Wednesday, April 25, 2012

George and Me--and Ann Marie

            I spent my entire professional life among Ivy League adolescents in transition to young adulthood, and I know a thing or two about the mores of today’s fast-paced, hard-driving, no nonsense young professional class.  When they communicate, they communicate.  Thus, when the message at the very top of my e-pile yesterday morning addressed me briskly with the solid, no-frills, naked monosyllable of my Christian name, I sat up and took notice.

            I am of an older generation.  I also happen to have a Christian name that denotes (a) a toilet, and (b) a prostitute’s customer.  Under these circumstances I must confess to preferring something a little more formal and traditional:  “Dear Doctor Fleming,” for example, or maybe something along the lines of “Egregio Professore,” “Your Serene Highness,” or “Stupor Mundi”.  But beggars can’t be choosers.  When it’s coming from the White House, you’re lucky to be getting anything at all.  Here was a message with a banner headline: “Obama, Clooney, and You”.

John --

I have some advice for the two people who will be selected to go to a party for the President at George Clooney's house:
Choose your guest wisely.
Whoever you pick to join you is going to owe you big time.
Think about it -- and chip in $75 or whatever you can today to be automatically entered:

- Ann Marie

Wow!  Only seventy-five bucks?  Why you can spend that on half a shopping cart-load of house brand groceries.  “Ann Marie” puzzled me for a moment.  I do have an eminent colleague and friend named Ann Marie, who is probably an Obama supporter.  But I didn’t know she was a movie fan.  Then there is Ann Marie, sister of one of my kids’ friends in Middle School.  She’s been living in California for the last thirty years, and California is a blue state.  Also, Hollywood is in California.  Still—little Ann Marie from next door?...I read further.

It soon turned out that Ann Marie, with whom I was not previously on first-name terms, actually, is a certain Ann Marie Habershaw, the COO of “Obama for America”.  So we now have one presidential candidate who declares corporations to be persons squaring off against an incumbent person who declares himself to be a corporation.  It’s all somewhat confusing.

I do readily admit, though, that Ann Marie Habershaw is one classy name, right up there with Julianna Smoot, my other penpal in the Obama campaign—along with Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, and occasionally the President himself.  Most days of the week I get an email from one of these people, but this is the first one to invite me to dinner at George Clooney’s house.  Sort of.

There was some small print.  The invitation was not actually an invitation to dinner.  It was an invitation to buy a sweepstakes ticket.  In order to be eligible to go to George Clooney’s party I had to be at least eighteen (“or of majority under applicable law”).  I had to be a legal resident of the United States.  I passed that test with flying colors, but there was still a hitch: “Odds of winning depend on number of entries received”. 

I hadn’t considered that.  So there was more to Ann Marie’s letter than met the eye!  Not only must I, in selecting an escort to George’s party, choose wisely—I must construct, and on the basis of a crucial unknown, an algorithm to assess the odds of actually being invited in the first place.  My instinct probably would be to invite my wife to go with me.  Same old same old.  But where had I heard that phrase—choose wisely—where had I heard it before?  It came to me in a flash: Indiana Jones, last Crusade, Holy Grail!   Well, we no longer live in an Age of Faith.  Dinner with George Clooney is probably about as close to the Holy Grail as it gets.  I must choose wisely.

But first, apparently, I had to help George Clooney figure out where he lives.  Ann Marie was offering a “party for the President at George Clooney’s house.”  But the small print promises only “round-trip tickets for winner and a guest from within the fifty U.S. States, DC, or Puerto Rico to a destination to be determined by the Sponsor (approximate retail value of all prizes $3,200).”

Remember, John, choose wisely.  There are imponderables here.  You have no idea of the scope of the competition.  Furthermore, the location of Mr. Clooney’s house may not yet have been determined by the Sponsor—and note the sinister capital letter on that word Sponsor.  Hmmm.  Choose wisely.  The only solid clues are the numbers with the dollar signs.  You cannot determine the odds of winning, but you can calculate, and calculate precisely, the potential return on investment—investment being one of the President’s favorite terms of art.  Now if you divide 3,200  by 75—well, do the math.  What you will get is forty-two followed by a decimal trail of six-six-six!  It’s the Habershaw Code!

P.S.  When I went to my Google account to mount this post, I find that I have yet another message, this one from the President himself.  Its subject line reads “Clooney and Me”.  Dare I open it?  I must choose wisely.