Inside the Forum, where they’re charging $2.50 for a can of Coke, CJR has been assigned seats all the way up on level six, on eye-level with the bunches of balloons that will drop at some point this week. On the sixth-floor concourse there is a kiosk where you can electronically ‘sign the Declaration of Independence’ (the kiosk is broken), and an alcove that has been designated a “prayer room.” The prayer room features eight chairs, a carpet decorated with lightning bolts, and a Bible open to the third section of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. I look at verse 12: “And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” When I try to go downstairs, I am rebuffed by a female usher, who informs me that I cannot under any circumstances access the floor. So much for compassion!
Back inside the convention center, the “special press” section abuts the media lounge, sponsored by Google, about which some visitors are unaccountably excited. “They’ve got all sorts of cool Google stuff in here,” one enthusiastic man says as he enters. “Where do I go to get some of the cool Google stuff?” (“Just go right on inside,” the door guy responds.)
Inside, the lounge features tables, a photo booth, massage chairs in which elderly reporters like to sleep, free espresso drinks from Buddy Brew Coffee, a “Google Goodies” wall featuring stickers and buttons, and TV screens flashing fun facts about US presidents. (“Since boyhood, Ulysses S. Grant had an aversion to any kind of profanity.”) There are two treadmills with desks attached to them, so that reporters can simultaneously work and work out. I can’t decide whether this is the greatest or the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen, so I try it out. I feel somewhat healthier, but I also can’t read the notes I wrote while powerwalking. There is also an interactive display touting Google’s benevolent effect on local businesses in each state—and this, of course, is the point of all this free stuff: to give journalists and delegates the soft sell about Google’s good works; to entertain and impress people who might be of use to them.
I assume the door guys are trying to keep uncredentialed people out of here, too; I assume there are people plotting ways to get in. But it’s just salesmanship and bullshit, designed to get otherwise-skeptical adults to put their guard down, like everything else in the access zone. It only took me two minutes to get kicked out of Liberty Plaza. That was all the time I needed.