Used with Permission

The Grand Tour (Party Bus)

“To answer your question,” the tour guide said, “it will be necessary to give some background detail.”

Pulling the microphone close to his face and clutching it with both hands as if holding something precious, and leaning toward the passengers, he started, “But because I am just a guide on this bus-tour who you probably believe is in this job because I have few employment options or little specialized knowledge that would qualify me for a high status job in the information economy, you would likely not accept what I have to say.”

Pulling himself upright as if to stand at attention and taking the microphone in his left hand, he shifted his right hand to hold it — open-palmed — over his heart. “So, before I start let me disclose that I am actually the Prime Minister of this exotic country, and I have merely posed as a tour guide to discover what visitors to our homeland want most from their stay in this place.” As he finished this statement he closed his eyes and bowed from the chin toward the tourists — who by now had stopped fiddling with their cellphones and cameras and were fixed on this suddenly-more-interesting guide for what they may have thought would be a lazy afternoon tour.

After a few seconds pause, “Now that you know I am actually a credible source of information I can answer your question, confident that you will take me seriously.”

As the tour-guide-turned-Prime-Minister paused to inhale and relaxed to a contrapposto stance before answering the visitor’s question, another tourist in the dim space near the back of this tour bus cleared her throat and said in a high-pitched voice with an accent native to this place,

“We are members of the opposition in this country. Mister Prime Minister, you have long made us feel like strangers in our own cities, and since you asked for questions and desires for our stay in this beautiful place, we will take the opportunity to present our demands.”

Hearing this, the Prime Minister stiffened, tilting his head slightly and squinting warily as he peered toward the voice. Catching his balance after the bus hit a pothole, he reached up to grab the luggage rail above the seats.

The newly-announced opposition leader slowly stood, still mostly hidden in the shadows, as several other people who were also — only moments ago — merely tourists, produced a 3-ring binder and passed it over to their spokeswoman.

Receiving the binder the spokeswoman for the opposition slowly opened it to the first page and adjusted her glasses. Clearing her throat again with an audible squeak in her voice as the bus hit a pothole in what was otherwise a very smooth road, she started in quick and distinctly enunciated speech.

“We want to be recognized as a legitimate party in perpetual opposition. We want to be able to enter the cameral chambers with messages from those we represent. We don’t actually expect to be influential because we believe that appearances matter and we believe that all developed nations must have an opposition, while this nation has never had one.”

The spokeswoman continued with the list of demands — one statement on each page of the notebook — slowly turning each page and never looking up as she went. Other members of the opposition sat silently, watching the still motionless Prime Minister as she read — transfixed — from the binder.

Finally, the speaker for this newly-announced opposition slowly closed the back cover of the binder, passed it to another individual, then pulled off her glasses and folded them deliberately before looking up at the Prime Minister — hands at her sides as if waiting in a queue with others for bread at a local bakery the bus had just passed.

After a few very long minutes of silence while the bus decelerated to navigate a series of hairpin turns on bluffs overlooking a calm bay leading to the open ocean, the Prime Minister pulled the microphone back to his face, and spoke in a voice becoming of a Prime Minister, “I have been eagerly awaiting this day and have taken this job as a tour guide just so strangers and newcomers to our country who were so far without a voice could bring to me their questions and expectations. I agree with you that all important countries must have an opposition and I welcome you to our system of government. I hereby accept all of your demands expect the one granting access to the cameral chambers.”

As the bus swerved sharply to the right to pull into the parking lot from which it had started, members of the suddenly-official but yet unnamed opposition murmured animatedly among themselves. The bus lurched to a stop at the curb at the end of the planned tour — a small compound that doubled as a souvenir stand and picnic barbecue restaurant.

While passengers on the tour rose to exit the bus, still murmuring excitedly to their compatriots, the Prime Minister returned to his role as tour guide, cautioning the exiting passengers to collect their belongings and to use care as they stepped down the narrow stairway off the bus.

Departing passengers who were now also aspiring-political-actors collected in groups just outside the bus, posing for photos with the new opposition leader, all smiling broadly in a warm and welcoming manner particular to residents of this place, giving enthusiastic thumbs-up and Churchillian V-for-victory gestures.

Last to exit were the only two authentic tourists — previously seated on the last bench of the tour bus — squinting as they emerged from the darkened interior, slowly descending to the parking lot into blindingly clear sunshine at this dawning of a new day for politics in this exotic place.

After landing with a jolt on the last and longest step to the pavement, the first tourist turned to help his companion as she followed down. They adjusted their shoulder bags and pulled their cellphones from their pockets to take a few snapshots as they limped across the lot toward the well- marked public facilities.

Turning to her companion, she mused “Quite a lovely place, don’t you think?”

“Indeed,” nodding in her direction as he scrolled through the cellphone photos he had taken on the bus ride. “We were fortunate to get seats on this bus. We should find out what tour company everyone else was with. They seemed to have things very well organized.” Holding his camera to his companion, he pointed to a photo of the Prime-Minister at the front of the bus, “And they planned for entertainment as well!”

They parted to visit their respective destinations as the smell of barbecue began filling the parking lot, still unaware that they had just received what was perhaps the best introduction imaginable to the inner workings of this aspiring and newly-modern paradise, on what turned out to be the most curious example of a party-bus, ever encountered.