The W.B. Mason truck is parked outside of the office building, emblazoned with American flags, and I wonder if W.B. Mason is a politician running for office. I expect the backdoor of the truck to roll open. Soon a marching band dressed in red suits with gold trim will strut down a ramp and parade through the parking lot, trumpets swinging and batons twirling. They will perform a rousing rendition of Yankee Doodle for the congregating masses of pallid call center employees blinking in the sunlight.
One small boy will set a wooden crate on the pavement. The marching band will dramatically part down the middle and W.B. Mason will stroll coolly between two lines of trumpets. When he ascends the wooden crate, the band and the crowd will fall silent, tongues tied by W.B. Mason’s commanding presence and imperial mustache.
He will begin his campaign speech with a series of declarative sentences, each one whimsically rhyming with the last. Oh god, I will think to myself, perched on a faraway picnic table. Now he’s going to sing.
And sure enough, a patriotic flute will chime in and then the honk of a tuba will harmonize. Cue the percussion. The crowd will echo the end of every sentence like a sermon to be committed to memory. An American flag will ripple behind him as he tells the story of the man behind the mustache. He will illustrate his simple origins in song, the youngest of ten in a working class family. He started working for five cents an hour when he was no more than eight years. He pulled himself up by his bootstraps with no help from anybody and now he wants to be your mayor, if you’ll have him. He will vow his undying love for this country. He will place his hand on his heart as if to say, Honest to God.
The women will swoon and squeal. The men will pump their fists. The children will give him flowers and hug his legs. The raucous horde of call center employees will push him onto a quilt and toss him into the air. They will be all too happy to chant the name of their liberator.
He looks like a duke or earl in the British royal family, the big-game-hunting eldest son of a robber baron. He’s the kind of guy who might go from mayor to senator to vice president, and then retire to a squalid equatorial colony and govern from an elegant Georgian mansion fenced in by shrunken heads on pikes. Why is no one else suspicious of his lofty promises, his theatricality?
Luckily the back of the truck does not open up. A crowd does not assemble. The marching band, if present, remains silent. As the truck drives away, I can read the words beneath the logo: “For Office Supplies, Furniture, and Printing.” As I stab my fork into leftover rice noodles, I feel relieved that W.B. Mason never pursued political ambitions. If he abandons his office supply empire, God help us all.