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Winter 01
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How not to greet famous people
Laura Buchholz

I’m sure, when asked the question, "what famous person would you like to be able to meet–living or dead"?, someone somewhere would answer: Bill Clinton. I’m also sure that someday, someone in the future might even answer this question by saying, "I would like to meet Bill Clinton during the week the World Trade Center attack occurred." Surely this person would have many, many smart questions or things to say to the former US president. For example, some smart things to ask the president during this time might be:

1. Would resolution of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict help to reduce international terrorism?

2. How do you think the currently forming international coalition against terrorism will impact US foreign policy in the future?

3. In light of the current volatility in the Middle East, would you now support drilling for oil in the Alaskan Arctic Refuge?

I’ll admit it. I had a brief, fortuitous chance to meet our former US president last week. While riding my bike up the West Side bike trail in Manhattan last week, I happened upon a heliport at which two helicopters had just landed. The scurrying and bustle surrounding the scene caught my attention and like any self-respecting hanger-on, I stopped to watch. Who are these people getting out of the choppers? Why that looks like….could it be….yes, yes it is! Rudy Giuliani and Bill Clinton! For God’s sake, there are two very important and historically relevant men right in front of me! I suddenly feel a rising excitement and a vicarious connection to the world outside myself! What will happen next?!
Rudy quickly got into his car, which drove off to applause. Bill Clinton then magnanimously stepped in to greet the crowd of fifteen or twenty onlookers, including myself, who had stopped along the nearby bike path.
Here he comes. Here comes my chance. I’m going to shake the hand of the former president. What’s that red thing on his nose? His eyes are steely grey slits. He’s shaking children’s hands. I’m lurking behind the children like a suspicious teenager who continues to trick-or-treat despite her obviously inappropriate size. What do I say? What do I do? The children scurry away, and time slows down. Clinton reaches out his hand and I extend mine, our eyes meet, my brain locks down, and I say–at this moment of immense historical significance celestial significance (as far as I’m concerned)–

Hey, how are you doing?

And he smiles and shakes my hand and says hello and moves on, and time speeds up and my face flushes and I get back on my bike and scenery flies by as I curse myself. Hey, there, Mr. Former President. Your country just suffered a brutal attack! How’s it going? What’s new, Mr. Former President? Oh yeah, Afghanistan has promised to launch a Jihad against us. Well, how are you? Troops are heading overseas, and at home we’re finding ominous crop-dusting manuals in terrorist hideouts. Wow, Mr. President–what’s up? Stupid stupid stupid.
It’s not fair. I wasn’t ready. I want another chance. So Mr. Clinton, as you’re reading this fantastic new issue of DUCTS, just pretend that I asked you one or all of the first three questions above, and send your response along with a statement of unbelievable insight and worldly wisdom to And by the way, how’s it going? I’m fine.

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