Wednesday, March 31, 2004


I had a Kafka moment at work yesterday. Well, rather longer than a moment, actually: the whole eight hour shift was rather Kafka-esque, featuring heavily one in[s]ane question after another. Interestingly, this real life bout of surrealism was foreshadowed by the few pages that I read on the streetcar on my way there: there's a brilliant scene in Amerika that finds its protagonist, Karl Rossmann, observing the intricate workings of the information desk at The Hotel Occidental. What is essentially described is a library reference desk set up in the lobby of an uber-busy New York hotel. Those individuals providing information are the so-called under-porters, each of which is accompanied by a boy that fetches various sources of written information at the request of the very exacting under-porter. If the wrong resource is retrieved, the item is simply backhanded onto the floor. In this particularly busy information sector, time is of the essence:

These two providers of information... had always at least ten enquiring faces before them in the window opening. Among these ten, who were continually changing, there was often a perfect babel of tongues, as if each were an emissary from a different country. There were always several making enquiries at the same time, while others again carried on a conversation with each other...

While I am neither a librarian nor a hotel employee, the situation I found myself in had my co-worker serving a long line-up of individuals at the 'drop-off' counter, and me serving another long line-up of individuals at the 'pick-up' counter. Question upon question upon question precluded any possibility of actual work getting done. Why are people so inquisitive? Why can't they rely upon search engines and consumer health websites a little more often? And does it look like I know where the ant-traps are kept?

I suspect that tomorrow's dreaded shift will also have a literary connection: Dante's Inferno. These days hell finds itself in the environs of that hotbed of brewing violence, North York.

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