"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


swimming in the sacred waters

Yesterday was the day that has become an annual tradition, and which I try to limit to one per year: the day I deal with UT's mind-boggling bureaucracy. This is the day when I psych myself up to stand in lines, pay bills, sign forms, and be as pleasant as possible while trying to distract myself from the 99% humidity outside. And also to dodge all the freshmen and their parents, who are wandering around confused, carrying armloads of books and t-shirts from the University Co-op.

Now, look, I recognize that it's incredibly difficult to keep up with all the personal details of nearly 50,000 students and however many tens of thousands of employees. A certain degree of bureaucracy is necessary. And UT has done a pretty good job of moving many of these things online in the last few years, such that now it's possible to submit my dissertation online, for example.

But sometimes I wonder. Take, for example, the dilemma of the keys. This is my sixth year at the University, and today I will be moving my books and files and maps and other accoutrements into my sixth office at UT. That's six. Not that I'm complaining. As I have advanced in rank this year, I get to move out of the Cubicle of Darkness and Despair and into a really nice, grown-up office, with my own bookshelf, and that I get to share with Ayesha. I couldn't be happier about this.

But getting to move into my new office isn't as simple as it sounds. First, you need one of our department's administrators to officially request a key request form from another of our departmental administrators. This takes forever, because administrator A has 70 things on her back-to-school to-do list. But I finally went in and asked on Thursday, the request was sent on Friday morning, and by the time I got around to the Day of Bureaucracy, administrator B was in a pleasant mood and filled out the key request form on the spot.

Then, after stopping by the Tower to go to the cashier's office, I had to go to what I consider one of the most surreal places on the planet (the other one is this place): the UT Key Office. That's right: we have an office completely dedicated to cataloging, filing, issuing, collecting, and copying keys. With a very large staff. It is totally bizarre - it's a room full of keys, for goodness sakes! - and I always feel as though I've stepped into another dimension when I have to go there.

Waits at the key office can be long, as it takes time to find and copy all the keys a person needs for his or her job. This was at least my 5th trip to the key office and I hope it's my final, because I lucked out and only had to wait about five minutes. The 7 people who walked in after me did not appear to be so lucky.

At any rate, after that, I'd more-or-less finished my Day of Bureaucracy, so I walked back out into the heat to my car. It is hot in Austin in August, there's just no other way to describe it, and when it's this hot in Austin, there's only one thing to do: jump into Barton Springs. Our city's 68-degree, spring-fed, public pool is one of the best parts of life here, and it was the perfect way to cool off after this year's day of bureaucratic wrangling. Here's hoping the rest of the year is just as smooth.


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