Monday, November 17, 2008

I Got Clout

Wasta is an Arabic word that makes the world go 'round in the Gulf. It means influence, or clout, or connections. Need to get paperwork through a ministry in a hurry? You better have wasta. If you don't, it's acceptable to know someone with wasta, so long as that person will contact their connections on your behalf.

I had no wasta of my own in the Gulf, but I knew people who were well-connected. This translated into a kind of semi-wasta for me, where if I had asked the right person to ask another right person, I could possibly have accomplished something.

Here at home, it's not always so different. And here at home, as in the Gulf, I have a terrific shortage of my own wasta. This might be due to my working class childhood, my choice of colleges, my disrespect for normal society, or my career choices. Whatever. I don't have wasta. Sometimes I don't care, because in my heart of hearts, I naively believe that living with sincerity, hard work, and honesty will pay off one day. Though this belief is challenged so frequently that I am having a hard time sticking to it as I age and wilt.

Wasta is kind of like being on the guest list. All the time.

For months now, we've been trying to switch my office's storage unit out of the name of a colleague who left the company and into my name (since I have the corporate card that the bill needs to go to).

D, the kid who does support work in my office, called Manhattan Mini-St0rage some time back.

"I need to change the name on the storage unit."

"The guy whose name is currently on it needs to come in. So does the person whose name it's being changed to."

But that wasn't going to happen. The former colleague has a job too...he cannot go to the storage place during the day. And I have made myself so busy after work that I can ONLY go during the day.

And so we waited. The former colleague got a new bill for the storage unit.

"Tell D to take care of this!"

Uh...hmm. What to do?

D called the storage place again.

"Is there some other way to do this?"

"No."

"What about...?"

"No."

"Can't I...?"

"No."

He gave up. Another week went by.

"Take care of this," I groused at him.

"What should I do?"

"I don't care. Do something. Fix it." I'm a firm believer in continuing to push until you get an answer you can deal with. And I didn't want to spend my time chasing this.

He called the storage place again. Somehow, he got a manager on the phone.

"I need to change it from one name to another, please, isn't there something you can do? I need to put the unit in the name of my editor in chief, Marie Javins."

(pause)

"Marie Javins? You mean the writer who travels all over Africa?"

Turns out the manager of the mini-storage place owns the garage next to my single-car condo-garage. Minutes later, he cheerfully agreed that the ex-colleague could write a letter, and I just had to come on down with it, and he'd get all the paperwork sorted out.

I have wasta at Manhattan Mini-Storage.

What a waste of wasta.

5 comments:

Matt Hollingsworth said...

Wasta sounds like Elmer Fudd trying to say Rasta. Or something.

At least it was good for something!

Prof. Roy Richardson said...

Wasta-Man vibrations, Yeah!

Ed Ward said...

As an editor, may I suggest that the correct punch-line here would be "Watta wastea wasta?"

Anonymous said...

Marie, your Aunt K used to talk about always wanting a 'get out of jail free card', which roughly translates to clout. When she received preferred passes for us to visit a Washington museum without having to wait in line with the huddled masses, she exulted in finally getting some special clout.
The reason she got the passes? It was the Holocaust Museum, and she is the descendant of an Auschwitz survivor. Maybe not the way one wants to get wasta, but you take it wherever you get it.

Marie said...

Maybe I should be a bit more pleased that all I had to do was spend a fortune on a single-car garage near Manhattan.