Rendered Fat Content


Russell Lee:
Gutting tuna at the
Columbia River Packing Association.
Astoria, Oregon

"It would have just been my fault."
The Frog

Be kind and tender to the Frog,
And do not call him names,
As ‘Slimy skin,’ or ‘Polly-wog,’
Or likewise ‘Ugly James,’
Or ‘Gape-a-grin,’ or ‘Toad-gone-wrong,’
Or ‘Billy Bandy-knees’:
The Frog is justly sensitive
To epithets like these.
No animal will more repay
A treatment kind and fair;
At least so lonely people say
Who keep a frog (and, by the way,
They are extremely rare).


I arrived at the Fairgrounds just after eight a.m. I'd dropped TheGrandOther off at school, a first-week-of-the-semister treat for both of us to ensure she gets off to a great start to the new school year, then stopped to buy a small bag of ice to refresh the ice chest in The Muse's Fair booth. The gate guard opened the gate and motioned me inside. I parked next to the Repuglican's caravan, resisting the urge to deface it with graffiti, before carrying my ice up to the door, which was surprisingly locked. I started circling the building, heading to the next door, sure it would be open. It wasn't.

I spotted a security guard on a bench across the lane and walked in her direction, asking if she could unlock the door. She, too, was waiting for a guard to come with the key. She exchanged a few messages on her walky-talky, and it quickly became apparent that nobody would be coming. She reported that the doors would remain locked for another hour. I asked why, and she had no idea why, just that the Big Mean Guy with the key said. I asked her to contact Jeri, "The Asshole What's In Charge Of Operations," and ask her to direct the Big Mean Guy to unlock the door for an exhibitor. No dice, the security guard reported. I was astounded! Certainly, this was no more than miscommunication. I was, after all, the customer. Wasn't I king?

I stormed down the midway toward the Fair office, where I noticed small print on the office door declaring that the office opened at, you guessed it, nine a.m. It was eight-thirty by then, but I stormed in anyway and confronted Jeri. Why, I asked, if the Pavilion had been open at eight the day before, wasn't it also open at eight this morning? She reported that the exhibitor's manual clearly stated that the Pavilion would open at nine each morning. Great! A regulation. Besides, Jeri insisted, if she opened it earlier, she'd have to have security guard the contents. (Notice that the security guard hired to guard the contents had been sitting outside the Pavilion waiting for the Big Mean Guy to bring the key so that she could commence guarding.)

I left in a quiet rage. I had ice melting in the back of the car, and the bureaucracy didn't care. It didn't need to care because it had regulations. I settled in to try to cool my heels for another half hour. It was more like a quarter after when I discovered that The Big Mean Guy had brought the key and unlocked the entrance on the other side of the building. I hustled my bag of ice in and quickly added it to the ice chest, checking to see that everything was in order. I left after about two minutes, time I'd queued up for more than an hour to spend. I drove home in a daze, my day seemingly ruined, for my enthusiasm had been Gutted by my encounter with The Bureaucracy. (It's everywhere, even the frickin' Fair!)

I have decent reasons for being unemployable; the best might be my intolerance for bureaucratic indifference. Bureaucracies seem born for indifference, for they defend against anybody ever needing to give a shit about anything important, like feelings, meanings, or any of the tinier decencies. We call them faceless, though they've always been much more (or is that less?) than that. They seem soulless because they were designed to ignore us, to be indifferent to our needs and pleadings. They aren't supposed to care but stand there as an immovable barrier to humanness. Were it not for the bureaucrats, we would be in grave danger of engaging with genuine decency rather than superficially, without the numbing complacency to which we've all grown too accustomed to experiencing.

I fled back to the fairgrounds after a quick breakfast, only to realize just after arriving that I'd arrived an hour before opening time. I fiddled around in the booth for a few minutes before retreating home to a Zoom meeting I'd failed to remember I was supposed to be attending. The rest of the day went downhill as arrhythmia overwhelmed my cadence. By late afternoon, I'd found my work clothes. An hour of weeding followed by mowing set me back on what was left of my wheels. I am always surprised and dismayed by how easily wounded I seem. A moment's indifference from someone who could have been caring might tip me over and pour something terribly important right out of me. Then I'm forever trying to replace what's lost if that even proves possible.

The Muse called from the booth later that afternoon to ask if I'd moved one of the tables when I'd stopped to service the booth earlier. I hadn't. Someone had moved one of the tables, exposing the supplies we'd stored beneath to the world. The booth had been tossed despite security in the building! I have no idea who might have taken it upon themselves to trash our booth and no others, though I have my suspicions. I told The Muse that I would report it to "The Asshole What's In Charge Of Operations." There's always one of those, for they're the sole essential element within every indifferent bureaucracy, that and Big Mean Guys. The Muse insisted that I not bother, for her tolerance for bureaucratic indifference borders on the infinite. They wouldn't have done anything but chastise me for leaving belongs in the booth unguarded, anyway, a clear violation of a regulation clearly stated in the exhibitor's manual. Bureaucracy specializes in assigning blame, and the incident would just have been my fault.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver