Clearing the throat

Oh, I’m so sorry, I thought this was the door to the men’s room.

Or some excuse like that. The sign fell off. I didn’t mean to pop up, uninvited, and invade your morning reading. I meant to knock. I meant to clear my throat. But columnists don’t do that, even if they could. And if I had you wouldn’t have noticed, anyway, because you obviously were as mesmerized as I was about this newly renovated opinion page, lost in thought, admiring the big fonts.

So I’ll just make myself comfortable here, and not apologize for walking in like this with big ideas about how our lives should proceed in light of reports that George W. Bush walked into the second presidential debate with a listening device stuck inside one ear. Why wasn’t it visible? I don’t know. Sound technicians say it’s easy to do that when there’s substantial space between the ears.

Speaking of space, yes, this one here is mine. I was told by my editor that I could put anything here. I haven’t moved all my stuff yet, although my friends say I shouldn’t cram it too much, that I should throw away a lot of the old stuff. They say they were getting kind of tired, you know? These friends. They just don’t understand columnists. We’d been recycling before environmentalists caught on. We beat deadlines by beating dead horses.

Like George W. Bush says “It’s hard work… It’s hard work…” when he doesn’t know what to say. We do that to fill space.

It’s hard work, when you can write about anything. You think of all that blank space to fill, and that blankness fills your mind. The trick is to pretend you can write about anything. My father always said: “Treat a man like an expert, and he’ll act like one.” Imagine how he must feel about my being a columnist. All that irony, lost in transmission from father to son.

I’m sorry: did I say “anything”? No, not anything. I can’t write about local politics. I’m unable to do that due to some congenital condition, something in-born. It’s no big deal, really. It just means I’ll have to dig dirt elsewhere for material.

How long have you been here? No, tell me what it’s like in here. It feels so important. I’m beginning to wonder if all that stuff I’m about to bring here won’t somehow mess up the scenery. I’m going to write about Boy Abunda, after all, and his 100 questions.

I’m going to contemplate on the reasons why they put the payphones near the toilets at Ayala Center and wonder whether they’re somehow trying to create “call centers”, because you go there to make a call or to answer the call of nature. I’m going to compliment that mall for that splendid idea of putting the electric meters of their tenants there, too, to provide entertainment to the men while they wait forever for their wives or girlfriends.

You don’t know? Which way, did you say, was the men’s room?

SunStar Cebu
14 October 2004

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