Monday, December 15, 2008

Out With A Bang

Oh, world, on this day I need you to celebrate with me. You are not going to believe what I just did today. In fact, I can't even believe it, and I did it. What I did was so outlandishly difficult, so completely, wildly inconceivable that I am still periodically reaching down to pinch myself, just in case I'm just dreaming it. You want to know what I did? Are you sure? Really?

God, I'm such a tease...

Today I single-handedly defeated the nefarious forces of officious bureaucracy. Or, as I like to call it, bureauCRAZY. (wacka wacka!) OK, so here's what happened. Remember that archive I told you about, the one that won't let me make any photocopies of documents older than 20 years old? And also, digital cameras are prohibited. The only alternative, and this is a hard and fast rule, is to buy scanned digital images that they make at the archive for THREE DOLLARS PER IMAGE. As a reality check, let me add here that I need to make literally a few thousand images. So let's say I want 1,000 copies, that's $3000. No. Effing. Way. I mean, in what world do they believe that that is a rational policy? As a final insult to rhyme and reason, the special top-secret private archive of the former Minister of Health is in that archive, and I've got 3 days to review the whole thing, and today when I requested photocopies of a whole passel of books and documents, I was immediately informed that these books were published in 1988, and were therefore off-limits for photocopying. But of course, I was welcome to order digital images. Are you kidding me.

Well the unbudging bastions of image reproduction have stymied me in the past; I've fumed and pleaded and gifted and groveled, all to no avail. And, oh sweet god, have I wanted to commit bloody murder on these otherwise sweet-natured people at the archive. This is something interesting about Nicaraguans, you see: in general, they are very laid back, and positively laissez-faire about life, almost to a perplexing degree. But give somebody a position of authority, an official-looking stamp, and some meaningless rules and regulations to follow, and holy mary mother of god, I have never met a more overzealous, bossy, needlessly minute group of people in my life. A friend of mine calls them "gatekeepers, rather than door-openers," and I think that's a very apt description. I cannot imagine a more frustrating experience than staring at the blank, occasionally malicious smile of an officious bureaucrat who knows he or she is not going to help, and is just sitting back to watch you beg, cajole, and fulminate. It's enough to make me want to get into a barfight, just so I can hit something.

Over the years I've spent in Latin America, however, it turns out that I have learned something about dealing with these gatekeepers, and today in a brilliant, sparkling, miraculous moment of synergy, it all came together and for the first time in my life, I won. Did you hear me? I. Won. Wow. I'm still not sure what divine spirit guided my words, how I knew when to push, to back off, to smile, to become more assertive, to question, and to offer incentives and alternatives, but somehow I worked my way past a librarian, her supervisor, and all the way up to the director of the library, and there, in the sanctum sanctorum of No-You-Can't, I convinced an absolutely immovable object of a library director to finally smile and say "Yes, you can."


So tomorrow my handy-dandy little digital camera and I are headed to the library to take approximately 1,500 pictures. Wish me luck and some dazzling dust of angels' wings to speed my trigger finger along its way.


Kate said...

Congratulations! Take extra batteries...just in case.

Renny said...

That's awesome!! You will have to teach me your skills, oh Great Charming One.

Can't wait to see you on Friday!

Lahrynn said...

Wow, I'm impressed! I bow to your superior skills, O silver-tongued one.

Well done you!

Cheasty said...

kate - you know me too well. guess who had to run home in the middle of the day to get more batteries and HER COMPUTER POWER CORD. yes, that would be me. i'm incorrigible, apparently.

renny, lahrynn, I'll be enrolling students in my new "how to talk with a silver tongue," starting in the spring semester. preference will be given to juniors and seniors, but all are encouraged to apply.

JackieZ said...

that's great Cheasty. here in rio every archive/biblioteca/ etc has their own special rules, and it is difficult to keep them straight. but the bureacracy in certain gov't institutions is solid-they want ten reais per clickof your camera at the nationa library. at this moment ten reais is 5 usd. it was 7 usd a while back. pure insanity. yet there are places where I can roam freely with my camera. the national archive has no problem with cameras, it is just that they have been under reformas since I have been here so no docs for me there. I have also found it depends on who is working that day. I am trying to read twenty years worth of daily newspapers, some of which literally crumble when i touch will you be in austin in january?