Award-winning left-wing humorist and former National Lampoon editor, Steve Brykman, has infiltrated the Republican party, working as a UX Designer & Strategist at Mitt Romney's headquarters in Boston's North End. For the hilarious inside story on one of the most insane, error-prone presidential campaigns in recent history, keep reading I'm with Mitt: Adventures in Amercia! Coming soon to a bookstore or eBook reader near you, assuming someone out there possesses the gumption to publish it.
Disclaimer: this blog will not be dictated by fact-checkers.
IV. Going Perm
Monday -- April 16
Hey! A black guy! Speak of the devil, today I saw a black guy! He wore a dark woolen suit and was being escorted around by one of our sexier unpaid white Republican interns so I'm guessing he's a very high-level black guy. Most likely, a major player.
In politics, as in life, there are pecking orders, grand hierarchical popularity pyramids. At the bottom are us casually dressed folks -- the IT people and the digital team (copywriters, graphic artists, and information architects), and then there are the policy people (button-down with occasional tie), and then there are the suits. Always dark suits, as funereal as possible. The suits display all shades of skin color, from sheet-white to peaches and cream, and are generally seen traveling in packs, frequently accompanied by a young, attractive female chaperone.
The suits are the ones who will walk by you without saying anything. Often they will not even deign to look at you. Rather, they prefer to avert their eyes like Barbra Streisand. Several theories have been proposed to explain their anti-social behavior. Perhaps they are deep in thought, consumed with winning an unwinnable election. Perhaps they are mentally restructuring their tax shelters. Or perhaps they just aren't too crazy about diminutive Hebrews.
"Here's our digital team," the intern pointed out to the high-level black guy, waving her hand about our general area, encompassing all of about 15 people with the gesture.
The HLBG understandably did a double-take, and remarked, "Seriously? This is it? Did you know Obama has 350 staffers on his digital team? And you guys are the best we have??"
"'Fraid so, boss," I said, "And did you notice the stains in the carpeting? The Salvation Army furniture? My UMass dorm was in better shape!"
Speaking of a big dump, could someone please explain this one? I realize I've been out of the corporate scene for a while, but this one's a real stumper. Okay. Here goes: Taped to the back of the stall in the men's bathroom is a sign that reads, "Are you sure you should be in here?" Below which is a disturbingly large photo of a very sad-looking baby. What on Earth could this mean? The only reason for it that I can surmise is that it's meant to alleviate the problem of people traveling from other floors, which -- given the deplorable state of this john -- seems inconceivable. What could they possibly be shitting into on the third floor -- a trash can? A giant hole? More importantly, what is the deal with the baby? It has me wondering, "Am I even supposed to be in here?" I assumed I was, but it's amazing how insecure you feel once someone sticks a crying baby in your face. Could it be possible there's a baby-faced transsexual working here and there's been some debate over which bathroom he/she's entitled to use? Like I said, a real stumper.
But I digress.
Everything we do here gets compared with the Obama campaign in some way or another, usually -- as you've just witnessed -- negatively. Which only makes sense. For instance, whenever they ask me to wireframe a new section of the site, my bosses say, "just lay it out to reflect whatever Obama's doing." Which not only makes my job that much easier but may actually be working. Romney is already ahead according to Gallup's daily presidential tracking poll and my new blog design hasn't even gone live yet. This election is clearly in the bag.
Before I go on, you should know that most of the people who work here are from the South. Or at least from South of Boston. Maybe you guessed that already. At least three of these staffers are brothers. And these three brothers all speak with exactly the same inflection so it can be difficult for a Yankee like me to tell them apart (there's also a sister contingent, but we'll get to them later). Also, for whatever reason, they're all named after presidents. Lastly, to be fair, they are all pretty decent guys, as we'll also see later, when we start getting to all the rape stuff. Anyway, today one of the brothers -- I'll call him Washington -- was walking around with his cell phone on speaker, and the dude on the other end was desperately trying to get him to donate money. Dude's giving Washington the whole spiel about how Obama is destroying the country and all. Washington can't get a word in edgeways, but he's too polite to just hang up.
Finally, Washington says, "I'm going to have to stop you. I work for the Romney campaign. I'm in the building. I've been trying to tell you this since the beginning of the call."
He takes the guy off speaker, and I hear him continue, "What? No, I don't want to contribute $25 then! Yes, I do support the Republican cause. No, it's not about the amount! Are you even listening to me? I said I am in the building!"
In other news, today somebody sent us a pair of handcuffs. Not toy handcuffs. The real deal. Frank Zappa used to receive women's underwear. We get handcuffs. Unknown whether or not it was the same guy who sent in the uterus. Nobody's sure what we're meant to do with them. I suggested either putting them up on a Tumblr blog of wacky things sent to the Romney campaign, or using them to securely constrain whoever it was that created the crying baby sign. Because that dude is scary.
#1 in a Series of Overheard Things You Would Only Ever Overhear in a Place Like This, or Else Perhaps at Jumbo's Clown Room in L.A.: "On the rag? I love that saying. I think I love it because I hate it so much."
Actual Note Accompanying a Mailed Donation: "I'm sending u $50. Even tho I hate u, I hate Obama more."
A lot of talk of spies today in the digital department, today -- who's a spy, who isn't a spy -- which makes me wonder how many other people here are secret Democrats, like myself. One demure, delightful young female designer appears to be their primary target. And like I said, she is demure and delightful, so chances are they're right.
There's one guy here who is anything but demure and delightful, though he's evidently pretty freaking important. How do I know this? Simple. He doesn't make any attempt to look like anybody else. I have no idea what he does. He doesn't go in for any of that dark suit nonsense, he doesn't gel his hair. In short, he gives the impression of being a homeless lunatic who just walked in off the street, took a seat at a desk, and started typing. He's heavy set and a white cowboy hat covers his disheveled white mop. He looks a bit like Bruce Vilanche, minus the hilarious t-shirt.
Bruce & Me
Tuesday -- April 17
Today I accepted the final offer from the Romney camp. My official first day on the Romney campaign will be May 1. I tried to delay it and stretch out the negotiation process as long as possible because my hourly pay rate as a contractor is so much better than my full-time rate is going to be, but what can you do? In the end, I didn't even come close to the rate I've been earning for the last five years, but at least now I can start getting health care on the cheap, along with something to write home about.
As part of my salary negotiation, I told my two bosses I wanted my title to be "Digital Strategist," which didn't seem like too outlandish a request, since I was brought in to do both UI and Strategy work.
"We can't do that," my bosses said, "The strategists are the highest level people on a campaign."
"Okay..." I said, unsurprised, but nevertheless attempting to appear forlorn.
"But how does this sound..." they said.
"Yes?" I said, liking the sound of it already.
"Senior UI Designer and Strategist," they offered.
"I love it," I said.
I've already come to realize politics is all about perception. We think the guys in the dark suits are a big deal -- why? They must be. They're wearing dark suits! So call me a Strategist, and voilà! Suddenly I'm a Digital Department Strategist with the Romney campaign. Just like that.
It turns out, this strategy worked better than I could ever have possibly imagined.
Stay tuned for the next enthralling installment of Steve Brykman's 'I'm with Mitt: Adventures in Amercia!' Coming soon!