So typical was the town of East Median that not one of its people read the Saturday morning paper ("Just didn't get around to it" was the explanation given later), which would have informed them that the candidate for president of the United States was making a hastily arranged stop there.
Thus, when the candidacy and its retinue of protectors, advisers and journalists descended at midday Saturday, all four of the main intersections were immediately and hopelessly jammed, trapping in the downtown area: 775 men who had just finished mowing the lawn and were there to pick up a six-pack of beer; 654 women who were having their hair done; 812 teen-agers hanging around the pizza parlor; 1,115 children playing video games and dropping chewed gum on the sidewalk.
Blocked by the presidential cavalcade from their only way home, the citizens left their cars and began to mill around in front of the platform, where the city council chairman was making the introduction.
"Fantastic advance work," said one of the members of the retinue, surveying the immense crowd.
"They're running a very efficient campaign," said a magazine writer.
As the chairman finished his introduction and the candidate stepped to the microphone, a great noise began to well up. Broken down into its component parts it sounded like this: "Who's he?/What's going on here?/My car's overheat ice cream is melting/Who's responsible for this?/By God, I'll sue somebody." In its totality, however, it had the sound of a potential mandate.
"Are you better off than you were four years ago?" the candidate shouted.
The confused and irritated jumble of sound assumed the form of an answering roar.
"He's hitting all the right chords," said a man on the platform.
"Do you want," inquired the candidate, "your schools turning out kids who can't keep up with the Russians, your weekly groceries costing more than a car payment used to and your family values being treated like they were something out of the Middle Ages? Is that what you want?"
"Oh no!" shouted the crowd in horror as a Secret Service man began to slip from his perch atop the town's statue of the charge up San Juan Hill, just behind the speaker's platform. "No you don't, and neither do I," said the candidate."
"A tired old rhetorical device," whispered a pleased speechwriter, "but it never fails to get 'em involved."
"And I suppose none of us can think of a certain candidate with some outworn ideas who'd be only too glad to give us all those things and more," said the candidate as the Secret Service man plunged into the municipal memorial reflecting pool, provoking a wave of laughter.
"That ridiculing the other candidate will only take you so far," said a commentator immersed in his note-taking. "You have to be careful how you use it."
"It's volatile," his associate replied. "Like the religion business."
As the candidate rolled into his peroration (". . . and he'd tell me, 'Son, stand up for what you believe in and forget about the fat cats' . . . and that's just where we're headed . . . . and with your help . . . my dream . . . ") each phrase was greeted by a growing, guttural acclamation, the collection of many thoughts and desires:
"He's almost done/Where are my car keys?/Jason, get your sister, we're leaving/Come on, get it over with/Mom, I really have to go to the bathroom bad/This is the last time I'll ever come here on a Saturday."
The evening news carried 20 seconds on the appearance, describing it as a "remarkably animated event coming as it did in a medium-high- employment area with a large absentee vote."
The early editions of the Sunday papers remarked on the immobility and apparent enthusiasm of the crowd, but some of the reports in later editions reflected the negative side as well, quoting a man who remained in the town square long after the candidate left, telling one reporter after another, while several of his companions nodded in agreement: "As far as I'm concerned there's one man responsible for the fact that this beer under my arm is at room temperature, and it was the guy who was standing up on that platform, whoever he was."