We were walking home from school, as always, my friend and I, talking about this and that. I couldn’t stop thinking about the advertisements I saw everywhere. I could see one right then, on a lamp post.
“Take an egg to work,” it said.
Take an egg to work? How? As far as I could tell, it was impossible. It was funny, but impossible.
That’s what was on my mind that day as I walked back home from school, but my friend, my best friend, had other things on his mind. That time, he wasn’t thinking about which prank call to make to the same girl he always made those prank calls to. That time, he was thinking serious things.
“I hope Jimmy Carter wins the US election,” he said.
Now, to this day, when I think of American presidents, the first name that pops to mind is Gerald Ford. He may be the American president that served the shortest time in the office – of those who didn’t die on the job – but to me, he’s one of the most important US Presidents, simply because he’s the first one I knew.
Ford had seemed like a good man, too, from what I had heard. After all, he had visited Finland in the summer of 1975, during the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) summit. It was such a big deal that the homeless people were shipped out of Helsinki so they wouldn’t tarnish the image of the Finnish capital. The fact that Ford then met with the Soviet Union president Leonid Brezhnev was possibly an even bigger deal.
Even I, a kid who only read sports pages, if anything, had understood the magnitude of the events.
We all knew it was important that the US president speak with Brezhnev. It was the Cold War era and Finland was close to the Soviet Union, in every way imaginable.
“Well, I hope Ford wins,” I told my friend.
“Ford’s not running. It’s between Carter and Reagan,” he replied.
I hadn’t paid any attention to the US election and over in Finland, things had stayed mostly the same since Ford’s visit. Urho Kekkonen was still the president, like he’d always been, and every once in a while he’d visit the Soviet Union president Brezhnev, who had also always been there, at the Kremlin.
I just wanted everybody to get along. I also wanted to know what they meant with taking an egg to work.
“Take an egg to work,” I said to my friend, hoping to prompt a response from him this time.
“Yeah, really funny,” he said quickly, then added, “but seriously, if Ronald Reagan wins the election, there’s going to be war.”
He got my attention.
“War? What do you mean war? But Ford was here talking to Brezhnev,” I said.
“Yes, but Ford’s not the president, is he? No, he’s not, Jimmy Carter’s the president, except he may not be for long, and if Reagan takes over, he’ll send those nukes this way.”
It was a dark winter’s day as it was, one of those days when you go from darkness to dusk to darkness in a matter of hours, but his words made everything look even gloomier.
I didn’t know what to say. My friend did. He stopped, poked me in the chest with his index finger, and looked me straight in the eye.
“World War Three,” he said.
Suddenly, I could see why it was important that Reagan wasn’t elected, even if I didn’t understand why anybody would vote for a man who, everybody but me seemed to know, would start WWIII. It was as bizarre as … well, taking an egg to work. But my friend knew about these things. He paid attention to current events.
We walked down the hill silently for a while, when I saw another one of those egg ads, now at a bus stop close to our house.
“How can you ride an egg to work anyway?” I asked my friend.
“I have no idea. Sounds crazy,” he said.