The Titanic has struck the iceberg and is down at the bow, so we passengers are conducting a feverish election to select a new captain. There are two evenly matched candidates, the incumbent captain, who wears a blue uniform, and the challenger who wears a red one. In the campaign thus far, neither has mentioned the fact that the ship is sinking. The closest they have come to bringing it up is when the challenger avows that he does not believe in icebergs, and the incumbent points out that he was not on the bridge when the collision occurred.
The red candidate is one of the ship’s owners, and has their interests at heart. He plans, for example, to raise prices for the little rooms in the lower decks and lower the charges for the upper-deck staterooms. To placate the denizens of the lower decks, where he has never set foot, the red candidate promises them, in future, a dollop of caviar with every serving of lower-decks gruel. For some reason he has the support of a lunatic fringe of passengers who keep raving about taking the ship back and sailing it to the Holy Land according to Biblical prescriptions.
The blue candidate says he has the interests of the passengers at heart, but since he works for the owners he has to be circumspect about it. He says he has done everything right since the collision (upon which the previous captain clambered into his private life-yacht and motored away). The evidence of this, he says, is that the ship is descending (he won’t use the word “sinking”) more slowly than heretofore. (He actually uses words like “heretofore,” which is killing him in the debates.)
Yesterday, the red candidate was way behind. But in the debate last night in the Grand Ballroom (which seems a little less grand, now that you have to lash yourself to something to stay in place, because of the tilt of the floor) he said he never intended to raise the prices on the little peoples’ rooms, and he always promised he would make the food better. Afterward, people said he looked much more captainish, and had at last learned to lie enthusiastically and with good cheer.
The present captain, on the other hand, seemed worried about something. He kept flinching at the sound of explosions from below decks, and lost the debate.
So it’s another busy, busy day today on board our ship of state. No one is working below decks because there’s so much going on up here, where people wearing red tunics are showing how they would arrange the deck furniture and people with blue sweaters are having counter-demonstrations. The red candidate is having a fundraiser on the stern deck — the bow is under water too much of the time now — with a banquet of albatross, which is the only fresh poultry available these days, and the ship’s band playing “Happy Days are Here Again.” The captain, for his part, is conducting tours of the bridge, from which you can see the bow, under water most of the time now. If we elect the other guy, he says, it could go even lower.
That? That was just another one of those silly explosions below decks. Pay no attention. Let’s have another drink.