John McCain was holding forth Wednesday afternoon from his leather club chair aboard the Straight Talk Express, the deluxe bus he uses as a traveling campaign headquarters and rolling news conference.
As he explained his views on Iraq and national security somewhere in southern New Hampshire, an aide suddenly pushed through the scrum, handed him a cellphone, and ordered the reporters to turn off their cameras and tape recorders.
Was it President Bush, who recently endorsed McCain's Republican White House bid? Robert M. Gates, the secretary of Defense, calling about a new international crisis?
McCain listened for a moment, his face set in concentration. "The other one will do just fine," he was heard to say, before whispering something else and then handing the phone back.
"Cindy is buying a new barbecue grill," the Arizonan explained, referring to his wife.
McCain considers himself a barbecue maven, proud of his grilling skills. But perhaps his wife isn't so sure about that expertise.
A little later, McCain's private cellphone rang. He pulled it out of his jacket and once again, reporters turned off their tapes and tried to turn away while he chatted further.
"It's the grill," he explained with a grin after hanging up. "She still can't decide."