But I must say, the grandest one of all is this place you 21st century people call “Washington, D.C.” (I’m so glad you named it after my friend George Washington). I recently had the occasion to visit this fine city, and was very impressed by all the sparkling white buildings and monuments, the beautiful gardens and fountains…and the sheer number of buildings needed to house the federal government. Compared to the 1700’s, it is gargantuan!
While I was there, I took the opportunity to play tourist, and visited a few of the most famous attractions, like the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument (which I did not even try to climb—these 308-year legs were not up to the job), the Capitol Building, and of course, the White House. You modern folks certainly have a magnificent mansion for your president these days!
We have a situation
While at the White House, I chanced to overhear a conversation in the hallway that was a little odd. Now, mind you, during my own days in politics in the 1700s, I was quite familiar with governmental bumbling, diplomatic double-dealing, secret missions, and the like. In fact, in my own household, there were at least two or three people spying on me and reporting back to their superiors on my plans and whereabouts. So what I overheard in the White House corridor was not that unusual, in comparison.
Men in black
Here’s what I observed: There was a man dressed all in black, wearing dark sunglasses, with some kind of an electric device in one ear – and a cell phone held up to the other ear. It appeared as if he were having two conversations at once. How he was able to do that, I cannot imagine.
At the same time, there was some kind of a ruckus going on outside, on the lawn of the White House. There were a few uniformed officers scurrying around, as well as a police dog, at one point. This one gentleman in black did notice the commotion, but quickly went back to his conversations.
I should tell you, my three-century-old hearing isn’t as bad as one might think. So, hidden as I was, just around the corner from the man in black, I managed to hear a great deal of the conversations.
Ben eavesdrops on a Secret Service agent
It all started with a tinny voice coming out of the electric device in the man’s ear. “Agent 3-9, come in please. Possible intruder approaching from the perimeter fence. Investigate and report back, asap.”
The man in black replied, “This is Agent 3-9. Affirmative.”
At this point, the man in black turned back to his other conversation on the cell phone.
“Listen, Manny, I know it’s not easy to get bookings these days, especially for the specialized act that I have. But you haven’t gotten me a gig in weeks!”
“Agent 3-9, intruder now heading towards bushes. Stand by for more instructions.”
“Hey, Manny, how many other Secret Service Birthday Balloon cop acts do you manage? None, right? So what’s your problem? I’m one-of-a-kind. That ought to count for something.”
“Agent 3-9, intruder now spotted clearing the bushes and heading toward the building. Be prepared to assist other agents.”
“Yeah, yeah. Affirmative.”
Needs more gigs
“Now, Manny, y’know I have a wife and kids to support. And it ain’t cheap living in Washington. I make good money as a Secret Service agent, but it’s not enough. I gotta get more birthday gigs or my new Georgetown condo goes down the toilet.”
“Agent 3-9, intruder could be armed and dangerous. Connect with Agents 4-9 and K-9 immediately, and apprehend the suspect.”
“I’m on it. Affirmative.” (The man in black, I should note, does not even budge from his outpost; he continues talking on his cell phone with this person called “Manny.”)
“What do you mean, cop acts aren’t in demand? Even with the balloon animals that I do? C’mon, Manny! And I give all the kids genuine Secret Service badges as souvenirs!”
“Agent 3-9, what is your location? Agents 4-9 and K-9 are in urgent need of back-up.”
“Sure, sure. On my way. Affirmative.”
“Manny, I just don’t buy what you’re telling me. Secret Service is not a turnoff for birthday parties. It’s as popular as ever! We got class, we got mystery, we got excitement!”
“Agent 3-9, please report. Intruder has now penetrated building defenses. URGENT, AGENT 9-9 DOWN!! Intruder has overpowered her and is continuing toward the East Room!”
At this point, the man in black removed the device from his ear and continued talking on the cell phone.
Cream of the crop?
“What do you mean, our reputation has hit rock bottom! Those surveys don’t mean a thing! Hey, Manny, we’re the cream of the crop in law enforcement! Really!”
Suddenly, a suspicious-looking individual ran down the hallway, past the man in black, past me in my hiding place…. followed by a large German shepherd, several other men in black, and two or three uniformed officers. It was quite a laughable sight, I must confess…especially when they began ducking in and out of all the doorways on the hall.
“Okay, Manny, if you’re going to be that way, find yourself another Secret Service Balloon Bozo! I don’t need you… I’m gonna go independent, represent myself. You’ll see… I’m gonna go far. Just watch me – I’ll be playin’ the Kennedy Center!”
And with that, I inconspicuously emerged from my hiding place, made sure there were no other men in black running down the corridor, and rejoined my tour group.
Washington, D.C. is a rather strange place, don’t you think?
Your humble servant,