Bigger than St. Peter's Basilica 

Ranger Rich

Here's an interesting note in The Catholic Encyclopedia: The western United States will have a severe winter this year — a prediction based on the thickness of the hair on Pope Benedict's back.

No, the actual interesting item is this: The official size of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome is 163,182 square feet. By way of comparison, Texas Gov. Rick Perry's teeth cover 24,987 square feet, Michele Bachmann has 1,116 square feet of hair, and GOP hopeful Herman Cain's chief of staff is creepy and stinks like an ashtray, which is not technically a measurement but just something we all think following that recent TV ad.

Footnote: In another ad set to air this weekend, Cain's campaign manager says he will cut taxes. Then the camera pulls back and we see the campaign manager urinating on the sidewalk and twirling a frightened kitten by its tail.

The point is that St. Peter's in Rome is only a bit more than half the size of the El Paso County Citizens Service Center, with a mind-boggling 300,000 square feet of floor space.

It has a gigantic gym and weightlifting room with about 40 dumbbells (that jumps to more than 100 every Monday when the bosses report to work).

Our highly esteemed county commissioners made this possible last year by buying part of the massive former Intel complex for $22 million. They did this during the worst economic slump since the Depression, which makes them even more brilliant and incredible than we previously thought.

Intel, which makes semiconductor chips, integrated circuits and other products none of us understand, left Colorado Springs a few years ago. The move came shortly after Intel realized it had built a plant in a village of evangelical Christian kooks and small-town political monkeys.

Personal note about my own work skills: I can type 75 words per minute, can accurately quote people unless I become distracted, and, until a recent groin strain, I was able to run down and catch young rabbits. (Check out the fantastic Christmas gifts at my website: littleluckykeychains.com.)

The sprawling building on Garden of the Gods Road now contains offices for the Department of Motor Vehicles, clerk and recorder, treasurer, assessor, Public Health Department and the Department of Human Services, in addition to the 9,000-square-foot Holy Room. In that sacred room is a shoe once worn by Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, a lock of Ronald Reagan's hair and perhaps the world's largest collection of "Guns Don't Kill People, People Kill People" bumper stickers and sleeveless T-shirts.

Sitting at the security desk is ex-County Commissioner Betty Beedy, who allows you in if you are, to use her actual words on a national TV talk show, a "normal, white American." (Footnote: I still can't believe Intel left.)

And thanks to our village's five-star public transportation system, people without their own vehicles can now obtain vital community services at the center by boarding seven buses, swimming for 30 minutes, riding a bike for an hour and then going on an invigorating 4-mile run.

One recent morning I wandered around the outside of the place, with majestic and snow-covered Pikes Peak looming west of the building. And I think I speak for all of us when I say, "This is just what government workers needed — an actual reason to stare out the window for eight hours and daydream."

In contrast to the splendor of the mountains and sky, the outside of the building is a dull shade of beige. Some commissioners wanted to make the building a more cheerful color, but colleague Peggy Littleton had used the last of the county's bright yellow paint to touch up her hair.

Before leaving I pressed my nose against the tinted glass, peering into the workout room, where the motor vehicle clerks have begun a personalized training regimen. It consists of one jumping jack every hour and, on alternating Tuesdays, part of a sit-up. Then they all go for coffee at the same time.


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