The new governor of New York, David Paterson, decided after taking office that he would go ahead and confess all of his sins. It was a pretty good list. Before it was over he had ’fessed up to everything except burying Jimmy Hoffa and kidnapping the Lindbergh baby.
The governor, who is also blind, could not see that the entire country was rolling its collective eyes in amusement.
I don’t know what it is about politicians and the world’s oldest profession, however, it brought to mind a story from my past and I thought it was high time I did a little ’fessing of my own.
Two reasons for this: First, my Mama is not around to read it. Secondly, all other parties are dead.
The summer I turned 15, the Georgia General Assembly was called into special session to cut the state budget.
My dad worked at Atlanta City Hall and I went to work with him one day to hang out at the State Capitol. The first confession is that a 15-year-old boy who wants to hang out at the capitol is a honest-to-God nerd.
I plead guilty.
I convinced officials of the House and Senate that I was a reporter. I still have trouble with that one. It’s been 33 years and I’m still not sure if I’m a reporter. The jury is still out on that one.
Being a reporter in those days meant you had unfettered access to the floor of the House and Senate. You could stroll in like you knew what you were doing. Confession number three: I didn’t know what I was doing.
But I kept coming back and I gained confidence. I even recorded some interviews for the radio station back home.
One day, I encountered a state lawmaker who looked like he had been sent over from central casting: white hair, seersucker suit, thick drawl and a stub of a cigar clinched in his teeth.
“Son, he said, “how’d ya’ like to do me a favuh?”
I turned around and no one was behind me. This powerful man was talking to me, the boy wannabe reporter.
“Why, yes sir,” I said.
“Several of us need to work on the budget tonight and we’ve got some secretaries who need to be picked up over on Howell Mill Road and brought to the Marriott hotel. Could you do that for me? You can use my automobile.”
I had to tell him I was just 15 and in fact still had the paper temporary learner’s permit.
He called over somebody and in 10 minutes I had a new temporary driver’s license and was suddenly a year older.
At that moment, I felt the way my great-great grandfather, Green William Blackwood, must have felt when he volunteered for Georgia in the War of Northern Aggression.
I thought I was helping solve our state’s fiscal crisis. I was too naive to understand I was helping solve some solon’s physical crisis.
With my week’s worth of driving experience, I drove that lawmaker’s big Cadillac across town and picked up a car load of painted ladies. I did notice that second-shift secretaries seemed to wear a bit more makeup and perfume than the morning girls.
I was ever so proud of myself. It was two or three years later when I realized what had really happened.
Having confessed, I feel much better now.
Please stop rolling your eyes.
Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays.