Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Incident Report, 7-5-2013

I work for a city, and from time to time, I am charged with researching and writing tidbits of the city's history, since I am the person on staff known to have worked for a historical organization in the past, to maintain an interest in history, to have the research abilities to ensure that whatever I write is actually true, and to have the writing skills to put together something vaguely understandable.  Also, I am fairly low down on the org chart.

So last Friday, I went to the big neighboring city downtown to visit the county archives to do some research on the history of the city. I don't have any history assignments at the moment, but I wanted to see what was available in case something crops up in the future.  On my way to the archives, I mixed up which exit to take (despite having driven this same way to get to downtown many, many, many times before) and found myself on a different freeway instead of on the surface street I was expecting to see.  I'd left in plenty of time to drive there, even with a mix-up like this, but I was worried about the Parking Situation.  Plenty of spaces in the garage = on time!  Limit spaces available = lots of circling = late. And late will not make a good impression on the archivist.  As I exited the Wrong Freeway and circled back to go in the other direction, I may, dear readers, I may have said a bad word.  You weren't there, so you can't prove it, but I can't tell you it didn't happen.

I needn't have worried though.  It was the Friday after a holiday, and the usual crowd in the garage had decided to stay home.  Lots of parking spaces!  (Or, as an economic development expert I know would say, there were "plenty of parks."  If you catch me referring to parking spaces as "parks," remind me that I asked you to tell me not to use that word except to refer to places of outdoor recreation and respite.)

Now, I had called a few weeks before to let the archivist know I would be popping in for a visit and had even emailed her a list of the items I wanted to see.  But when I arrived, she had no record of my appointment.  In fact, she didn't seem to have any recollection of me or my phone call to her.  It was Awkward.  But fortunately, she was nice and immediately started digging around for the first item on my list.  And as it turns out, she couldn't find it.

"That's the first time this has happened," she said.  I said, "Oh, really?" but thought to myself, 'Of course,'  since it is common for me to be a source of something going wrong with someone else.  "That's okay, I said.  Could I see these maps instead?" and handed her a list.  No, my friends, I could not see the other maps instead.  Though listed on this archive's finding aids on this archive's website, the maps were held in another building by another county agency.  But not to worry, she'd call over there and let them know I was coming.  I heard her call the agency, but I don't know who she spoke to, because when I arrived at that agency, the person who was supposed to help me was not expecting me and had no idea who I was or why I was there.  Fortunately, he was nice, and immediately starting digging around for the first map on my list.  But he couldn't find it.  Then he searched for the second item on my list and couldn't find it, either.  As it turns out, the finding aid posted online hadn't been updated in years, or maybe it's that the map files themselves haven't been checked to see if the maps or there, but for whatever reason, there was no telling how long it was going to take him to find the maps.  Considering how things were going that morning, I thought it best not to wait for the situation to improve.  The situation would *not* improve, of this I was certain.  I gave him my card, told him to call me if he ever found the maps, and left.

As I drove to the office, I couldn't find my coffee cup and became convinced I had driven away from downtown with the cup on top of my car.  When I arrived at the office, though, I found it safely nestled inside a shopping bag.  So that was one thing that went right.

And that was my day.  Mishaps in archives followed by coffee cup dismay followed by stomach ache.  How was your day-after-July 4th?