Monday, July 12, 2010

OCF 2010: Headlong into the bureaucracy (Pt. I)

Another tomorrow in the brief dusty march completed.  A sojourn through the hippie duality of hedonism and social awareness:  Oregon Country Fair, 2010.

Ed Knoph, a potential sorcerer and a friend of several years, came by the house on Tuesday night, and we loaded up my little errand-running city car so that we could get an early start on Wednesday morning.  This year, my fifth (non-consecutive) year as "official" Fair Staff, I was granted:
  • an Outta Site parking permit which meant that I could drive my car this year (a first);

  • a Significant Other Pass (S.O.P.)!  An S.O.P. is a plum.  It means that one is not recognized by Fair bureaucracy as working staff, but rather as the life partner of a working member of staff.  According to the law of the Fair as written, S.O.P.s are not required to work unless they so desire.
Ed and I were on the road out of Portland by 9am.  Leaving at that relatively early hour, we were afforded a leisurely pace, which is good.  The logistics of the Oregon Country Fair necessitate an enormous organizational structure.  The system seems to operate on the very brink of anarchy and collapse at all times.  So, it is good to approach the entrance to the labyrinth with as much saintly resignation as one can muster.  There will certainly be hassles. But, believe it or not, the system somehow works.  (Perhaps that's true of all bureaucracies.  I don't know...) 

Fair Admissions
Ed and I arrived at Fair Admissions sometime around noon.  Our names were located on the appropriate lists so that we could be awarded our identification bracelets.  One hurdle out of the way!

Next, we queued up for our parking permit.  Since it was still early, our wait was not long.

When we got to registration table, we were met by the old country hippie in charge of issuing parking permits.  A nice enough fellow.  By the lines on his face, I judged him to be in his late 50s.  He had a railroad cap on his head; his mostly-white-with-a-tinge-of-rusty-brown hair was pulled back in a pony tail.  He wore John Lennon wire-frames on the bridge of his bulbous nose.  His skin was a pinkish-red "farmer's tan."  He informed me that since I was designated an S.O.P., I was ineligible for a parking permit.

"Maybe the permit is listed in Ed's name" I said, hopefully.

He looked through the file again.  "Yeah, here it is," he said after a minute.  "Ed Knoph.  See the 'OS' by his name?  That means he's got an Outta Site pass."

"But wait!" said another bureaucrat, pointing at a different list.  "Look here!  According to this list, Ed Knoph has the initials 'FS.'  He's part of Far Side camp and doesn't get a permit."

Bureaucratic snafu!  The lists did not match!  We had arrived at a dead-end in the maze. 

All present were stymied.  Someone suggested that I call my crew leader.  Which I did.  But Mark didn't pick up.  I left a voice message on his cell.

Lost in the system
 Ed and I decided to unpack our camping chairs and take a seat in the shade of some nearby trees to await word from Mark. We sat and watched Fair Folk arriving in their hundreds.

My cell phone rang.  It was Mark.  "Hang tight," said he.  "I've been detained at work, but I'll be there as soon as I can."  (Mark lives and works in nearby Florence.)  Ed and I were reassured.  Mark Freeman is an expert at negotiating the Fair bureaucracy

It was roasting hot, and dusty, and muggy, but I was content enough, sitting in the shade.  People passed by, friendly and happy.  The Fair does that to them.

Oso came by, at one point.  Oso is a gruff, grizzly hippie, at least six and a half feet tall, shaped like a mountain.  He's got waist-length white hair.  He usually wears coveralls, with no shirt underneath.  He is a Very Important Person in the Fair hierarchy.

"Is that Oso?" I called as he went by.

He stormed past without looking.  "Oso died," he said.

"I know your nephew," I said.

He climbed into the driver's seat of his gas-powered Gator.  "'zat right?" he asked.

"Isaac," I said.

"That's one of 'em," he said.  Then he drove off.  No softening of that sour, angry visage.  I won't begrudge him his gruffness.  Any bureaucrat of significance must find some way to keep the petitioners at bay.

Ancient Greek patriarch, Pan, hangin' at Admissions
An hour went by, and Mark had not arrived.  As the sun declined to the west, our patch of shade grew smaller and more confining, like a shrinking spot of high ground in a flash flood.  "Try him again," said Ed.

Still no answer.  "You know, I wonder if we could just buy a permit?" Ed mused.

"Let's try," I said.

So, we approached the registration table again and asked, "Can we just buy a parking permit?"

"Sure," said the Fair official.  "Ten bucks."

Ed and I looked at each other.  "Guess we should have asked sooner," I said.

We had only just purchased our parking permit, affixed it to the inside of the windshield, and set off for our campsite when we saw Mark Freeman hustling toward Admissions, coming to our rescue.  "Too late, Mark," I said, grinning.

He looked exasperated.  Already.  The Fair was just getting started.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  Mark Freeman has the patience of a saint.

Ed and I drove to Far Side campground, which is about a 2 mile drive from Admissions.  There we were told by the gatekeepers that, due to some problems that had occurred the previous year, the Fair had come to an agreement with Oregon Department of Transportation.  This agreement meant that we could only drive in as far as the first fence, but under no circumstances could we drive all the way in to the camp site.  That meant we would have to haul our gear on foot for a good half-mile.

Long Tom all choked up
 Which we did.  It took us about 4 trips back and forth between the two of us.  It was close to 100o F, and the air was still and close.  Dust rose with every step.  We got our gear unloaded and piled into a flat patch under the trees in the camping area assigned to our crew.  Then we huffed it back out to the car and drove another 2 miles to the Outta Site parking field, where we parked the car for the weekend.  We then walked through the fairgrounds back to Far Side campground and finally set up our camp.

Look closely!  Can you see Ed in the Dragon's eye?
We got settled and sat down to relax just as dusk deepened into night.  I was exhausted, dirty, and sweaty.  But I'd run the bureaucratic gauntlet and come out the other side:  into the Fair.  Good times to come...
To be continued...


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you also are a very patient person Dade. I am looking forward to part two. Ed G

Mike L said...

We were there Sunday, Dade, and didn't see you! I asked a couple of the security people if they knew where you were and I could tell by the shock on their faces they didn't want to talk about it. I had even prepared Carolyn what to expect if we ran into you, she was alarmed, but tried to stay calm. What a bummer.

Mike L said...

We were there Sunday, Dade, and didn't see you! I asked a couple of the security people if they knew where you were and I could tell by the shock on their faces they didn't want to talk about it. I had even prepared Carolyn what to expect if we ran into you, she was alarmed, but tried to stay calm. What a bummer.