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On the plane home from the last trade show I attended I had the opportunity to consider a new vendor for blasting grit. It happened while I was idly looking through the airline magazine from the pouch in front of my seat. I had just finished an interesting travelogue called North Ireland on Six Bullets a Day and was contemplating looking into The World Traveller's Guide to Recreational Explosives when the gentleman from the seat next to me returned from the lavatory. I looked up at what appeared to be an ad candidate for Tasteless Quarterly.

"Hi, I'm Bob," he extended his hand and I stood up out of force of habit, bumping my head on the panel from whence I had been promised that an oxygen mask would emerge `in the unlikely event of a sudden change in cabin pressure.' "Bob Haddock."

"Hello." We both took our seats.

"I notice that you work in the manufacturing industry," Bob nodded at the badge from the trade show that still protruded from my suit pocket.

I nodded.

"I represent a company with a unique slant in the marketplace," Bob said, producing a business card with a flourish. "I represent AAI." He smiled. "Amnesty Abrasives International." Bob studied my face like a doctor checking pupils for signs of life. "A lot of great Americans buy our products."

I perused the card. "That's an interesting name," I assented, "but I must admit that I'm not sure what it means in terms of what you do."

Bob had his briefcase open and was extracting some literature. "Well, you see, amnesty for political prisoners is everybody's concern."

I nodded. "Quite frankly, Mr. Haddock, at the moment I'm more concerned with the performance of your product. I'm mostly interested in knowing why you think I should buy silicone carbide from you and not your competitor."

"You do believe in amnesty for political prisoners, don't you?" Bob looked at me like he just found "AIDS" marked on my medic alert bracelet.

"What I'm really interested in is your price, delivery, and product quality."

My patriotic friend leaned both elbows on the arm the chair and gave me a look that would have made the Mona Lisa turn away in shame. I made a mental note to find out what cologne the man was wearing so I could look into having it banned. "Do you or do you not believe in amnesty for people imprisoned for their political beliefs?" (Just the facts, ma'am.)

I returned his frosty stare. "Does your company do anything to help political prisoners?"

Bob retreated to his own seat with a sigh (please return your seatbacks and tray tables to their upright and locked positions). "Let's not cloud the issues here. Whom do you buy from at present, Anarchy Abrasives?"

"Do they deliver a quality product?"

Bob snorted and stuffed his literature back into is briefcase. "Sir, I'm sorry to say that I'm not sure we want your name associated with our product."

"It's just as well," I said. "We're actually quite satisfied with our present vendor."

Bob flashed me a smile designed to look politely interested. "May I ask who that is?"

I returned his smile. "The American Civil Abrasives Liberty Union."

Frank Leany

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