The project itself involved finalizing a list of documents our agency would theoretically share with other agencies, with my primary responsibility entailing building an online version of this list, but I had to reach out to others about the appropriateness of including certain documents, mostly along the lines of “This document seems really old. Do we have anything more recent, or do we go with the guidelines from the previous millennium?” (A dozen years into this century and that bit still hasn’t gotten old.) Truly thrilling stuff, determining if various governmental statements have or have not been updated or superseded at any point, and I was happy to leave those determinations in other folks’ hands.
One specific co-worker of mine was the go-to person for one particular document, which left me shaking my head after the fact. I can’t readily recall if I have mentioned this woman before, I think maybe I have? She started here after we moved from Rosslyn to Crystal City, and however competent she is in her professional role she’s just kind of clueless at every point beyond those duties. She’s not mean-spirited at all, but she manages to come across as rude sometimes simply due to her own solipsistic obliviousness. She’s the kind of person who assumes by default that if she hasn’t heard of something, it’s hyper-obscure and no one else will have heard of it either; otherwise, surely she would have been informed that she needed to know about it! That type.
Anyway, she also has a pretty limited sense of humor. She makes jokes, and she laughs at other people’s jokes, but often the jokes she makes are only funny to her and the jokes she laughs at have to be awfully broad, the kind of lame quips that when a person makes them everyone rolls their eyes, and if somebody actually finds them kneeslappingly funny it makes the joke retroactively excruciating. On the other hand she can make legitimately funny jokes excruciating as well, if her frame of reference can’t make sense of them and they have to be explained to her (and make no mistake she will insist upon an explanation).
So. I asked her, via e-mail, if a certain document from 1992 was still valid. She came over to my desk to tell me that yes, in fact, it was still valid because no revision had come along since then. Although of course she couldn’t imagine why no one had revised it in all that time. The very first thing that popped into my head, and which subsequently fell out of my mouth, was “Well, maybe it’s scheduled to be revised every twenty-one years.” Because, HA-HA, what a random arbitrary schedule that would be! Indeed, how droll the very thought! And yet, I swear, as soon as I said it my co-worker very earnestly responded, “Oh, do you think so? Why would they have it every twenty-one …” and I had to, for mercy’s sake, cut her off and say no, no, just kidding, just a joke.
I mean, truth can be stranger than both fiction and humor in the involuted world of government bureaucracy, but seriously? It’s enough to make me question the value of going through life with one eye always on the lookout for opportunities to yank people’s chains. Some rubes just take all the fun out of it.