Gondolas figure strongly in the world's heritage as places where negotiations are held. These can be anything from courtship to business meetings. It is a heritage that began in the smelly canals of Venice, Italy but the concept of gondolas is now worldwide.
Why a gondola?
Gondolas are small, self-contained meeting places that are easy to search for listening devices. They offer participants panoramic scenery and a relaxing setting that can smooth over differences during negotiations, at least in calm waters and provided no greasy food is served.
They are also fine places for elected officials to discuss public policy. As Orson Welles put it in The Third Man, when you are so high up, constituents with their diverse concerns "are just moving dots." Politicians in gondolas can conduct serious discussions wholly insulated from the distractions of reality, devising health-care coverage programs like overpriced theater-sized boxes of Dots, though unable to connect the Dots on terrorist threats.
Momentous meetings held in gondolas
- United States Constitutional Convention
Preceding the momentous debates in Philadelphia, delegates from the 13 colonies assembled in a gondola in the Hudson River, evidently the first gondola used in the New World. The tippy watercraft was not conducive to handwriting on parchment, and the delegates' only decision was to continue deliberations on terra firma.
- Colonial State House
By contrast, the seafaring first residents of New Hampshire had no problem meeting in a gondola-like craft, though when the first Massholes began their centuries-long influx across the southern border, they had to stabilize the watercraft (as shown at left) to avoid the first of many upheavals from the newcomers.
- Exploration of the African Interior
It is often overlooked that H.M. Stanley made his famous encounter aboard a small gondola on the Zambeze River, just upstream from Victoria Falls. "Dr Livingstone, I presume," he is reported to have said. "May I offer you a Dramamine?"
- Council of Europe
The foundation of the European Community was set in motion in a gondola built especially for the occasion. There was some doubt as to whether this gondola would float, though; and when loaded with diplomats from 58 countries seeking access to a market of 850 million consumers, banknotes with pictures of nonexistent bridges, and to have bureaucrats in Brussels tell them what flavors their crisps could be, the gondola sank, drowning them all and delaying the process of continental unification for decades.
The fateful decision to litigate the outcome of the 2000 U.S. presidential election followed an abortive meeting in a gondola in the Everglades in Florida. Bush, in the first overture of what would become his ironic drive for a "new civility in Washington," took the pole and offered to power the craft. He stood up in the gondola and the rest is history.
- McCain v. reality
Nearly eight years later, that historic gondola had been installed in the White House as the Oval Office, enabling Bush to detach the office and float free of the rising sea of red ink that flooded Washington in 2008. Both candidates to succeed him "suspended their campaigns" and came to meet in the gondola. By all accounts, the fateful moment was not when Barack Obama snatched the gondola pole out of the President's hand, but when the Republican candidate then bent over.
- Israeli Knesset
In 2008, the entire Knesset assembled on a gondola, resting on stocks in a kibbutz near Afula. Most felt so ridiculous that the decision was made to turn the tables on the Palestinians and make an offer of Water for peace.