PACKET RAT

The Rat flushes out the secret of electoral wins: Keep the voters awake

R. Fink

The Rat strives to be apolitical. Avoiding allegiance to any party has protected him from many a fray, helped him survive countless administrations with his career intact and precluded voting for any of the idiots he ends up working for.

The current presidential election has made it quite easy for the Rat to remain an equal-opportunity heckler.

'So, we've hit the bottom of the barrel with this generation already?' he sighed, preparing to hunker down in his political isolation chamber for the duration. But then the phone rang. It turned out to be one of his uncles.

The uncle, it seemed, is running for public office'albeit one a bit more low-profile than the presidency. Naturally, he wanted help getting his campaign Web site off the ground.

'Er, isn't it kind of late to start a campaign?' inquired the whiskered one, gazing in dismay at the calendar. It was nearly Halloween.

'Oh, not really,' his uncle replied. 'Given the voters' attention span, they're just beginning to think about the election. Besides, I already have good name recognition around here. I merely need a few people to associate my name with the office I'm running for, and I'm a shoo-in.'

'And what exactly is it you're running for?'

'Commissioner of wastewater and sewage management,' his uncle said proudly.

That title, mused the cyberrodent, would not be much of a problem for his uncle, Seward Rat III, affectionately known to the family as Uncle Stinky.

'I didn't realize that was an elected office.'

'That's my problem,' Uncle Stinky replied. 'People usually don't get very far down the ballot before they give up from boredom and pull the lever in the voting booth. The incumbent won the last election with five votes.'

'You mean, he won by five?'

'No, he got five votes. So my goal is to convince at least 10 people I know to stay awake in the booth long enough to mark their ballots for me. Given the looks of the top of the ticket, that's going to be a challenge.'

'Which party are you running with?' the Rat asked.

'All of them,' Uncle Stinky answered. 'Republican, Democrat, Reform, Green, Liberal, Conservative and Libertarian. I'm running unopposed. The incumbent, Barty Nose, died last week. But he's still on the Whig ticket, which they haven't bothered to change for a while. They've still got Fillmore on the ballot.'

Close rat race

The furry one shook his whiskers. 'So, you're campaigning against a dead man?'

'A dead man who still might win, given the electoral rules,' his uncle sighed. 'So I've gotta win on votes to prevent a runoff with myself after the general election'which might get no voter turnout at all. But I think I've got it covered with my campaign advertising. My slogan should help a lot.'

The Rat hesitated to ask but finally succumbed. 'What's your slogan?'

'Look down, hold nose, vote Stinky,' his uncle replied.

The Rat gritted his incisors and didn't unclench them until well after he had registered seward-stinky-rat-2000.org with a hosting service and uploaded his uncle's home page, complete with animated flushing toilets.

That night, he reflected on what his uncle had said and on the current field for the presidency. Mrs. Rat noticed a megalomaniacal gleam in his eye as she flung her body pillow into place.

'What evil scheme is going through your head now?' she sighed.

'Do you think America is ready for an anthropomorphic rodent in the White House?' he asked.

'I don't think you're constitutionally qualified, dear,' she replied, turning off the light. 'You are a vertebrate.'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.

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