Thoughts about Presidents’ Day, this past Monday:

We like to say, “The USA is a country where any little boy or girl can grow up to be president.”  This is a bit deceptive of course.  It is like saying that anyone can win the $18 billion lottery.  The truth is, when it comes to getting elected president, the electorate still has a long and fluid list of citizens it considers ineligible. People of color are usually on the list.  And women.  And geriatric specimens.  But as I say, the list is fluid.  And history shows that we will occasionally break the rule-of-thumb and surprise everybody.  But enough critique.  Let’s get back to the happy thought that any child born here might grow up and live in the White House. 

 When you are a kid and thinking about what you want to do when you grow up, you always start with the perks of any given job.  When I was in the second grade, my dad (who was a pastor) got a fruit basket for Christmas from one of his churches.  I was so impressed with that perk that I decided right then and there to become a pastor myself. And that wasn’t the only job that beckoned me with its perks.  Watching the cheering crowds of Wrigley field tempted me to become a first-baseman for the Chicago Cubs.  And watching the garbage truck roll by our house in Naperville set me to dreaming:  if I went into that profession, I would have first dibs on all sorts of valuables.  And my first trip to the zoo set me to thinking about zoo keeping as a profession... 

And I also thought about becoming The President.  My grandparents set me off on that when they gave me a little booklet, Presidents of the United States, 40 pages of presidential facts and trivia.  (We were only on President #35 at the time.)  

Now that I am going to retire, again, this summer, I’m thinking about pursuing one of those childhood dreams in my free time.  

The Cubs might ask me to play first-base, as they are facing a potentially really bad year.  But it is still unlikely they will give a contract to a 67 year old geezer, especially if he has one bad eye that can’t see the ball coming his way.  As for collecting garbage, our retirement house has very little storage space, so I don’t know where I’d put my new treasures. Plus, I’m at a stage in life where getting rid of garbage is more satisfying than accumulating it.  And as for zoo keeping, Earl-the-Cat insists that I remain pet-monogamous, and he will not tolerate any other critters in the house.

So that leaves President of the United States.  But before throwing my hat in the ring, I decided to go on the internet and confirm its perks.  And I must say, they are quite compelling.  

The first perk is the White House itself.  It has six floors and 136 rooms.  Plus 35 bathrooms.  It is a good thing that I will be retired since I will obviously spend lots more time cleaning the toilets there.  (Oh, I forgot, there is a staff working for me if I am president.  I think congress takes turns coming over and cleaning the bathrooms.  I seem to recall that every previous president has made numerous scatological comments about that co-equal branch of government.)    

Anyway, congress may or may not be one of the perks of the presidency.  But for sure the bowling alley in the White House is a perk, and the 51 seat movie theater, and the tennis court, and the chocolate shop, and the rose garden, and the billiard room.

Then there are the transportation perks.  The best, I’m told, is Air Force One.  It beats the middle seat in row 33 where I usually get stuck.  The president also gets to fly over traffic jams in a helicopter.  And he gets to ride around town in “The Beast,” an armored limousine that gets five miles to the gallon.  I probably shouldn’t take The Beast to the Paris Climate accord meetings though.  Maybe there is a special presidential bicycle I could ride to that.  I’ll have to google it.

The annual salary of $400,000 isn’t bad.  Beats my social security check.  And having your own live-in doctor at the White House would really make me happy.  I’ve already been to the doctor 12 times this year, and I’d love skipping the waiting rooms ...and getting weighed each time ...and having to explain to five different people each time what’s wrong with me, which if I knew I wouldn’t have to keep going back to the doctor.  Plus, if I had to take The Beast to the doctor's office or emergency room, think how much gasoline we’d save if I had my own live in physician.

And the White House has its own chef. She'll make you anything you want. I imagine the hot coffee is waiting for you the moment you roll out of bed in the morning.

Another nice perk of being president is the Blair House right across the street.  The Blair House consists of four town houses where guests of the president can stay.  I suppose if the first lady kicks me out I can just stay there.  Also, if I have guests who snore too loud, or get up too early in the morning, I can just let them sleep in the Blair House instead of the Lincoln bedroom.  

But that isn’t all.  The president also has a get-away retreat center at Camp David.  It is equipped with a gym, a pool, and miles of hiking trails.  In fact, if I do get to be president and you want to call me, try Camp David first.  I’m likely to be there more than the White House.

In the meantime, I’ll stay content with riding around in my Outback, visiting national parks, cleaning the "less than 35" bathrooms at my Urbana house, making my own coffee, and reading about the trials and travails of those who are (or have been) president.  The president may indeed have some glittering perks, but I think I’m just fine with the quiet ones I have already.

Next week:  the favorite foods of each of our 46 presidents.