It was Marilyn Kimmerlingís idea to bring the Pants-on-Fire mobile to Tacoma. She never would have believed it possible, but she was sorry when the time came to see it go. Click here and here for links to pictures! ...
PEOPLEíS NUMB, SAD FACES JUST CAME ALIVE
By Marilyn Kimmerling
United for Peace of Pierce County
August 27, 2004
As the magic date approached, (Aug 15) I was getting more and more excited. Those of us who would be driving in Tacoma had all been in touch with each other and decided to have a potluck/training at my house to greet "W" together. An amazing group: young people, middle-aged , old and older, able-bodied, disabled and all united by a sense of humor and a desire to partake in a little street theater to "shake-and-wake" the good folks of Tacoma. The oldest driver, Delores, is 69 years old and a member of the Red Hat Society, as is Nina; Gail was an AFL-CIO member; Dylan is an environmentalist; Barbara is an attorney. So we were all at my house waiting for Dylan . . . and waiting . . . Finally, Dylan called and he'd been stopped on the way down with W from Seattle. In Federal Way some cop had pulled him over and complained that the POF was "distracting." Couldn't give him a ticket because it wasnít illegal. Dylan was great! Each time the cop mentioned another distracting feature, Dylan said "so . . . is that illegal?"
And since it wasn't, the cop had to keep trying to find something else! Since W was staying at my house and I was coordinating who was picking him up to drive, who was dropping off keys etc., I took a glorious week off work AND I got the maiden voyage in Tacoma. He arrived in not the best shape. He was missing his daytime flags (I painted him new ones ëcause he had 2 sets of night flags) and was definitely sagging -- the connection from trailer to car was SO LOW it just scraped the road. Even a TINY bump was harrowing. That night, with Ted and Bourtai from United for Peace of Pierce County, we took off, and went prowling low-income apartments -- making a spectacle of ourselves to entice folks to come out, check us out and register to vote. It was awfully quiet in Tacoma that night and we really weren't getting any registrations done. Then we decided to cruise the waterfront. I had completely forgotten the Ruston Tunnel. Got on the road, traffic behind, no turn-arounds, and realized the tunnel might be too low! Oh no ! I might take W's head off his first night in Tackytown! But no, he cleared by three inches. ONLY, I think, BECAUSE he was sagging. I know Ted and Bourtai were thinking they were riding with a lunatic!
Contrary to what other folks have experienced, most people in Tacoma got it right away and most were VERY positive. One guy came up and said he was a Republican but loved the POF and thought the campaigns needed more creativity. One poor drunk Republican, however, ran out of the bar cheering us and trotting along us about a block and a half before his lightbulb went on! It was definitely cartoon material.
So many people wanted to share in my shifts with George that I had to do sign-up lists, but everybody who asked got a chance. Thanks to Sallie, Mary, Steve, Kristi, Marty, Tom, Michele, Ted and Bourtai, Robert and Katherine. Hope I didn't leave anyone out. And it turned out I got to drive it extra, due to other driver's work schedules. Got a message from a woman who said: "If this isn't the right number you're gonna think I'm crazy, but someone gave me your number when I saw you riding around today. Can me and my friend have a ride? How much does it cost?" Needless to say she and her friend got to ride. Took it over to the Assessor's office to register voters, also local shopping centers and cruised neighborhoods, DSHS, got a great pic of W's head reflected in the Marine Recruiting office window; did Bob's Java Jive and then cruised the newest Tacoma landmark -- the U.S. Homeland Security Gulag -- at about 11 p.m.. Very spooky, but it turned out alright. That's a whole 'nother story, though and perhaps I'll send it, too.
So the POF did the town. Barbara took him to all the posh and beautiful places, Delores and Nina took him on a cultural tour of galleries and the Glass Museum, and I just took him every where I thought I could register voters. Don't have a clue where Dylan took him, and he's hiking in the Olympic Wilderness right now. Gail took him to a bunch of Union events. Did pretty well registering voters after I got more of the hang of where to take him.
Our newspaper wouldn't have anything to do with it. I had called two weeks ahead of time, and talked to a guy named Hunter George (figures) -- sent him the press release he asked for and then: NOTHING . . . I called the morning we were taking him to DSHS and told the paper specifically that we would be across the street from them, registering voters at 10:00 a.m. . . . NOTHING. So I cruised the TNT parking lot REALLY SLOWLY and a photographer came out and took pictures, but nothing came of it.
Friday afternoon I took W in to get the suspension fixed so he'd be ready for the next trip. Turned out that where I took him, Bucky's, the owner wasn't registered to vote! Said there was no point and blah blah blah. I really feel sorry for the guy. . . . for 3 1/2 hours he worked on the POF putting in a new booster spring, and I worked on him, explaining why his dissatisfaction was exactly WHY he needed to vote. I think we were both very patient with each other. I left him with a check, a thank you for his good work and a voter registration form.
So then W was ready to roll for the next person, Gail, who was also gonna drive him down to Olympia. I never thought I'd say it, but I really was sad to see W go! Almost everywhere we went you could see people's numb, sad faces just come alive when they saw the PANTS-ON-FIRE MOBILE. They'd start grinning and waving and honking and throwing the peace sign. It felt like for one week I got to be THE ice cream man of Tacoma.
It was SO worth it!