"This is the year!" Herb exclaimed to his longtime buddy, Gordon, on the assembly line over in the plastics factory.
"So for what reason is this the year?" Gordon asked. "We've both passed at least 50 but without showing any favoritism to other years."
"This is the year I'm running for president," Herb declared.
"President? Of the United States? You will be just one more stranger in the crowd," Gordon warned. "You need name ID - your dog doesn't even know you. What makes you think you can run for president - no experience, no civic service, no political base?"
"That all may be true but I have something that none of the other candidates have - permission insurance. Every one of the others has baggage from the past that will destroy them. Everybody has done something.
"When my mother departed, the last words she said to me were "Son, be president."
"So your mother told you that when she died."
"Oh, she didn't die. She was running away with the vacuum salesman who promised she would not have to worry about cat hair on the carpet ever again," Herb explained. "It was the best offer Mom ever got so she took it."
"And how long have you been preparing for this momentous year?" Gordon asked.
"I guess I was about 11", he estimated.
"11 years old?" exclaimed Gordon.
"Yup, thereabouts, I guess. That's when I started keeping my permission pad."
"Permission pad?" questioned Gordon.
"Well, I figured that two things destroy politicians - sex and money. Haven't you noticed? You pat somebody in the wrong place 30 years ago and tomorrow you're the star on CNN, or you do a favor for a friend and he does one for you and you're in court for bribery.
"That crowd of aspiring candidates will be thinned out by something they did or said. Every one of them patted somebody somewhere."
"Didn't you ever pat somebody somewhere?" Gordon seemingly accused him of self-righteousness.
"Sure, but I had permission," Herb retorted, pulling a wad of papers from his back pocket. "Here is my ticket to the White house - my permission pad."
"And what's in your permission pad that will get you to the Oval Office?"
"Since I was 11, I have been getting permission slips for anything that would sidetrack my political campaign," Herb explained.
"For example, when I was 15 I had a crush on this blonde and in a tempting moment I asked her if I could kiss her and she said OK. See here, I have her signed permission."
"Unbelievable!" Gordon exclaimed.
"It wasn't always pleasant," Herb remembered. "Getting permission was embarrassing, especially when they turned you down. I had a wonderful girlfriend in college and I asked her to sign the permission pad to do a little fondling. She was a law student and challenged the word 'fondle' as too abstract to be meaningful in court so she wouldn't sign unless I broke it down to specifics. I was so upset that I dropped out of school and went logging in Wisconsin for a year."
Herb continued: "Then there was the case of the school play about a southern plantation. In the casting, everybody had a part except Duncan so he had to be the wicked field boss."
"What was wrong with that?"
"Well, the field boss was supposed to be white and Dunk was black so we got the white shoe polish. That show had a short run and I was glad that he signed my permission slip. His mom made him eat on the back porch for two months."
"Well, if you don't make presidency, you could get rich by copyrighting permission slips for sale to aspiring candidates," Gordon offered as his best assurance.
Lloyd Omdahl is a former lieutenant governor and professor at UND.