I am on the phone with Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. Randi, who is no relation to me, is known for her liberal politics and her formidable skills as a negotiator; a New York Times columnist recently suggested that she’s a tougher across-the-table adversary than Vladimir Putin. This is unfortunate, because as it happens, I am trying to talk her into something.

Me: We haven’t even started, and I’m already intimidated.    

Randi: Don’t be. This will go fine. What can I do for you?

Me: Counting Google hits, which is the internationally accepted measure of fame, I am only the second most famous Weingarten on Earth. This situation is distressing to me, because I am a typically neurotic writer with an eggshell-fragile ego that must constantly be propped up. I was wondering if I could persuade you to help me become more famous than you.

Randi: Of course, I totally would. I will start Googling you tonight, incessantly.  

(Illustration by Eric Shansby)

Me: That could take a long time. I was thinking a better way would be for you to retire and take up needlepoint. So you’d stop generating all those headlines.

Randi: Oh. 

Me: I hope that’s not asking too much.

Randi: No, it’s fine. Of course, the right wing will love that. They’ll be very happy when I disappear. It will be a major favor to conservatives.



Me: Did you know I once wrote that I am so liberal I should be tried for treason, and executed?

Randi: Yes. 

Me: Okay, you’re good. 

Randi: I love you dearly. And I don’t even know you. I am glad you are at least more famous than Reid Weingarten, the Washington lawyer.

Me: That poseur? We both crush him in Google hits! He’s got nothin’!

Randi: You know, this column alone will help you, by connecting us at the hip. It’ll have a cantilever effect. When it comes out, I will send it to my three friends and 5,000 adversaries, and the 5,000 will start banging you up the way they bang me up all the time. That’s the secret of fame. It’s 10-to-1 negative.   

Me: Not always.

Randi: How do you mean?

Me: I couldn’t help noticing that when you came out as a lesbian a few years ago, it really spiked your Google hits.

Randi: Totally.

Me: I think it might have actually put you over the top, vis a vis me. People reacted very supportively.  

Randi: I know! It’s cool to be a gay these days. Very trendy.  

Me: Maybe I should come out.    

Randi: Sure. I recommend it.  

Me: You didn’t even ask if I am gay.   

Randi: I wanted to respect your zone of privacy.

Me: I don’t have a zone of privacy! I’m famous.

Randi: The second most famous Weingarten on Earth, I hear.

Me: Arrgh. 

E-mail Gene at weingarten@washpost.com. Find chats and updates at washingtonpost.com/magazine.