Dear Big Daddy,
I’ve been a lobbyist for years, but I’ve never been treated as rudely as I was by a member recently. I was waiting to speak to her when she ducked out a side door, went downstairs and helped narrowly defeat my bill. My friends are telling me to get over it, but I can’t.
–Got the Runaround
Dear translucent epidermis,
So mainly I’m wondering which version of “Cry Me a River” to play for you. Lots of folks are partial to the Diana Krall recording. But I’m an old-fashioned guy, so it’s gotta be the 1955 Julie London classic.
Now I’m hardly claiming lobbyists don’t regularly get the kind of treatment that would leave the average person weeping on the floor like a Migden staffer. All I’m saying is that’s what you signed up for. If you’re successful at all, you probably get some combination of a generous salary and doing something you care about. Most people out there get neither.
What do you have to put up with in exchange? Long hours, lard nibblets at a three-grand-a-head fundraiser, an occasional ethics course that’s probably about as effective as driving school–and getting poked, prodded, yelled at and ignored by members. You get most of that working in the building, and likely for less money.
I wasn’t a side-door man myself. I relished confrontation too much to do anything but march right past the lobbyist in my way and tell them exactly what I was doing. Legislative offices come with lots of extra doors, many of them locked most of the time. You may think these doors are there so offices can be reconfigured easily. That’s true, but they’re also so members can vote you down without looking you in the eye.
Now I give electeds some pretty rough treatment in this column–sometimes far rougher than they deserve. But abuse in print is part of what they signed up for. Being a legislator is an incredibly demanding job–especially on their time. For all you know, prior to her misdirection play, the member was on a conference call with her spouse and/or kids to remind them she’s still alive.
So don’t act like you were stood up by a date. You’re a salesman, and any good salesman knows they fail most of the time. Heck, you’ve got it easier than most. You get to develop relationships and help write legislation. At least you’re not cold-calling Peoria.
But in a way it was like a failed date–and the member did you a favor. If a dame claws her way out the bathroom window while you’re ordering dinner for two, you don’t need to agonize over whether to call her the next day. She was never going to vote your way anyway, and she sent you a not-so-subtle hint to move on to greener pastures.