I was in the WaWa in the strip mall across Hanover Avenue from the strip mall where my campaign headquarters is located. I got a nice healthy bottle of Odwalla carrot juice and a bag of Chex mix, and walked to the counter.
“Can’t let you have that, sir,” the cashier said.
“The sign only says I can’t have Tastykakes,” I pointed out. “It doesn’t say anything about Chex mix.”
“We’re trying to look out for your waistline, sir.”
I sighed, paid for the healthy carrot juice, and walked outside just as the chirpy receptionist from the law firm in the next building–that is to say, the law firm that was representing my super-PAC–walked in.
“Hi there,” she said.
“Hi,” I said back.
“Are you watching the Olympics?” she asked.
“No,” I said. “The Olympics are a bastion of white and First World privilege, designed to raise the prestige of the Northern European and Anglosphere countries.”
“It’s in Brazil this year,” she pointed out.
“Doesn’t make a difference,” I said. “The Olympics are taking away dollars that could be used to build a positive infrastructure for the poorer parts of the country, and putting them towards sports facilities, all so the United States and Great Britain can get more medals. The whole notion of the Olympics is an outdated imperialist ideal anyway. And don’t get me started on how sexist non-inclusive it is for women athletes to wear those skimpy clothes when they’re competing.”
“Skimpy clothes?”
“How are Iran and Saudi Arabia ever going to be able to compete in gymnastics and swimming if their athletes of a female gender expression can’t compete in burkhas?”
“I never thought of that. But, anyway, you should watch the Olympics. Tonight.”
“I can’t,” I said. “It’s a matter of principle. And I don’t like sports.”
“Maybe your wife can watch or something? It’s important.”
“Well, yeah, she’ll be watching.” My wife, who had not ever taken any interest in sports, ever, was suddenly obsessively watching the Olympics, to the point that I caught her watching team handball on YouTube in the car.
“Good enough. Enjoy your carrot juice.”
I was upstairs, comfortably in bed working on my speech to the North Jersey Alliance of Part-Time Railroad Workers when Emma started yelling at me. “Justin, come here! You have to see this.”
“Is it water polo this time? Because last time it was water polo.”
“Justin, for God’s sake. Come down here. You need to see this.”
So I went downstairs, and Emma pushed the button on the remote that makes the TV stop pausing (whatever that is; I don’t really know how to use the remote), and this is what I saw.
I snapped out of it.
“Are you going to be okay?”
“No,” I said. “I am never going to be okay. Ever.”
“This is from the super-PAC, I take it? And they didn’t consult you on it?”
“They can’t,” I explained. “It would be against the law. Although there ought to be a law against that kind of thing.”
“It was… patriotic, I guess. In keeping with the Olympic theme.”
“I didn’t think I could feel worse, and now you bring up the Olympics, and I do. Do you think anyone actually saw it?”
“Other than everyone in the district? Yeah, I would think that people saw it.” And to confirm that,
Emma’s phone rang, and she picked it up, and it was her mother calling.
“That was my mom,” she said. “She saw it on the New York affiliate, so they ran it in both New York and Philly. And she really liked it.”
“Again, I didn’t think I could feel worse, and now you bring up your mother, and I do.”
“Justin, please. It wasn’t that bad. And even if it was, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, is there?”
“Well, this is what you call bad publicity,” Polly said.
“Give it to me straight,” I said.
“They ran articles in the Times and the Inquirer about the ad, both of which make you look ridiculous.
The YouTube page with the commercial has two hundred thousand views, and over five hundred comments, all of them negative. The Clinton campaign left three voice mails asking you not to rip off their logo.”
“Is there any good news?” I asked.
“Gawker went out of business, so there’s that.”
“This has to do something for name recognition,” I said.
“Nothing good,” she said. “And the Campbell campaign is making fun of you for that shot of Niagara Falls.”
“What’s wrong with Niagara Falls?” I asked.
“You realize there’s more than one Niagara Falls, right?”
“There’s what?”
“There’s the American falls, and the Canadian falls. The one in the commercial was the Canadian falls. They’re saying that you’re Canadian all over again.”
This did not make any sense to me, but I decided to ignore it and move on. “People understand that I had nothing to do with this, right? That it was the super-PAC?”
“The average voter doesn’t know a super-PAC from Pac-Man.”
“What’s Pac-Man?” I asked.
“It’s… it would take too long to explain. This is a PR disaster, Justin. There couldn’t have been a more amateurish and phony commercial, ever.”
“That’s not the point,” I said. “This makes me look like I’m some sort of hyper-nationalist nut-bar. And I’m not.”
“This is true,” Polly said. “You are a completely different type of nut-bar.”
“Can’t we do anything to address that?”
“Let’s see, ‘Embattled Congressional Candidate Explains How He Doesn’t Actually Love America.’ I don’t think that’s the message we want out right now.”
“So what do we do?” I said.
“The only thing we can do,” Polly said. “Wait.”
“Wait for what?”
“Wait for the trustees of the John Wayne estate to wake up in California and read the e-mail I sent them this morning, asking them to contact the super-PAC and get them to have the ad pulled for using the Duke’s image.”
I closed my eyes. It didn’t help. “Who the hell is the ‘Duke’?”
Polly started laughing. It was a couple of chuckles at first, and then the wave of laughter overtook her, and she couldn’t stop.
I couldn’t get her to tell me, so I left the office, gave the receptionist a twenty, and asked her to buy all the Butterscotch Krimpets that she could with it. How was I going to be able to go the distance when I couldn’t even get as far as WaWa?
Check out the previous installments:
Last year:
Week Forty-Nine:The True North
Week Fifty:The Garden State
This year:
Week Four:The Brain Trust
Week Six:The Snow Day

Week Seven:The Coin Flip

Week Eight:The Wicked Witch
Week Eleven:The State Dinner
Week Twelve:The Maple Leaf Rag
Week Thirteen:The Large Endowment
Week Fourteen:The Transit Authority
Week Fifteen:The Ten Forty
Week Sixteen:The Bachelor Party
Week Seventeen:The Refugee Crisis
Week Eighteen:The Taco Bowl
Week Nineteen:The Trending Topic
Week Twenty-One:The Blessed Event
Week Twenty-Two:The 3AM Feeding
Week Twenty-Three:The Stuffed Elephant
Week Twenty-Five:The Turkey Jive
Week Twenty-Six:The Wiki Leak
Week Twenty-Seven:The Baby Bjorn
Week Twenty-Eight: The Passport Agency