MAYOR: And that is how the city council works. Any questions, boys and girls?
LILAH: Yes, I was wondering if you have a cat?
MAYOR: Uh, actually I do. OK, you in the red shirt, do you have a question?
RUBY: I have a dog AND a cat.
MS. KATH: Only raise your hand if you have an actual QUESTION, second graders.
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PUBLIC-WORKS GUY: And we’ll use the same hydro temperature regulator that they have at the indoor skating rink. Now I can answer questions… Yes, the boy in the black?
MAX: I am in speed skating 2, but before that I was in 1 and then, in the winter before that, in figure skating. Actually, you know what? My little sister, Hazel, is in figure skating right now.
MS. KATH: Boys and girls, please only raise your hand to ask a question.
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CITY PLANNER: And so, in short: we have sidewalks, but cities like Shorewood do not. Any questions?
TORI: My Nana and Poppy have a farm, and one time…
MS. KATH: Tori, only questions, please.
TORI: OK… did you know that my Nana and Poppy have a farm? One time, something happened where I was going to go to the farm but then my mom and dad were late, and we didn’t go that time and then one time I was going to go, and at the farm there’s a dog.
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POLICE OFFICER: And this is the interview room. Questions?
BOY: Where’s your gun?
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POLICE OFFICER: And these are the detaining cells. Questions?
DIFFERENT BOY: Can we see your gun?
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POLICE OFFICER: And that’s the garage. Questions?
ANOTHER BOY: Do you have a gun?
POLICE OFFICER: I only have pepper spray and a Taser.
MATEO: Will you spray pepper spray in my eyes so I can see what it’s like?
POLICE OFFICER: No.
MAX: Could you at least Taser him?
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CITY COMMUNICATIONS: First, I put paper in the printer and then I turn on my computer. Then, I usually have coffee and a protein bar and check my email. I sit at my desk. What a concept! A few months back, after I got back from medical leave for reasons I’d rather not revisit right now, the “powers that be” wanted to give me a standing desk like the IT guys use. “Appreciate it, but no thanks,” I said. I used to work retail and I swore to myself that I would never work at a place where I have to stand for eight hours in row EVER AGAIN. What is the point of a “desk job” if you are standing all day like the burnout at Taco Bell? I did not go into debt getting a bachelor’s degree from Mankato State in communications to be forced to stand all darn day. Folks, it’s true: stay in school and you can make your own choices about standing and sitting, or at least you used to be able to, but that is a talk not for young ears. All I have to say is that when Mayor Petersen got elected a whole bunch of new quote-unquote “Healthy City” initiatives were put into place, against the good advice of myself and other people who have been working for the city a whole heck of a lot longer than a 30-year-old ad executive from Best Buy who was looking for something new to do and thought running a city would be “a blast.” But, hush hush! Everything is going JUST SWELL at City Hall, at least that’s what I would have you believe, because that’s what I get paid to do. Let’s just say it used to be more than a job, but now…well again, not for your young ears! After I get settled at my desk, my friend Susan stops by and checks in with me about the day and we make lunch plans. We usually eat at Jimmy John’s sandwiches across the street—they’re fast, not greasy, and a good value. Susan has diabetes, and I have low blood sugar, so it’s really important for us to make conscious and informed choices about what to eat and when. Boys and girls, I hope you never have to know the pain of hypoglycemia. And I hope you always take just a minute out of your day to think about others and that they maybe know what is “healthy” for themselves and that they don’t need a committee of self-righteous poopy pants to tell them where, what, and when to eat, and how to sit at their desk, and how many steps to take. Especially a committee made up of fine folks who go out to d-r-i-n-k every day after work. Real healthy, guys! Maybe look in a mirror. So, after knowing my lunch plans have been made, I think really hard about what I need to communicate on the behalf of the city—scratch that, what I am allowed to communicate. Hoo boy, there is a lot I could communicate and I think people would be pretty surprised! Perhaps “Golden Boy Petersen” isn’t all he’s cracked up to be. Instead, I am relegated to the following topics: the street-sweeping schedule, the special hours for Halloween tricks and treats, and to please remember to shovel your sidewalk that everyone said they wanted so much but now can’t be bothered to shovel. Again, I have to ask myself: I studied all night to get A’s in business comm for this? Then, I type the approved message up, print it off, and give it to the mayor’s administrative assistant. Then, after the paper is stamped by the mayor’s office by some unseen staff person and brought back to me, I file it in this cabinet here. I will show you the copier and the fax machine in the next room, if you promise not to touch anything. Any questions, boys and girls?
MS. KATH: Second graders, put your hands down.
Illustration by Allison Ross