From the pages of

Snooping the Convention Hall
by Martin Lewis
(First published August 14, 2000)

Grazed around the Staples Convention Center all day, looking for the meaning of life. Or at least the meaning of the convention. Nearly found it.

Set is beautifully designed. Red, white and... gray. (Gray is apparently the new white. "It looks so much better on TV you know...") Centerpiece is a giant web monitor. Very dot-com.

Anchors and correspondents such as Wolf Blitzer and Ann Compton pace the floor, getting the measure of the playing field. They'll be calling the plays so they like to know the turf. Tipper Gore's entourage check out the seats in the Tennessee delegation. They are calm... measured. Joe Lieberman's team arrives. They are young, chipper... almost giddy with the unexpected sensation of Being There (pun intended).

The Tennessee and Connecticut groups are positioned next to each other in the front row. I look around to see where the other states are. Then I spot New York. Unbelievable -- they are stuck all the way back. Behind South Dakota and New Mexico! There'll be ructions over this...

In front of each delegation is a stand with an Apple computer. A Microsoft-free zone here. Gates blew it big time with the Dems. These are all sage i-Macs with glowing Apple logos. I saunter over to the Tennessee one nonchalantly. No one's looking. It says "Click to vote" -- I can't resist. I click the mouse. Up comes a request for password. I recall Al Gore's gag that he's so boring that his Secret Service code name is Al Gore. I try "Al Gore" Nothing. I type in "Tipper" Nothing. Now I'm hooked. I type in "Risky Scheme," "I will fight for you" and finally "No controlling legal authority." I still can't get access. But if the Tennessee computer doesn't work during the convention, it may be my fault.

I sweet-talk the Secret Service into letting me get up to the podium. (The English accent comes in handy sometimes!) I gaze out at the view the President and all the speakers will see. Impressive. Sweeping. Like a Cinerama wraparound spectacle. And yet all the speakers will really focus on are those cameras straight ahead. "I accept your nomination..." "I would like to thank the Academy...." "You like me... you really like me...."

Finally I discover a table in the hall on which the set designer has laid out all his oversize blueprints. Fascinating to see the grids, sketches and detailed specifications on paper, then gaze up and see them all come to larger-than-life reality.

On the blueprint detailing the podium, I spot some large writing. The architect has written an important note to the structural engineer. I copy it down word for word.

"Front position needs to be very very VERY solidly built." (The last "very" is underlined three times.) This bothers me. I know nothing about construction -- but shouldn't the architect's instructions involve some form of algebra or geometry?

I decide that I will steer clear of the podium during the convention. Just in case.

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