Finally, a use for politicians

They can get you out of the house.

Last February, Clay Johnson, 26, took a trip from Atlanta to the Dominican Republic to visit his girlfriend, Merrill, who was studying linguistics at a university there. He carried an engagement ring in his pocket, but when he arrived, he said, Merrill was cold and distant, and he never gave it to her. Before he left, Merrill told him that she didn't love him anymore.

He returned to his apartment in Atlanta, where he worked as a freelance technology consultant. His place was also serving as a storage space for Merrill's possessions, in boxes, and as a temporary home for her two cats. He was allergic to the cats. He stripped to his underwear, lay on the floor in a fetal position and remained there for days, occasionally sipping from an old carton of orange juice. ''I was completely obliterated,'' he says. ''I didn't know something like that could actually cause physical pain.''

Johnson's friends kept calling, trying to think of something that would get him out of the house. Finally they hit on one: Howard Dean.

Howard Dean: The Rebound Candidate.

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