THE NEATLY DRESSED young man came to my door the Thursday after Election Day. He held a clipboard in one hand and wore an American flag pin in his lapel.
"You'll come with me, please. The bus is waiting outside."
"What are you talking about?"
"The bus to take all remaining liberal democrats to reorientation centers. According to our information, you not only supported Jimmy Carter, you gave money to Birch Bayh, have a pro-ERA bumper sticker on your car and were overheard at a cocktail party calling the Kemp-Roth tax cut bill 'a crock.' Also, you once belonged to Common Cause, subscribed to The New Republic and have never bought a ticket to a John Wayne movie."
"I saw George C. Scott twice in 'Patton.'"
"I'm sorry, four times is the minimum for exemption."
"Exemption from what?"
"From the Pre-inaugural Republican Indoctrination for Democratic Elitists."
"You better believe it, stranger."
"I still don't understand."
"Look, I don't have all day. The Republicans have established several such centers to help you liberal Democrats see the right. You're scheduled to go to rural Indiana for -- let me check my list -- oh my, you're scheduled for six weeks. You must be a "flaming' or 'knee-jerk' liberal. Just be glad you don't live in Georgetown. They're getting 10 weeks; at least, the ones who haven't already sought asylum in Massachusetts are."
"What happens at these centers?"
"You'll attend a series of seminars by aides of the president-elect and such conservatives as Howard Jarvis, Milton Friedman and James J. Kilpatrick. Your meals will include Gallo wines and nonunion grapes and lettuce. You'll recite a daily nondenominational prayer and read the political biographies of Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms and Nancy Reagan. Anyone caught eating Brie, wearing Nikes or driving a Volvo will face further reorientation."
"Will we be reading Kissinger's memoirs?"
"Jokes like that could make yours a lengthy stay."
"You know, these centers sound a lot like those set up in Communist China in the rural areas to reeducate those from the cities. I thought you were opposed to Red China."
"Never let it be said that conservative Republicans can't go with the flow."
"How about my wife? Does she have to go?"
"That was a close call. After all, she uses her maiden name at work. But all Notre Dame graduates are being spared, so she can stay."
"Listen, isn't there some way I can avoid being sent to the center? After all, aren't you against busing? Sorry -- no jokes. Hey, my father-in-law is a banker. Can you put me in his custody?"
"Where does he live?
"A small town in Ohio."
"That sounds good."
"He even told me over the phone that he was pleased with the outcome of the election."
"I'll have to check with headquarters, but I think we can work something out. We conservative Republicans are not without compassion, despite what the liberal press reports."
"Thank you. But before you leave, can you tell me what's happened to my parents? I haven't heard from them since election night."
"That would be the mother who thought the Vietnam war was an unjust cause and the father who worked for Teddy Kennedy. Don't expect to hear from them before the first of the year, especially since they live in Plains."
"Not Plains. White Plains!"
"Oh. Never mind!"