How I Know I’m Not in New York (Part 10)

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“The Remus Vote”

It’s been quite a while, but my Romanian friend, Remus, and I finally found time to sit down for a beer to talk about the election.

“Remus! Remus! Over here!”

“Hey there, my friend. Sorry I’m late. But parking was a nightmare. And then I got all caught up in some stupid protest out there.”

“That’s ok. How are you?”

“I’m ok, I guess. Just really annoyed.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, that protest really ticked me off. I mean, why do they have to make things even worse out there? Traffic’s bad enough as it is.”

“I’m not sure where you mean.”

“Near Universitatii. There’s a big crowd out there complaining about lines in Paris or London or someplace. I was in Paris once, there were always long lines. Everywhere.  What’s new about that?”

“Oh, that protest. Remus, no, that was about…”

“Whatever. Besides, you know the French don’t like us very much. You think marching and blocking traffic in Bucharest is going to help that?”

“Actually, though, it had to do with voting. You know, the election last week.”

“Yeah, well, maybe.”

“No. Not maybe. It did. It was because all the Romanians who live there weren’t allowed to vote.”

“Yeah, but these people here blocking traffic live in Bucharest. Why are they protesting?”


“Anyway. Who cares? I don’t know why they’re allowed to vote anyway.”

“What do you mean?”

“The people in France. They don’t even live here. They shouldn’t be voting anyway.”

“But they’re citizens. They’re Romanian citizens.”

“Not really. Not anymore.”

“Yes, they are.”

“Really? No, they’re not. Do they have to put up with all the problems here? Do they even pay taxes?”

“I don’t know.”

“I don’t know, either, but probably not. Anyway, asking them to vote is like me calling my sister in Iasi and asking her what she wants me to make for dinner. What difference does it make? She doesn’t live with me.”

“Remus, it’s not like that. And when have you ever made dinner?”

“Very funny.”

“By the way, who are you going to vote for?”

“For what?”

“For what? Remus, really? For president.

“Oh, I don’t know. Probably Ponta.”

“Seriously? Why?”

“He’s young.”


“He’s young. Like me. It’s good to get some fresh blood in there.”

“That’s the reason? You know, he’s hardly fresh.”

“Besides, he’s the kind of guy who I could see partying with. You know, chugging beer from a funnel and doing Jager Bombs until he throws up. Things like that. That would be fun. I like him.”

“Are you kidding?”

“Why? Can’t you just see him back in college, being the kid who does whatever he’s told by all the cool kids he’s trying to please?”

“And that’s why you’d vote for him?”

“Why not? I feel sorry for him, chugging the bottle of cheap whiskey because the older kids told him to, ending up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning. You have to feel something for the guy.”

“You know, there’s more to being president than being young and the kind of guy you want to get drunk with.”

“I know that. You think I haven’t been paying attention. I have, you know. I do know what’s going on.”

“Like what?”

“Well, Ponta has a plan to cut all our taxes. And he’s going to raise all the pensions. He’s going to fix all the schools. Build all our highways. And restore our confidence and put us back on top in Europe.”

“Remus, when was Romania ever on top in Europe?”

“I don’t know, but I think we should be. Besides, I heard he was handing out like free statues of Christ or something, free church candles, free watches, probably free beer too. That’s pretty nice.”


“You know, speaking of those church candles, I didn’t think the other guy was even allowed to be president.”

“Why not?”

“I heard he’s German.”


“No? His name’s Klaus. That’s not German? C’mon.”

“Well, his heritage is German.”

“Yeah, well this isn’t Berlin, you know.”

“Remus, this is 2014. I mean, you have to be a bit more open minded.”


“What do you mean, why?”

“I mean, what difference does it make if I’m open-minded? Anyway, you see the way the guy stoops? And his smile? He reminds me of what my father-in-law will probably look like. That is, when I get married. Ugh. The creepy kind you do everything you can to avoid at parties.”

“Well, that seems pretty small-minded.”

“Maybe. But you didn’t have 50 years of communism.”

“What? Remus, you’re smarter than that. You have to support the guy with the best ideas.”

“Look, that Klaus guy comes from Transylvania. Ok, so they have nice villages up there, but are they German? Are they Hungarian? Are they Romanian? What?”

“Remus, really, you have to get over that. This guy’s as Romanian as you are. Maybe he’s got a different heritage, that’s all. You know, Americans are not as liberal as you think and even we elected a black guy for crying out loud. With a Kenyan name. You think….?”

“No, wait. What? Now who’s being small-minded? You, my friend, are so American. You think THIS is the US? I think I’ve heard you even elect Jews over there. And women. And women Jews. No, my friend, this is not the US.”

“But things can change.”

“Maybe. But it’s only been 20 years.”

“Twenty-five actually.”


“So how much time do you need?”

“I don’t know. But who a guy is still matters to us. I mean, Klaus isn’t even religious. How can you elect a guy who isn’t religious?”

“He’s Lutheran.”

“Yeah, that’s what I mean.”


‘And all the priests are against him. That must mean something. And open your eyes. We don’t even have any of their crosses in Parliament.”

“Remus, he’s Lutheran!!! That’s a kind of Christian also, you know.”

“Not to my grandmother, it’s not.”


“Look, I can see you don’t like Ponta. I don’t know why, but he’s not that bad. I think he must know what he’s doing, and if he doesn’t, and if he has a few questions, well, he’s got all those old-timers around him to ask.”

“That’s certainly true.”

“And things aren’t so bad.”

“They’re not?”

“No. They’re not great, but it could be worse. So I don’t know, I think we should keep Ponta where he is.”

“He’s prime minister.”


“This election is for president.”

“Yeah? I knew that. Same thing. He’s in charge of the government.”

“Remus, last time I saw you, you were complaining and complaining about how awful things are. You said this country needed to change. Really change.”

“Of course, this place needs to change. I hate living here.”


“It needs to change a lot.”


“Yeah, but, well, maybe not right now. I mean, it’s only been 20 years. I’m not sure we should hurry into it.”

“I don’t really think that’s considered hurrying.”

“Maybe not for you. You didn’t have 50 years of communism.”

“Yes, I know.”

“What if things get worse? Besides, my grandmother tells me things weren’t so bad when these guys were in power before.”

“Really? Like when?”

“Like before I was born. In the 60s or 70s, and when I was a little kid. I don’t remember much…”

“Well, from what I hear, it was pretty bad.”

“Bad? I don’t know. I’m told traffic was easy. No homeless people begging. Gypsies stayed to themselves. No annoying protests. No stray dogs. Not so much bad news on TV with everyone arguing and arguing. And by the way, fewer commercials.”

“I’m sure that’s true. But this is called freedom.”

“Yeah, I know. But I’m not so sure it wasn’t also better for families. Healthier. I’m told in the old days, families would sit around, especially on Saturday afternoons and evenings, and just be together. I even remember taking showers on Saturday with my dad while everyone else waited. And that’s what I mean. There was more quality time together.”

“Remus, I don’t think that’s really the right picture.”

“No? Do you know anyone from then who went broke owing money to banks? Or businesses that went bankrupt, shut down, and left everyone without a job? It was so much simpler. People were happy.”

“Really, Remus. Are you serious?”

“Why not? My grandmother says….”

“Remus, wait. You need to start thinking for yourself. Nevermind what your grandmother says.”

“That’s easy for you to say, you didn’t have 50 years of communism. Besides, what I’m saying is I think it’s good to go back to more traditional values.”

“Like cronyism, people spying on each other, political prisons, paranoia and corruption?”

“Pfffft. Everyone’s corrupt.”

“Maybe. But this guy seems surrounded by corruption. Has he picked a minister in the past two years who hasn’t been corrupt? His mentor was in prison. His father-in-law is being investigated. He lied on his CV. He lied about his thesis. Really, could you find someone surrounded more by corruption and then make him president?”

“I know. I know. But look, they’re all corrupt. You can’t vote for anyone here who isn’t corrupt. If I cared about that, I wouldn’t vote at all.”

“So you’re going to vote?”

“Probably not.”


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