Tuesday, December 1, 2054

Chapter Twenty-Seven

The following morning, I was out of the shower, shaved and dressed by 5:30. Per our last strategy session, I was wearing my usual casual outfit, the only concession to fashion being that I had added a sport coat, no tie.

Addie and Darrell had looked into a variety of options for a venue for my announcement. After rejecting any number of these, (a Daughters of the American Revolution tea gathering and a meeting of Hispanics in Law Enforcement among them), we'd agreed on a breakfast meeting of the Eastern Virginia Small Businessman's Association. Addie had "arranged" for the scheduled speaker to call in his regrets, and then made sure their events committee knew I was available. They'd jumped at the idea and invited me to take his place.

All of this worked to our advantage, as there was nothing about me speaking to a group of business owners that would tip our hat about the content of my speech.

Addie had then gone on to invite some local television and radio affiliates to cover the event. Only one station planned to send a camera, but that was fine with us. The object was to get the speech covered at all. Once the announcement was made, every news outlet known to mankind was going to be beating down that affiliate's door for copies of the tape. At least that's how we planned it.

The breakfast was scheduled to begin at 7:30 and I was to speak at 8:00 a.m. As with most breakfasts like this, eating wasn't the real point. From the moment I arrived at 7:00, most of the people were moving from one table to another networking. Although a few people had parked themselves with heaping plates from the buffet, most were in constant motion, sniffing out deals. I was seated on the dais and I made polite conversation with the Association's President, a youngish man who I could imagine ringing doorbells, tossing a cup of dirt on the entry carpet, and then demonstrating the wonderful vacuum cleaner he just happened to have with him. He was actually the owner of some wildly successful electronics retail outlets, but that didn't change what he seemed like.

As 8:00 rolled around, he rose and moved to the lectern. After getting their attention, he asked everyone to take their seats. A minute or so later, he spoke into the microphone. "Thank you all for being here this morning. Before we get to our featured speaker, I'd like to thank the events committee for arranging this fine breakfast we're enjoying. I'd also like to remind you all that two weeks from tomorrow, we'll be staging a seminar on Marketing in the Internet Age. There's still space available, and you can sign up in the lobby on your way out. Also, you should be aware even though our website was linking to some questionable content, we've deleted those links and our webmaster assures me he's locked out the hackers who were playing games there."

"Now as you know, our scheduled speaker was unable to attend this morning and we have the great good fortune that Mr. Paul Harkness was available to fill in at the last minute. In addition to being the third generation at the helm of Harkness Automotive, a stalwart of our local business community, he also rose to national prominence recently and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It's my honor and very great pleasure to introduce, Mr. Paul Harkness."

I rose as he gestured to me, approached the lectern and shook his hand. The applause was no more than polite but it was sincere. The attendees, having glad-handed each other for the previous half-hour or so, had achieved their purpose in being here. My speech was a formality, and if anyone had any hopes or expectations, it was that I'd keep it brief so they could all get to their respective offices.

I didn't have to wait long for the applause to die down.

"Good morning", I said, "thank you for inviting me. I know you're all expecting me to speak about my company, or possibly about being awarded the Medal of Freedom. I won't be speaking on either of those subjects today. I hope you won't find my chosen topic too dull."

I looked to the back of the room where some waiters were standing quietly against the back wall. Set up on a small riser in the back was the lone camera that had been sent. But numbers didn't matter at this point. As long as there was one tape, it'd get seen. That one affiliate was going to be awfully popular awfully soon. The audience was paying attention, not exactly disinterested, but by no means engaged. That would change pretty quickly.

I took a deep breath and then stepped off the cliff. "I'm here, this morning to announce my candidacy for the office of President of the United States of America."

The room erupted in surprised gasps. "I figured that'd wake 'em up", I thought.

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