Magazine | October 18, 2010, Issue

Dear Former Congressperson

Dear Former Congressperson:

Welcome Back!

We’re all thrilled to have you back among us, and we hope your transition back “home” has been as trouble-free as possible.

By now, you’ve had a chance to reconnect with old friends and neighbors — things have changed since you went to Washington, huh? — and you’ve no doubt opened up a local checking account, and have been enjoying the sights and smells of a place that many of you never expected to come back to.

We know this is going to be a complicated transition for some of you. None of us, obviously, wants a repeat of poor former Senator Boxer’s explosion on election night. People can, as we all know now, literally explode if there’s enough baffled anger building up, along with an unbalanced temperament. And former Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank’s example should be a cautionary one: If you assault a voter, especially an elderly one, you will go to jail. Of course, no one knows what former congressman Fortney H. “Pete” Stark planned to do, but authorities question whether a man climbing into a clock tower, armed with several assault rifles and loaded up with ammunition, can truly be said to be contemplating suicide. Luckily for all of us, he was clearly confused by the operation of the firearms, fired a shot into the ceiling, alarmed a flock of birds, and, in the ensuing maelstrom, fell to his death.

Don’t let this happen to you, former congressperson!

To help guide you back to “earth,” as it were, we’ve compiled this helpful FAQ guide.

Q: Who collects and sorts my mail?

A: You do! And it’s marvelous fun! You go to either the mailbox or the post office — both of these activities give you a chance to talk to your neighbors (please see Appendix A: “Talking Nicely to Voters Even Though the Idiots Fired You”) and make idle chit-chat (please see Appendix B: “You’re Just Buying Groceries. It’s Not a Town Hall Meeting”). The little daily rituals like this will help you remember to take this all slowly, one day at a time.

Q: I went to a meeting of the local VFW and mentioned to them all that I’d like to march again in their parade. After all, we’ve all “served” our country. They served it in wartime, I served it in the halls of Congress. But when I offered, there was an uncomfortable silence. Later, I noticed, someone had scratched the side of my car. Should I insist?

#page#A: It’s probably best, in these hot-tempered times, to let this year pass without making any official appearances in your capacity as Former Congressperson, especially anywhere there are going to be a lot of old people with guns.

Q: My local bank used to offer me several amenities, as a courtesy. Likewise the local steakhouse. Yesterday, though, my bank informed me that I had an overdraft. And the steakhouse charged me for my meal. (I was halfway to my car when they came running after me. It was embarrassing.) Shouldn’t they still take care of this little piddly stuff?

A: This is a tricky issue. We’re sure that back when the bank was giving you great deals, and the steakhouse was giving you freebies, you thought it was because they liked you. And this is going to hurt, so brace yourself: They never liked you. What they liked was having influence with you, and knowing they’d get their calls returned. You know the old saying? If you want a friend back in your former district, get a dog.

Q: I walk around town, I get my dry cleaning, I have my hair cut — and yet no one seems to recognize me. I represented this district for almost 20 years! Should I say something? Should I wear a button? Shouldn’t I at least have preferred parking?

A: No, no, and an emphatic no. If people don’t recognize you, consider that a blessing. Many of your former colleagues have reported being recognized, and in no instance was this a good thing.

Q: Should I run again?

A: No.

Q: But I think the voters really just didn’t understand the complexities of the issues.

A: They understood them, trust us.

Q: But I think that when they see the radical, risky plans the far-right-wing extremists have in store, they’ll realize that they made a mistake. Heck, they may even demand a recall election, and they’ll probably all gather at my house, demanding that I run again!

A: Will you listen to yourself?

Q: This can’t be happening. I don’t know how to do anything else.

A: Sure you do! (See Appendix C: “Learning From Youth: The Challenges of Working in the Fast-Food Industry.”)

We hope this guide will be helpful to you as you transition back into normal life. And please remember to call us on the toll-free 800 number anytime with your questions and concerns. If something doesn’t make sense to you, or there’s something about a regular citizen’s life that you just can’t understand, call us. Do not ask your neighbors. Remember what happened to poor Harry Reid.

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