Thanks to inspiration from OTA I’m joining The Great Discontent #The100DayProject, a celebration of process that encourages everyone to participate in 100 days of making, empowered by the accountability of doing a project alongside others in a very public way. Pictures of these projects are posted daily on Instagram.
I asked myself, at the end of 100 days, what would I like to have amassed? The answer, for me was 100 first drafts. So, I will write and post a 500 word story a day with the hashtag #100DaysOfHorribleStories. Why horrible? Because what can go wrong if I aim for horrible and fail?
The United States Senate hired the first Page in 1829. This lucky youngster was a nine-year-old boy named Grafton Hanson. Senator Daniel Webster (who did not write the dictionary, but who was the subject of a book called the Devil and Daniel Webster) hired him to be a messenger and general helper.
What constituted ‘general help’ in this job description is a list too long to fit here, and too deep to assault your delicate sensibilities. Suffice it to say that in all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, someone to perform the drudgery, but cheerfully. In short, a person that embodies vigor, docility and fidelity.
Just such a person in 1967 was Gilbert Frank.
At 19, Gilbert had successfully avoided being drafted into Viet Nam duty by playing a fairly mediocre game of football for Wisconsin State. Also, by virtue of his low grades and performance at the college, he also avoided the other draft – being drafted by the Green Bay Packers that year.
He did however wrangle his self a position as Page to the most honorable senator Proxmire from Pennsylvania. He found that when he applied for positions with the US Government, his football background, rather than being a footnote in his personal life, become the bait for persons seeking political office.
Once hired, he began to feel a sense of power he had never felt before. Certainly not because of the duties he was given, for they were mundane and menial. No, this power felt electric, like a current that ran through his body, sometimes shooting out his fingers. But it occurred only when he was physically within the confines of the Senate Chambers.
Gilbert wasn’t sure if this power he felt could be used for anything, or if it was some kind of rare disease or allergy.
One afternoon, after a particularly boring Senate session, Gilbert began to wander some of the back hallways and passages that were off limits to the public, but his role as Page gave him access to. He noticed, as he roamed, that the tingling got stronger the closer he came to the center of the building.
He kept winding his way, using his tingling outstretched arms like a kind of divining rod to show him the way to go. The tingling had grown almost unbearable when he found himself in front of a boarded up door at the end of a dead ended hallway.
He pulled on one of the boards, the rotting wood crumbled in his hand. He tried the knob, which glowed red at his touch, then turned easily, the door opening so abruptly it pulled him across the threshold.
When Gilbert’s eyes adjusted to the gloom, he could see a large wood paneled room containing a single wingbacked chair and reading lamp. As he stared, a hand reached up to turn on the light, which illuminated a stern faced balding man seated there.
“I’ve been waiting for you Gilbert,” the man said, “I’m Daniel Webster.”