Michael P. Ackley has worked more than three decades as a journalist, the majority of that time at the Sacramento Union. His experience includes reporting, editing and writing commentary. He retired from teaching journalism for California State University at Hayward.More ↓Less ↑
Editor’s Note: Michael Ackley’s columns are satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.
The following memorandum has come into our hands. We cannot say by what means or medium, but the source is a person steadfast in the belief that the American public has the right to be forewarned of foreign threats.
This is to follow up the flash traffic of Sunday last, regarding the incident at the state dinner in Beijing, which may represent the most embarrassing diplomatic faux pas since President (George H.W.) Bush’s emesis on the Prime Minister of Japan.
Our envoy, having been guided by a Chinese factotum to his seat near the head of the banquet table, waited until Premier Zhu Rongji had been seated, then sat himself, causing an immediate, staccato burst of a sound not made in polite company.
He rose reflexively, then – being of acute mind – realized he had been victimized by a practical joke of the most juvenile variety. Being familiar with the device involved and its mechanics, he instantly concluded it would be safe to sit again. This he did quickly, only to produce a second crepitation!
He maintained his composure with difficulty – a difficulty shared by several observers, including his hosts, who appeared to be stifling laughter.
When our ambassador had to rise and offer his toast, he surreptitiously swept the offending object to the floor, whence it was snatched and carried off by a waiter. Nevertheless, our envoy saw it and confirmed it was a Whoopee Cushion – a SELF-INFLATING Whoopee Cushion!
As you are aware, this product of American genius long has been manufactured overseas. We did not regard it as a great threat, as its inflation was a laborious process involving the protrusive flap responsible for the cushion’s distinctive sound.
Our research has determined that late in the previous presidential administration patent number 6,331,131 was issued for a “self-inflating noisemaker (that) includes an enclosed membrane … that is filled with porous material. … When pressure is applied to the noisemaker, the air inside the membrane is forced through the outlet and the noise-maker reaches the compressed state. When the pressure is released, the noise-maker changes from the compressed state to the inflated state as air flows through the inlet.”
The “inlet” is a simple flap valve in the side of the cushion. Thus, a device that once was as difficult to prepare for mischief as a muzzle loader was transformed into a veritable “repeater” (if we may hazard a jest). Further, the infernal thing can be deployed clandestinely, without the traditional, difficult-to-conceal process of inflation.
The patent holder was allowed by the previous administration to have the improved Whoopee Cushion manufactured in the People’s Republic of China, where the government has seized the technology and converted it to nefarious ends (if we may be permitted another chuckle). Hence its untimely appearance at a state dinner.
We must recognize the importance of cushion case:
The devices, once compressed, can be concealed easily.
They represent a stealth technology, being made almost free of metal and thus invisible to standard detection equipment.
They are self-arming – in as little as three seconds – and multiple-use.
From this point on, American diplomats may not relax their vigilance at any formal occasion, lest their composure be disrupted by “making whoopee.” The officials of the previous administration, who allowed this technology to fall into hostile hands, deserve, at the very least, a Bronx cheer (if we may be allowed a final little joke).
Naturally, we are concerned to learn that a Hughes Electronics Corp. or a Boeing Satellite Systems has transmitted militarily important technology to hostile governments. We are dismayed to discover Korea misused the nuclear plants we helped it build.
But while these transgressions threaten American lives, the self-inflating Whoopee Cushion threatens our dignity.
There it is, and bless our source for blowing the whistle. The right of self-protection should not be limited to federal officials.