ll vote for McCain down there just to irritate all my chest-beating liberal friends.

Obama: Just as long as you don’t throw away your vote in this country.

Me: Deal. Now, enough of this political talk. How about postseason Chicago baseball?

Obama: Well, the Sox won one game at least. It wasn’t 2005 again, but they had a great season. I like what Guillen’s been doing with the team.

Me: Uh … yeah … to tell you the truth, I don’t follow baseball, so names like whatever you just said don’t mean anything to me. And even though I live close to Wrigley Field, the Cubs’ meltdown didn’t even register. I, uh … I was just talkin’ the talk.

Obama: So should I call you Sarah from now on?

Aimiee: Zing!

Me: Ooh, girl, double dag! I thought you hung up!

Aimiee: I did. But you were too busy lecturing Barack to hear me pick up again.

Me: Senator, is this not invasion of privacy? What legal action can I take?

Obama: This is more of a First Amendment case, if you really want my opinion.

Me: Okay, now say that again, but say it like Foghorn Leghorn would.

Obama: No.

Me: (doing a great Foghorn impression of my own) I say, I say, now cut that out, Aimiee, listenin’ in on a private talk that doesn’t concern you, I declare—

Aimiee: Seriously, stop.

Me: Fine. Senator, one last question. You spent some of your formative years in Hawaii, so which do you prefer: Jack Lord or Tom Selleck?

Obama: Selleck. I’ve always wanted to grow a ‘stache like his.

Me: Excellent. And who’s your favorite Eight Is Enough character? Mr. Bradford? Or David? Or was it one of the daughters?

Obama: I … I never watched that show.

Me: Then why were you chanting the title over and over again in your acceptance speech back in August?

Obama: I meant that eight years of Republicans in the White House was enough.

Me: Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh … Aimiee, I owe you a dollar.

About the Author

Robert Cass

Robert Cass lives in Chicago. For Popdose he's written under the Sugar Water, Bootleg City, and Box Office Flashback banners and collaborated on the series 'Face Time with Jeff Giles and Mike Heyliger.

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