“Who do you think will win Iowa?” I asked Stan as he replaced the starter on my old beater. Stan watches all those cable TV shows about politics all day long at his garage, so I knew he’d have an informed opinion. It’s a well-known fact that the more TV you watch, the smarter you become.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he said, “I guess it depends on what the people in Boise decide to do.”
“Boise? What has Boise got to do with it?” I asked.
“What’s Boise got to do with it?” He lifted his head from under the hood and spoke to me very slowly, as if I were a preschooler still mastering English. “Boise is the capital of Iowa. It’s the biggest city in the state. Whoever wins in Boise is sure to win the whole state.”
It was pretty obvious that Stan was confusing Iowa with Idaho, which is a common mistake. Some people confuse Iowa, Ohio and Idaho the way I confuse my left and my right. I can almost guarantee you that if I say “turn right,” I really mean “turn left,” which is what makes traveling with me so much fun. Every day is an adventure. Sue’s even invented a word for my syndrome: dysleftia.
Stan, however, was suffering from an attack of dysiowa. And since he was giving me a price break on the new starter, I thought I’d correct him as gently as possible.
“I think the voters in Des Moines might have a say in it,” I said.
He stared at me like I’d just flubbed a “Wheel of Fortune” puzzle with all the letters filled in.
“What has the capital of Ohio got to do with it?”
Capital of Ohio? This was the worst case of dysiowa I’d ever come across. I should have dropped the conversation right there. Everyone knows you shouldn’t talk about religion or politics; now I’m going to have to add geography to the list.
“I will never understand why we let a few farmers in Boise, Ohio, elect our candidates,” Stan continued. “How did Idaho get to hold the first primary? Those hicks will fall for the first fast-talking politician they run into. What do they know about anything?”
Should I start to worry about what he’s doing to my car -- namely, replacing the starter and changing the head gasket? Does he know the difference? Would it be like going in for a liver transplant and having the doctor replace your kidney?
Stan shook his head and continued, “Why can’t they make Iowa the first primary? Those people have some common sense. They don’t call it ‘The Land of Lincoln’ for nothing.”
I couldn’t keep my mouth shut on that one. Like an idiot who wakes up in the middle of surgery and starts telling the doctor he’s doing it all wrong, I said, “No one calls it ‘The Land of Lincoln.’ That’s Illinois.”
It was so quiet you could hear a tool drop. A torque wrench hitting a concrete floor, to be exact. Stan’s hands were deep in the guts of my car’s engine. No good could come from this.
“No, it’s Ohio. It’s right there in the Declaration of Independence. Watch some educational television for once in your life, would ya? Should you really be voting if you don’t know the first thing about your own country? It seems to me they should make you pass a test or something.
“Turn the key,” he finally said. “Let’s see if this works.”
It did. The frustrating tick, tick, tick was replaced with the familiar vroom of the engine catching.
He did a great job. Thank goodness he doesn’t watch car repair shows on television all day long.
(Contact Jim Mullen at firstname.lastname@example.org.)