French President Nicolas Sarkozy is apparently vacationing here. While such momentous events would normally have almost no effect on us, because celebrities are almost never seen sweating on a bike or cross-country skis unless being paid to do so, Sarkozy is a cyclist. We were informed a couple of weeks ago that elements of his entourage would need to do business with us.
Strangely, this information came not from a State Department official but from a local real estate agent. At first he didn't say which country this unnamed chief executive ran, so we figured it was probably some rinky-dink Joe-Bob's Republic of the Backwater Swamp in some unfashionable corner of one of your less-developed continents. But then the rumors heated up. It was a real, brand-name country. Maybe France.
The Secret Service contacted us. The detail was going to need bikes to ride herd on the President during his pedaling forays. That was rescinded when they decided they could cram their own bikes into the fleet of bulletproof Suburbans they were driving up from D.C. But that still left us with the needs of the visitors themselves.
All this took shape with surprisingly little supervision. Personally, I thought the powerful people involved would appreciate a little discretion. However, the town turned into a seething pit of gossip. The Visit became one of those worst-kept secrets, like the way every local near a Secret Government Base always knows all about it and uses it as a landmark when directing strangers around town.
"Go three miles down this road until you see the fence of the Secret Government Base. You can't miss it, it's ten feet high with razor wire on top. Go along that to the left until you see the guarded gate where the two guys sit in the bulletproof shack..."
I couldn't say whether we will actually see the French President. George W. Bush was supposed to use our restroom during the 2000 primary campaign, because upper management at the shop had close ties to the campaign, but they canceled it. I suspect they were afraid I would embarrass them because I did not share their views. See how you can change history, even if you're just an obscure grunt? George had to go pee somewhere else. Take that, George.
Not like it did any good. Now he just wipes his ass with the Constitution.
But I digress.
First and foremost, I'm here to help people get on bikes. When the day is done, I get on my own and I go home. I wouldn't recognize most famous people anyway. In my limited experience they only look vaguely like themselves when you see them out of context. If they want me to fawn and grovel, they'll have to tell me. I'm really bad at that shit, so give me a hint, okay?
The gossip reached such a crescendo on our own sales floor on Wednesday that I sent a spoof email to the shop saying that, due to massive breaches of security leading up to the visit, it had to be called off. Then I forgot to send a really ridiculous follow-up so The Management would realize it was a joke.
I spent most of Thursday on the shit list. I just managed to stop Steve from forwarding my spoof to the Secret Service. Probably they would just have chastised me for being an asshole, but I didn't want to take any chances. If I'm going to be sent to Gitmo, I want to go in the winter, when I'll appreciate a little getaway in the Caribbean.
The real estate agent who has been our contact dropped by to make sure everything was still on track. He told us a television news crew from Boston had already crashed the gate and been surrounded by Secret Service agents with automatic weapons. The camera crew had come busting down the driveway without a pause. When stopped, the person in charge said, "we just want to get some shots of the president, and the house."
Someone claiming to be a French journalist called the shop during the afternoon and started asking questions. They met no cooperation. Information flows freely among familiar friends, but stops cold when strangers with foreign accents call from unlisted numbers.
It looks like we're in for a crazy week or two. Or maybe it will turn out like every other celebrity presence in town and we'll never know the difference. John Lithgow was supposed to drop by when he did the commencement speech at Brewster a few years ago. Yeah, right. Still waiting...
Meanwhile, bikes still need fixing and I'm sitting here writing instead of going to work.