Small black chairs were padlocked to small black tables outside City Hall. A long coil snaked through the arms and legs of the outdoor furniture, locking it in place and discouraging any sort of repose.
For this reason, ten dressed-up people stood around the table in an apprehensive circle. Their fancier-than-usual shoes shuffled on the cool bricks as they waited.
Two more students rounded a hedge and walked into the courtyard to join the flock. There was more waiting, and more leather shoes shuffled. The last dressed-up person sped into the courtyard on her bike. They were thirteen.
Outside, the white sun shone through a thin layer of summery clouds. Inside, the government building was lit the way they all are: dim and shadowy. Marble tiles coated the floor. The staircase and hallway swarmed with busy people, genuinely fancy looking. Their leather shoes looked lived-in, but not scuffed.
The thirteen media makers paused just inside the doors to breathe in a breath of the dim light. Then they trickled up the loud, marble stairs. One flight, pause, one more. There was no room on the first floor. They’d been banished to the balcony.
Government chambers must have heavy oak doors. They need to stretch so high that the tallest giantess could glide through them without brushing her hair on the frame, and they need to be so heavy that two people could only push them open using two strong arms each. But on this morning, the austere doors were open, inviting the group of thirteen inside.
The room was a tall tube, decorated in cream, brown, and wall sconces. It was a giant cup, with a handful of City Commissioners stuck at the bottom, one Mayor in the middle, and the public, all mixed together, stuck to the sides. The students sat down on curved, wooden benches. Far down below, they could see more public.
One by one, the public sat at a big wooden desk in the middle of the bottom of the cup and talked into a loud microphone. The City Commissioners and the Mayor sat up on a stage behind a bigger, taller wooden desk. Sometimes they talked back to the public, but mostly they just looked at them.
After a while, the curved benches got kind of hot and sticky, and three of the media makers were swept away from the balcony and hurried downstairs.
“Are they ready?” the Mayor boomed.
Just in time, they were. The three chosen media makers scurried out to the second biggest wooden desk. The City Commissioners looked down at them. The Mayor looked at them. On the other side of the big, tall room, hundreds of public eyes looked at them. Then they began to talk.
Sometimes the City Commissioners nodded while the media makers talked, and sometimes they just stared. The Mayor nodded the whole time. Twice, he raised his gray eyebrows. Then he put them back down.
Four minutes after the media makers started talking, they stopped. They sat quietly at the wooden desk. Their fancy shoes tapped on the marble floor. Up above, a big square screen began to show a movie that one of them had made. The City Commissioners watched. The Mayor watched. The public, who were all over the walls, watched too. In the first row of the balcony, sitting on a sticky wooden bench, a bald man said, “Wow.”