Wednesday, April 13, 2005 | The whole thing started with a remark by a red-haired fifth-grader named Hope during the suggestion period in Mrs. Mark Downe’s class at La Jolla City Day School.

Hope is a contemporary throwback of the disgusting character we used to call the teacher’s pet. Hers is the first hand up every morning when Mrs. Downe asks for discussion. Mrs. Downe has come to be so dependent on Hope’s information that she has, in fact, cancelled her newspaper subscription.

The odd thing about Hope is that she escapes homework merely to watch a few minutes of local news each evening on TV. She doesn’t know it, but it’s her scheme for one-upping her classmates. She’s hooked on her own little coterie of local newsreaders, and never mind the network crowd. She can hardly wait for class next morning to share the kinky stuff she has heard. She blends her presentations with romance and hatred from TV serials she’s not supposed to see or hear because, her parents believe, she’s insulated from jazzy thoughts while not doing homework in her room. Instead, she’s hatching her morning report straight from her own fantasy, which is like, vivid.

The screaming fights she described as going on in adult San Diego made her classmates realize how trivial it had been recently when some boys in her class ambushed the young new teacher on the playground after school and blindfolded her and left her tied to the steel fence.

What Hope was describing was stuff her own Mom, as she told the class, would have spanked her for in a minute. Her report went like this:

There was this town mayor who had been a very proper judge and had set everything off by beaming into TV cameras every day and going on Roger Hedgecock to say how well everything had gone at City Hall since he’d become mayor. But everybody else in town knew he was a pussyfoot who thought things were going great because he didn’t understand the problems and none of his department heads wanted to bother him because if he’d understood, they’d have been dead meat.

Hope described a district attorney who was a woman and kept blowing up and telling off this city attorney, who was a man who talked a lot and didn’t much care for her anyhow, or for anybody else who didn’t realize just how really corrupt everything was in town and how he was the only one who could fix everything.

So they started calling each other names over the phone, at first, and then out in public at City Hall and then finally on TV until everybody got excited and remembered what jerks they had been for voting for these people. They started calling citizen press conferences to say crooks were running San Diego. They said labor unions had swung millionaire pension deals. They said it didn’t matter much because the pension system was broke anyhow. They spoke darkly of what deals were being made out of sight and under the counter and the news reporters didn’t even know and weren’t reporting them.

By that time the City Hall people had grown to be so much funnier on TV than anything else that they went on every talk show and ratings went up and they began wondering if TV might sign them on for the entire season, which would be more fun than public office anyhow, and would insure them year-round income.

And you won’t believe this, but then some bright young city councilmen started doing as many bad things as the old ones had done, except that the young ones were less experienced and got caught and have to go on trial next month. They think somebody framed them, but other people think they did those things, even though they say they were only doing what everybody else at City Hall was doing, which I don’t understand because if those things are illegal, why would everybody be doing them?

My Mom and Dad keep saying it’s disgraceful that potholes have taken over the streets of San Diego, but they don’t seem to care that people are cheating and stealing except to say there’s no tax money left to fix anything. There’s also talk about some kind of scandal at the pension fund that has run out of money, which I don’t understand, and apparently neither do the grown-ups because they are busy trying to figure out if the bad people took it all or where in the world it could have gone.

Some of us were asking Mrs. Downes in civics class today if the schools were going to run out of money too so we can all go to the beach. She said she wasn’t sure, but the teachers’ union seemed to have a long list of worries on its mind and she planned to get around to reading the last teachers’ union bulletin that had come to her house if she could just put her hands on it.

Pretty soon it’s going to be beach weather again and it would be really cool if we didn’t have to go to school at all.

I just heard my Dad on the phone laughing at something about America’s Finest City, and it sounded like he was talking about San Diego, though I don’t quite understand how that could be from what I hear. But maybe he’s right, because everybody in my class says it’s going to be a great summer at the beach.

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