I generally refer to our current President as "Bush II" or "Bush the Younger." My Admin Law professor insists on referring to him as "Bush 43," since he's apparently the 43rd President. So today, when she started talking about something and explicitly told us not to write it down, I thought it would be fun to see if I could think of all 43 presidents, and began the task of writing them in the margin of my notebook. I shot out Bush II through McKinley in reverse chronological order rather quickly, then started writing the names of all the 19th Century Presidents I could think of in no particular order, before stopping briefly with Jefferson, Adams, and Washington. I added Taylor, J.Q. Adams, and Hayes, bringing my total up to 34.
I explained to the woman next to me that I was trying to remember all the Presidents, and she told me I was a nerd. Since she's generally smarter than I am I started asking her for help. I couldn't remember if Hamilton, Madison, and Monroe were presidents. She and the guy next to her helped me reach No, Yes, and Yes. I then began thinking of the section of San Francisco where all the streets are named after inconsequential U.S. Presidents, allowing me to add Fillmore and Van Buren to the list. I racked my brain for presidential trivia. Who was the only unmarried President? Buchanan! I tried to remember conversations with Steve, and realized that I had overlooked Chester Arthur despite the whole Lowenthal facial hair fiasco at UCLA.
Soon I was up to 41, and I began wondering if Cleveland counted as one or two. Sure, he was just one guy, but he had two non-consecutive terms, so technically he was the nth and the (n + 2)th President. Assuming I was right about Cleveland, I left campus with a single President missing from my list. And I was sad. The list, as it stood as of 3:10 p.m., was:
Only during the ride home did I realize who I had forgotten, an omission rendered all the more intolerable by the central role that cartoons have always played in my life. And so as I cruised down the 880 I shouted in exasperated triumph: