Through the roof: A regular American gives the prez a piece of his mind

By Maralyn Lois Polak

My roofer, “Roy,” was fulminating again, but it wasn’t really about hot tar and shingles.

I really like Roy. He’s one of my favorite “Regular Americans.” After graduating a top Main Line college, armed with something like a philosophy degree, he took over the family roofing business, and I sense it’s a choice that always chafed him.

The last time we spoke, to set up an appointment for some roof repairs so I can sell my house, he relates how his normally nice-as-pie wife’s enamored of Feng Shui – the ancient Chinese art of arranging your environment for ultimate health, wealth, success, and romance – and suddenly she’s ragging on him.

“Do you realize,” she accuses him, “you’re constantly flinging your dirty underwear into the Romance Corner? Think of Our Marriage!”

What’s a guy to do?

Mmmmm, well, I respond, that could ruin the mood for love.

And then his wife warns him, “You keep stacking our garbage cans against the back of the house in the Success Corner,” so no wonder his recent life’s like a hamster-Habitrail.

Roy confides all this to me in a torrent of disbelief.

Held hostage by Feng Shui! I commiserate. Sounds like a great episode in a new TV series they could call “No Joy for Roy”!

Well, guess what? When I reached him by phone the other day, Roy’s still ticked off majorly. But this time, it’s an issue where the stakes are considerably higher than Bad Feng Shui. In fact, you could say Roy – and America – are between Iraq and a hard place.

“What is it with Bush?” Roy the roofer demands. “He shouldn’t even be president.”

I catch my breath. From your mouth to God’s ear, I pray.

“And look at him!” Roy persists. “If you’re gonna have a war, have a war. Don’t keep announcing month after month what you’re gonna do, while you don’t do anything.”

Maybe DUH-Be-Ya’s been trying to build consensus, I offer meekly, playing Devil’s advocate.

“Look, just charter a plane and send in Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Sylvester Stallone, they’ll do the job and wipe out Saddam. Eliminate him. What’s the big deal?”

“Besides,” he goes on, “what is this ‘war’ about?”

Oil? I say, in a subdued peep.

“Why does he want war? To finish the job Daddy Bush started. That’s a big part of it,” he continues his tirade. “But it’s really because we don’t make widgets any more in this country. The USA imports them. We buy them from all those foreign countries. I can’t get blue-collar workers for my crews. And there are no widgets!”

Widgets?

“The U.S. doesn’t manufacture anything any more,” he replies. “And no workers. What do they teach kids in college lately? Fish farming is OK, I don’t mind that. But they can’t even fix a car engine when they graduate. And they don’t want to learn how to work with their hands, either. So the U.S. economy’s failing, everybody suffers, and Washington decides we need to declare war.”

Roy’s roiling, but I let him vent, figuring he’s ready to explode, like one of those noisy portable engines roofers always use to heat their tar.

Diesel ex machina.

“Can’t you just see Bruce, Arnold and Sly parachuting in there, doing their job, eliminating Saddam and getting out? Simple. Clean. Decisive.”

Hmmm. Interesting possibility. I admit I never thought of that. But things seem so easy in the movies. Just don’t let M. Night Shyamalan write the script, or else, at the last minute, crop-circle-toting space aliens might begin doodling huge hieroglyphics in the shifting desert sands.

Then a revolutionary thought occurs to Roy. “Hey, let President Bush send me to Iraq. I’ll talk Saddam out of it, whatever he’s up to. Underneath, we all want the same things.”

Do we?