Official

by jkatejohnston

3 February 2015

Dear Max,

In Fresno for my reading spa, but I forgot about the part where I have to work. Yesterday, witness prep. Today and tomorrow, hearing. I did have a pretty great burger at that paradise on earth, The Cheesecake Factory.

And I didn’t read one bit. I was so tired and the hotel lighting is harsh white fluorescent. I listened to The Moth Radio Hour, watched two episodes of The Good Wife and was asleep around eight.

I brought The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, Ben, Sea and Sardinia, and A Small Personal Voice. So that’s classy. I read the Feynman book on the train on the way down here. The sun came up as I was reading. It reflected off the train’s inside window. When I looked at the reflection straight on, it was only one sun. When I turned my head to the side, it was two, and then as I slowly turned my head straight again, the two suns slid together again. I decided it must be a dual-pane window, each pane reflecting the sun and when the reflections lined up it looked like one reflection. I tried to think of some Feynman-esque experiment to test this hypothesis, but nothing occurred. He would have been running all over the train figuring it out, causing trouble, but I didn’t know how to do that, so I went back to reading his book, skipping all the math of course.

I wondered if people who have a feeling for numbers have an affection for some and a distaste for others. This brought on by the fact that I read an article in the New Yorker that used the word “reference” as a verb and thought poor Harold Ross is probably spinning in his grave and barfing the whole time. (What an image! Poor man.)

I guess I should explain why I detest the puffed up importance of referencing this or that instead of mentioning it. I speak fluent Official (at least I understand it) and referencing is classic Official: it’s about status and importance, intended to conceal the fact that nothing much is happening. You reference the input from stakeholders as you dialog with peers at the roundtable working group, and after it’s all over you exit meeting. I don’t know where I learned Official. It’s not part of the job I have now. Official is just floating around the world, ready to come out of your mouth when your mind happens to vacant. (All this has been said before in Politics and the English Language.)

Anyway, all this good taste from someone who doesn’t read and who spent a whole day last week writing something called Stipulation and Waiver; and Order or to put it another way: Roll Over, We Win.

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