Have gun, will travel to kids' career day without trepidation

March 31, 1994|By SUSAN REIMER

In Virginia last week, a man was arrested for impersonating a deputy U.S. marshal during talks he gave at his children's school.

He showed up at Hylton High School in Dale City, Va., with a 9mm handgun and a bulletproof vest, a cap and a jacket with "U.S. MARSHAL" patches on them, and he wowed his children's classmates.

Whether he ever was a U.S. deputy marshal is in doubt. But school officials accused him of being a fraud, and now this father faces a possible sentence of five years in prison for carrying a gun on school property.

Poor guy. I know just how he feels.

It is pretty tough when your kids are unimpressed -- no, embarrassed -- by what you do to earn money to pay for all their stuff.

Remember the scene in the movie "City Slickers"? Billy Crystal, who buys commercials for a radio station ("I sell air time. I sell air. What is that?" he asks), visits his son's school for Career Day. Nine-year-old Danny introduces his father as a submarine commander.

During my previous incarnation as a sportswriter, my kids were proud of me on Career Day. My son thought it was cool that his mom covered sports, and all the kids loved my stuff. You know, my press passes, NFL press guides, a portable phone, a portable computer, a tape recorder. I taught them how to score a baseball game and told them I discovered David Robinson, who once played basketball for the Naval Academy but is now just the hottest thing in the NBA. I was sensational.

Now that I am a columnist, I am not even going to Career Day. What would I say to impress them? "Ummm. They give me this whole, you know, uhhh, column of space in the paper, and I, uhh, you know, write stuff I think about. Any questions?"

"National humiliation," is how my 10-year-old son, who often appears in this space, describes my job.

My friend Reid Cherner, who edits sports for USA Today, and I'm sure does a darn fine job, shares my feelings. He knows that he is a professional liability to his kids. He found that out when he went to their preschool to give a talk titled, "Your friend, the First Amendment."

He followed a guy with a hawk.

When he complained to the teacher about the poor scheduling, she told him: "Oh, don't worry. The children are very excited today. As soon as you're done, we are going to hear from a policeman."

There's that gun thing again.

"My daughter, Hannah, asked me what I was doing there," Reid says. "I told her I came to talk to her class about my job. She's been to my office 50 times, but she says to me, 'Oh, you're going to talk to us about being a dentist?' "

The first thing Reid did after his talk was complain to the school administration that live animals should not be allowed in the school. The second thing he did was make an appointment for Hannah with a dentist.

Reid and I are miserable showmen for our profession, but somebody should give these schoolkids a look at the world of newspapers. So I sent my husband, Gary, fresh from the Olympics, to talk to the kids' physical education classes about what he had seen and done in Norway. When I asked how it went, he said: "Oh. Fine." That was all.

Then the obligatory thank-you notes started to arrive from the children. They all said pretty much the same thing: "Dear Mr. Mihoces. Thank you for teaching us about the Olympics. We liked it when you danced. We hope you come back soon with your dancing."

"Dancing?" I asked. "You danced?"

He mumbled in reply.

"Excuse me, but you didn't even dance at our wedding and you are doing some kind of Olympic dance for schoolkids," I said, my voice rising now. "What dance?"

Turns out it was a dance Norwegians did to keep warm while watching Olympic events in the bitter cold. My children's father set the school abuzz with this Norwegian warm-up dancing. The P.E. teacher stopped me at the grocery store to tell me how she had entertained dinner guests with the story of his dancing. Great.

My son wasn't even embarrassed. Well, not too embarrassed. "Dear Dad," his thank-you note began. "Thank you for talking to us. My favorite part was, yes, the dance. I think you made some people learn a little about Norway. Try to keep it more to learning, not dancing."

I'll never be able to top my husband's Career Day act, I know. Not unless columnists start carrying guns.

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