A new gasket should fix that American primary system

“Who do you think will win Iowa?” I asked Stan as he replaced the starter on my 8-year-old beater. Stan watches all those cable TV shows that talk about politics, 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 had just flunked English as a second language.

“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 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 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 said, “I think the voters in Des Moines might have a say in it.” He stared at me like I just flubbed an easy question about common brand names on “Jeopardy.”

“What has the capital of Ohio got to do with it?”

Capital of Ohio? This is the worst case of dysiowa I’ve 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? Is he replacing the starter or changing the head gasket? Would 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, “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, 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.

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at jim_mullen@myway.com

Copyright 2007, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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