Friday, May 17, 2002

I'm all Wet

Dear Political Diary,

About the time I was first elected to the School Board, Chester Park asked me to sit in the dunk tank at their Carnival. I agreed providing they filled the tank up with warm water. I was particularly good at harassing the kids to lengthen the line of dunkers. Maybe that explains why I keep  writing the Reader column. I must enjoy being a target.  Come to think of it that's what Jesse Ventura did in the WWF. At least I raised a lot of money for Chester Park.

I spent a couple of nights at Chester this week. First I went over Tuesday to its 75th Anniversary party and had some birthday cake. Someone had gone through all the old files and posted pictures on poster boards through all the hallways. The schools first teachers, in the late Twenties, all looked like flappers. It must have been an avantegard school.

I arrived at the school half an hour early and found two police patrol cars by the entrance with their lights flashing. A bunch of Woodland kids had been fighting in the intersection after school let out. It was another indication of Woodland's overcrowding.

I returned to Chester Wednesday afternoon for an "education summit." It was an echo of the Mayor's Economic Summit and had been called by the leaders of the five post-secondary schools in the Twin Ports. UMD's Provost Kathrine Martin seemed to have been the chief instigator. About twenty-five of us showed up. I got a spirited discussion started when I suggested that some sort of effort be made to catalogue what the schools could do to train workers for new businesses looking to grow or expand in the area. 

Thursday and Friday were to be a reprise of my water work in the Chester Park dunk tank. Wednesday afternoon Mary Ann Harala accosted me at the PTA's end of the year appreciation luncheon and asked me if I would sit in the Congdon dunk tank at their carnival on Friday night. Of course, I agreed although I was a little worried that Congdon parents might be mad at me for not having completed the snow sculpture I'd auctioned off at an earlier carnival. (Lousy Winter!) Then on Thursday I got a call from Grant school's Kathy Levine. She asked if I could sit in their carnival's dunk tank that night. At first I thought I was home safe thinking that both carnivals were on Friday. No such luck.

Deb Sauter, Grant's principal, was delighted to greet me. Until I had agreed to be the 

"special guest" in the dunk tank she had been resisting all efforts to be the special dunkee. I met my reading partner Tony in the Grant gym and we did the cake walk a couple of times. Tony was intent on winning a six pack of soft drinks. Neither of us won, however. He had gotten the word early on that I would be in the dunk tank and was looking forward to dunking me.

The water was warm but a stiff cool breeze from the Lake blasted away at the people in the tank. A drenched Mrs. Sifuentes was perched above the water  when I arrived. She was armed with a squirt gun and gamely retaliated at the ball throwers. She was no match for the tennis balls.

The kids didn't realize I was the special guest because none of them knew who I was.  I made sure that I'd stay warm by taunting the kids about their poor throwing arms. They lined up to dunk to old grump. Tony managed to dunk me right away and was very pleased with himself. As I crawled out like a  wet rag Tony handed me a can of coke. He'd managed to win the cake walk while I was in the tank.

On Friday I showed up at the Congdon School half an hour early and wandered around to look at the carnival booths. The contrast with Grant School in a much poorer part of town was remarkable. Congdon is our only elementary school with its own endowment fund. The carnival booths were spiffy and there was no end of parents arond to gussy up the gym. The favors and prizes were the glitziest imaginable. Fortunately, the kids at both schools seemed to have had just as much fun.

Although I had been signed up to go first (I had wanted to get home to watch my regular Friday line up of news shows) Congdon Park's adopted police officer had to go on duty early so I let him get things started. The kids all knew him and a line of eager kids quickly formed. It was even  cooler this evening and the officer was in no great hurry to leave the tepid water for the cold perch above it.

I finally got my turn and just like before mouthed off to build up a crowd. Except for some kids from my church I was as anonymous to the Congon kids as I had been to the Grant kids. School Board member! What's that? However, the Congon parents knew who I was. A few of them got in line with their kids to dunk me. I really enjoyed razzing the parents. Jim and Carol from my church got in line and when Carol missed all six of her chances to dunk me I was merciless. She just edged over to the target and pushed it with her hand. As I emerged from the tub I told her that she had shaken my faith. She looked back and smiled guiltily. At least her husband Jim played fair and stood back twice as far as the kids. His sportsmanship didn't prove to be that much of a disadvantage to him and he managed to dunk me once too.

I tried to make it clear to the onlookers from the start that we school board members all walk on water. I'm afraid I only managed to prove in the end that we're all wet.