An Encounter with a Diplomat in New York

By Grant de Graf

It was a cool day in the Big Apple, as winter began its approach. Pedestrians had already taken the initiative to don their heavy overcoats, a time proven protection against the cold winds that fanned through the city, at this time of the year. It was mid-morning and traffic in Midtown was rampant. Business was firing on all cylinders and her troops were leading the charge from the trenches.

The middle-aged gentleman straightened his red tie as he entered the hallway. He clutched to his Blackberry, responding to the call that had beckoned his attention,  moving to a deserted room that would provide him with some privacy. A security guard who had noticed the middle-aged gentleman enter the side room without authority,  unleashed the cover of his revolver and unlocked its safety catch. He cat walked towards the door, reporting his sighting over his walkie talkie to his superior officer. "I have target in sight. Permission to apprehend, requested."

"Negative," came the response. "We have positive facial recognition on target. I repeat, target has been identified as friendly."

"A little trigger happy today, Bruno?" a shy voice sounded from the security counter. "Or just a show of exuberance?"

"Hi Ms. Valintino. Just doing my job," responded the security guard with a smile.

"True. After all, it was Nixon who said that just because a person is paranoid, doesn't mean to say that the whole world isn't running after you," the elegant lady quipped. Her humor brushed over the security guard's head. "Fortunately, for the new facial recognition software that was recently installed, we avoided what could have been a major shootout."

"Hey, maybe Walt could do a review on the facial recognition technology?" the security guard suggested.

"Trust me. Walt has enough assignments to keep him busy for a month of Sundays, without any further distractions."

"I bet my Siri could have done the job. She would have recognized the target in no time."

"Another app, Bruno? Impressive," Valintino acknowledged.

Meanwhile, back in the privacy of the small but deserted anteroom, the middle-aged gentleman with subtle strokes of graying hair and shiny black shoes, was involved in discussion. He was conversing with a senior member of Hamas.

"It's a matter of simple arithmetic, Aziz," the middle-aged gentleman continued. "The question is, will all Palestinian people be more prosperous five years from now, if they reject a proposal for a two-state solution, or will they be further disadvantaged. It's my contention that the upside for Hamas in participating in a two-state solution is compelling. I have made that very clear. Both politically and economically."

The man with graying hair and shiny black shoes listened patiently to the response. It was long and emotional. He pressed his Blackberry against his ear, in the hope  that the conversation would adopt a more even-keeled level of expression. "Somewhere there has to be a wider degree of common ground between you and Abbas. The stakes are awfully high. You both stand to loose significantly, if you can't make it happen. I'll be on the next plane over, if the situation warrants it. You know that don't you?" he said rhetorically.

When the gentleman exited the room, he pondered over his conversation. He knew that the subject of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, was a tough nut to crack.

"Welcome to America. The name is Jennifer Valentino DeVries," she said, extending her hand. "How was your trip over, from the other side of the pond?"

"Water off a ducks back, by modern standards. But thank you for asking, Jennifer," he responded politely. His accent was distinctly British. Those who bear an appreciation for the ring of the spoken word, would have noticed a slight accent that was not native to England.

"You had half our security unit on high alert, after your little escapade into our security room. Strictly out of bounds to the public."

"I must apologize. I had no idea."

"No problem. Our facial recognition security system identified you immediately," she said with a smile, handing him his security clip with an updated head and shoulder photo of himself.

We really appreciate you making yourself available for the Big Interview. It's become a leading platform for the Journal, à mon avis," she remarked, with a perfect French finish.

"I take it that you speak fluent French?"

"En effet. It's not as good as my Spanish, but better than my Mandarin."

"I'm impressed. Very global. My children all have Irish passports. For an Englishman, that's called global. Currently, I'm trying to get up to speed with my Arabic."

"And how's that going?

"Sababa!" he exclaimed with a chuckle. "Wait is that Arabic?"

They entered the elevator in private, while Bruno, the security guard, held back others who might have been inclined to accompany the couple, on their ascent.

"My wife would love to entertain the presence of your company. You must pop over for tea, on your next visit to London."

"Tea, without milk," Valentino said in jest. "Actually, I have a forthcoming assignment in London next week. I'd love to stop by."

As they exited the elevator, the Wall Street Journal Editor-in-Chief was alerted to their presence. His name was Robert Thomson. He warmly greeted the diplomat and thanked him for accommodating their request for the interview.

"We've decided to conduct the shoot in a private room, over some coffee and fruit," said Thomson. "It's more cozy, and that way we'll have an opportunity to edit out any bloopers."

The cameraman conducted a few test shots and checked the lighting. He strolled over to the coffee table and switched on the table lamp.

"Rolling and action," he affirmed.

"Welcome to the Big Interview. I'm Robert Thomson, Editor-in-Chief for the Wall Street Journal. Our guest today is Tony Blair."

To see the interview click here.