This is how bad it's gotten.
If you are not a plugged-in lobbyist or generous campaign contributor, but would like to meet with your senator, you might get the cops called on you if you contact his office and ask when he might be in town.
Elise Lazar, who lives in Salt Lake County, called Sen. Orrin Hatch's Salt Lake City office March 25 to inquire if the senator would be in town over spring break and if he scheduled any town hall meetings.
The receptionist asked why she would want to know that. Lazar said she had concerns about certain issues that she would like to discuss with him and she had friends who might want to attend the meeting as well.
The staffer pushed her on what issues she wanted to discuss, but Lazar was reluctant to tell her because she thought that would diminish her chances of seeing Hatch.
Lazar wanted to express her opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which Democrats generally oppose and Republicans generally favor. She wanted to wait until she actually could meet Hatch so she wouldn't be blown off prematurely.
Finally, the staffer told Lazar the senator would be coming to town but had scheduled no town hall meetings and would be too busy to meet with her.
So that was that.
But the next day Lazar received a call on her cellphone from the Capitol Hill Police in Washington, D.C., telling her they had received a complaint about her from Hatch's office and that they felt she might be a suspicious person.
Lazar was aghast and let the cop know that. But he wanted to know why she would call Hatch's office asking when he would be in town.
Hatch spokeswoman Heather Barney says the staffer became concerned because Lazar was vague about the purpose of her call and kept pushing on the "comings and goings of Senator Hatch."
Barney said the staffer did not ask the police to contact Lazar; she just wanted to make note of her concerns. That may be true, but they just might have created a monster.
Lazar says that, since the incident, she has heard a strange clicking on her cellphone, and a couple of times there was a strange man's voice on the line just as the person she was calling answered the phone.
The joke's on who? • Here's hoping that everyone who read my April Fools' column Monday read clear to the bottom so they knew it wasn't really true, although several readers have told me they wished it were.
I say that because I have since been told a story by former Cedar City Mayor Gerald Sherratt that demonstrates how badly things can turn from the good intentions of an innocent joke.
He recalled an April Fools' column that ran in the Logan Herald Journal many years ago that said the board of trustees of Brigham Young University (The Council of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church) had made overtures to Daryl Chase, president of Utah State University, to see if he would be interested in replacing BYU President Ernest Wilkinson.
The article was fictitious and ran as an April Fools' Day joke, concluding with a one-line sentence that read "April Fool." But someone read the article and sent it on to Wilkinson, cutting off the April Fool line.
Wilkinson read the column and was incensed. He sent off a scathing letter to Chase, enclosing a key and explaining that it was the key to his office and when Chase was ready to replace him, he need only use the key. Chase, in turn, was irritated. He went over to the campus wood shop and had a large wooden key made, which he painted gold, placed in a box and sent to Wilkinson, explaining that it was the key to his office and asking Wilkinson to send it back to him by return mail.
Chase's point was that he regarded being president of USU a major step above being president of BYU, hence the size and color of the faux USU presidential office key.
Unfortunately, Wilkinson was so irritated with Chase over the incident that a few years later when BYU joined with Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico and the two Arizona universities to form a new athletic conference, he raised no objections to the exclusion of USU in the new conference.