Friday, July 1, 2011

The Groom of the Speaker’s Stool

Even I, holder of an advanced degree in scatology, have learned something new about shit and the role it has played in shaping our civilization. In response to something I wrote a few weeks back about the many people who have cleaned up my personal shit, an exceedingly astute reader of Smart Ass Cripple (which is redundant to say) sent me information about the Groom of the Stool.

I checked it out and learned that English monarchs once bestowed that title upon the trusted bathroom servant who cleaned up their shit. Whenever his majesty felt moved, the Groom of the Stool prepared and emptied the chamber pot and even helped the king wipe his nether region with a scrap of flannel. The groom was considered to be a most prestigious servant position. He was sort of the chief of staff of servants. Only the most discreet, trustworthy courtier was given this honor. One can see why. The Groom of the Stool was privy to exclusive gossip about the king that could be rich fodder for blackmail or satire—such as the musical pitch of his highness’s farts or his splatter patterns.

The day after learning about the Groom of the Stool, I found myself outside the country club where John Boehner is a member. It’s called Wetherington. It’s a gray castle one the hill in the gated community of the same name where Boehner lives just north of Cincinnati. But there was no one in the guard's booth and the gates were wide open so we drove right in. What’s the point of living in a gated community if you can’t even keep out dregs like me?

I was with a bunch of cripple activists protesting Boehner’s passionate desire to cut $770 billion from Medicaid. The day before, we leafleted outside his church as his fellow parishioners emerged, until someone called the cops. On this day we took pictures of ourselves with protest signs, the country club looming in the background. Overstuffed white people whizzed by on golf carts. Someone again called the cops. We left.

Boehner will probably get his way and yank the rug out from under the poorest poor people. But as I watched Wetherington slowly implode away in the rearview, I was sustained by the hope that if we all apply enough pressure and take to the streets from coast to coast, maybe we can convince Boehner to give at least one poor person a break by creating a new position on his staff: Groom of the Speaker’s Stool. It’s true that such a post would be symbolic busywork in this age of flush toilets. But the name of the game today is job creation, isn’t it? In Boehner’s brave new world, the perfect job for a poor person is cleaning up the shit of the country clubbers.

Of course, being a good capitalist, the Speaker may well conclude that he shouldn’t pay someone to groom his stool when there are plenty who can be compelled do it for free. So maybe some welfare person will have to dab his netherland with a powder puff until it smells like petunias, in exchange for Social Security and food stamps.

Or better yet, how about prisoner work release? In the Speaker’s privy chamber, guards armed with taser guns unshackle a man in an orange jumpsuit. The speaker rises from his throne, turns and bends forward. The guard hands the prisoner a goblet filled with a delicate mixture of rose water infused with aloe vera and dove tears. The prisoner takes a mouthful and sloshes it. The prisoner drops to his knees and spits. The human bidet!

Having a prestigious job like Groom of the Speaker’s Stool will give some poor person a real sense of self-worth. Or at least it will give them a real sense of what they’re worth to Boehner.