Why I Want to Be Pope
The Holy Father has a private jet, a cadre of valets, and a pipeline to God. Wouldn’t you want to be him?
By Mary Beth Crain
As the official Vatican Watchdog for SoMA, it’s been my job to comment, from time to time, on the Pope’s doings. This job has given me lots of time to think about what it’s like to be Pope, versus what it’s like to be me. It’s not much of a contest. I’d rather be the Pope. Any day.
Think about it. I’m widowed and live alone. Even though God did send three angels down from heaven to look after me—my beloved Chihuahua and two incredible cats—I have to do just about everything for myself. I’ve got health problems and no health insurance. I live by my pen and my wits; the freelance life doesn’t carry any kind of security with it, financial or otherwise. I clean my house, cook my meals, do my shopping, pay my bills, take out my garbage. I’m not complaining, mind you—just emphasizing the fact that I live like most other human beings. Except the Pope.
Every time I watch Benedict XVI on TV, I’m—may God forgive me—jealous. He doesn’t have to lift a finger to do anything for himself. Attendants hover around him, anticipating his every need. There’s always somebody on hand to place the proper hat on his head, give him his scepter, his holy reading, his glasses, and whatever else the situation requires. He has someone to dress him in the morning, help him into his jammies at night, and change him during the day, into the appropriate albs of the hour. He doesn’t travel in a Honda CRV like me, with two years of payments left on it. He’s got his very own Pope-Mobile, and God forbid he should ever have to drive it himself. He doesn’t have to register his vehicle. He doesn’t have to worry, ever in his lifetime, about parking tickets, speeding tickets, any kind of ticket. Can you imagine the Pope standing in line at the DMV? Or appearing in court to plead his case for doing 90 on the Viale Giulio Cesare? What are they going to do? Suspend his license? Jack up his insurance rates? Send him to traffic school?
The Pope doesn’t have to do the wash, or clean the house, or pump his own gas, or go to the store, or the bank, or the tax man. He doesn’t have to go to some crummy job he hates just to get a paycheck that doesn’t even cover the bills. He doesn’t have to take his snotty, screaming kids to their soccer game, or his puking dog to the vet. He wants a pizza? Signed, sealed and delivered, without his ever having to pick up the phone. He wants to watch “Dancing With the Stars?” On what size TV, Your Holiness? High Def, of course? Tivo included? Coming right up, Oh, you won’t need a remote, Holy Father. Somebody will be there to press it for you.
He wants his hair done? He doesn’t even have to get into the Pope-Mobile. They’ll come to the Vatican to do it for him. He’d like schnitzle and spaetzle and a good Riesling and a Linzertorte like his mom used to make? Your wish is our command! He’s got an itch? He rings for somebody to scratch it.
About the only thing Benedict might have to do like the rest of us is go to the doctor or the hospital, and do you think they make him wait around? “Yes, Mr. Pope, sign in here and take a seat. The doctor will be with you shortly—that is, if he ever comes back from his three martini lunch…” Or, “I know this is the Emergency Room, sir, but frankly, your problem doesn’t look like that big of an emergency. And there are 600 people ahead of you. Why don’t you just take a seat on the floor over there and we’ll call you when we’ve got a spare nurse, which should be sometime before tomorrow afternoon. What’s that you say? You’re the Supreme Pontiff? Right. And I’m Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile. Now get over there and wait until your name is called!”
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the Pope doesn’t have plenty to do. His life certainly isn’t his own; from the moment his holy eyelids flutter open to the moment he finally hits the hay, his day is a whirlwind of duties. He’s got it worse than Queen Elizabeth because even though she’s forced to shake billions of hands and travel billions of miles, she doesn’t have to do all that praying in between. No, I don’t envy the Pope his grueling global schedule, and having to say mass in every church he stops at, and all those audiences he has to hold, when we all know he is, at heart, just a shy, studious little fellow who’d rather be home in cozy, quiet Marktl am Inn, poring over St. Augustine or playing Bach.
But face it—if you’ve got to fly in today’s obnoxious world, wouldn’t you rather do it papal style? Private jets, a bigger entourage than Barak Obama commands, aides fluttering around him like a gaggle of mother hens, helping him on and off, and in and out…No security checks for Il Papa! The day Benedict has to take off his official ring and drop it in that plastic bowl, and remove his hot red Prada shoes and watch them sail down the checkpoint belt, and stand there with his arms raised as some idiot security guard waves him down with a wand because the gold embroidery in his robes set off the alarm…Well, the Second Coming will come first, that’s all I have to say.
No, the Pope may not be able to laze around in bed on a Saturday morning, or go out for a stroll in a T-shirt and jeans, or just be a regular anonymous guy. But I’d say all those perks that go with the job make up for it. There is one papal duty, though, that really comes under the classification of the World’s Dirtiest Jobs: having to spend an afternoon with George W. Bush. Ugh. Maybe being just me isn’t so bad after all.
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Senior editor Mary Beth Crain's last piece for SoMA was High School Reunion Blues.
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