I became a Secret Service to have one of the most exciting and dangerous jobs in the world. Ever since I was a kid, I've dreamed of standing beside the president of the United States in my suit and aviator glasses, ever vigilant and ready at a moment's notice to kill or die to protect him. My courage and training would be all that stood in the way of a national tragedy; the fate of the free world would hinge on my actions alone.

Instead, I'm sitting around watching infomercials on the Jimmy Carter overnight shift. Jesus.

Look, I've got nothing against President Carter. How could I? I've only seen him awake once in the past year. He got up, and I escorted him to the kitchen where he had some coffee cake. I gave him the Braves score because he had turned in before the game ended. He asked me if the new garbage cans were keeping the raccoons out, and I told him they seemed to be holding up the few times I checked. Then he went back to bed. Not exactly exchanging fire with would-be assassins as I chase them across an abandoned aqueduct, now, am I?

There's just so much cool stuff I could be doing, you know? Sometimes as I'm conducting my nightly thermostat check, I visualize myself perched on a rooftop as the presidential motorcade passes by. I spot a man in a window across the street taking aim with a sniper rifle, but before he can fire, I get him in my scope, adjust for the wind, and take him out with a single lethal head shot.

See, I actually know how to do that. Seriously, I'm fully trained in counter-sniper tactics and lots of other impressive things. But what am I doing? Guarding a foreign dignitary during high-stakes peace talks? Disarming explosives set by crazed fundamentalists in the U.N. cafeteria?

Nope. I'm letting Jimmy Carter's cat in and out 50 times a night and heating up the leftover chicken cacciatore Rosalynn set out for me.

If I worked the day shift, I could tail President Carter on his morning bike ride at a close but unobtrusive distance. Maybe afterward I'd shadow him at church and make sure the diner was secure before he sat down to his grits and cheese. It sure as hell isn't pope detail, but there's always a chance that something could go down, that some lunatic could try to make a name for himself.

Oh, who am I kidding? Nobody's gunning for Jimmy Carter. I'm not saying he's universally beloved, but no one's going to jump out from behind the bushes, whip out a pistol, and scream, "This is for signing SALT II!" No one's out for blood because Habitat for Humanity replaced a home destroyed by a mudslide. You look back and wonder if there's any reason at all for someone to hold a grudge against this man. And even if there were, the person holding it would be pretty goddamned old by now.

Actually, there was one moment in 2006, the year Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid came out, when I thought someone in the Israeli government might be ticked off enough to send over a couple of Mossad agents to take the old man out: commando badasses who'd probably show up at night, armed to the teeth. Maybe there'd be a firefight, bullets flying as I ushered President Carter and Rosalynn into a secret exit. I'd get hit in the legs and chest, and I'd yell to Carter, "Mr. President, get yourself to safety now! I'll hang back and hold them off! Go, go, GO!"

Yup. That might be a nice change of pace from making sure the windows are closed when it rains and doing my 500th word jumble.

Instead, looks like I'll just keep wasting away on the off chance that some old kook furious over President Carter returning the Panama Canal to Panama decides, 33 years later, to limp down to Georgia and pay him a visit at 2 a.m. Yes, sir. A real In The Line Of Fire situation there.

Shit. I should give my buddy a call and see if that Mary Cheney morning shift is still available.