- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 1, 2009

I just got back from my 30-year high school class reunion, which I thought was weird because I’m only 29 — give or take a decade or two.

I was curious to see who hadn’t aged well — and hoping that I wasn’t the one who filled that bill.

We all met at a family restaurant, where we dined and reminisced about our glory days.

I’m pretty good with names and faces, and some people I recognized immediately and others took a little time to register in my memory. But there was one guy I had no recollection of — Sam Bouchlas.

Everybody else said they remembered and knew Sam, but I did not recognize him and could not recall him in our class. I still don’t.

I suspect I am the target of some elaborate prank in which everyone else hired an actor to portray a fake former classmate named “Sam Bouchlas” whom they pretended to know in order to get me to doubt my memory. Either that, or I’m getting old.

I’m going with the elaborate prank scenario.

•••


This is one of those things that make you go “hmmm”: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has agreed to pay about $6,800 for family trips she had billed to the state.

An investigator looking into an ethics complaint examined more than 40 of her trips and found nine in which the personal benefits outweighed the state’s benefits.

The agreement between Mrs. Palin and the state says that nothing in it “constitutes an admission of wrongdoing, and none has been found.”

Both sides said state ethics rules on travel by the governor’s family are lacking, and the investigator described them as “dizzying.”

Hmmm.

If Alaska’s ethics laws can’t make a distinction between a state function and a family function, does that mean that Alaskans are one, big, happy family? Maybe, but I doubt it.

Mrs. Palin has returned the wardrobe the Republican National Committee bought for her, and now she’s reimbursing the state for family travel. What’s next — her IHOP bills?

You know the difference between a mother and a pit bull? Nobody asks a pit bull for reimbursement. Ever.

•••


A ferry boat captain once told me: There is no good ending to a tequila story. So true.

•••


There’s a report about how the economic downturn has prompted consumers to repair items such as cars and electronics instead of buying new ones.

Consumers are looking to save a buck or two by extending their use of big-ticket items, spawning repair shops across the country and on the Internet.

I envy people who know how to fix things. If I knew how to fix stuff, I would never again buy anything new. Except maybe food. Maybe.

You remember how the old Maytag repairman commercials used to emphasize how lonely he was because the company’s products were so good? Have you noticed that now Maytag has him fixing other things, like voting machines, or showing how durable its machines are? Call me cynical, but I’ll bet he doesn’t know how to repair a washing machine. Probably can’t even read the manual.

•••


I was in West Palm Beach, Fla., last weekend, and all the weather announcers were talking about the “cold snap” the area was experiencing. The high temperature fell to 70 degrees.

I had flown in from Baltimore, where the temperature was a “balmy” 44 degrees, and these weather gurus were talking about South Florida’s temperatures as if they were the harbinger of a new ice age.

And you know what? It felt a little chilly.

•••


Did you see President Obama’s big speech last week? A South Carolina eighth-grader became emblematic of the economic stimulus package’s education provisions when he referred to her in his first address to Congress.

Ty’Sheoma Bethea, 14, sat by first lady Michelle Obama as the president spoke and read from a letter she had written to Congress urging lawmakers to fund education.

“We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself, and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina, but also the world,” Mr. Obama read. “We are not quitters.”

“We are not quitters.” It doesn’t have the ring of FDR’s “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” but it’s close.

It’s a little strange that the most positive, hopeful and inspiring words anyone has uttered about the current crisis have come from a 14-year-old girl in South Carolina. A lot of grown-ups could take lessons from her.

Education is one of those issues you can’t oppose and still hope to be elected. There is no anti-education platform in any party and no anti-education candidate in any race.

But whenever the economy falters, education usually takes the first hit. Guess we all have still got some learning to do. I know I do.

I’ve got to find out who Sam Bouchlas is.

You can reach Carleton Bryant at 202/636-3218 and cbryant@washingtontimes.com.

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