Several months before I was scheduled to leave for , I was assigned
to the office in
. In my case, I was
shipping out in August, so I would be in for most of the summer.
It was a busy time in , but the officers running country desks liked to handle their own work. Theyd give me an occasional name trace to run, or have me coordinate a cable with another division. But I wasnt busy. Id read the morning trafficcables from the stations in , and what ever traffic was coming in. Id stop by my friends offices throughout the building or meet them for coffee in the cafeteria. And one or two days a week, Id take care of various tasks I had to accomplish before going abroad, like and getting my final medical clearance.
Other than that, I spent a lot of time reading. I had a stack of books on my desk about the history and politics of , and I wanted to get through them all before I left. People at the Agency werent really "book people," and when colleagues stopped by my cubicle and saw me reading, theyd usually chuckle or say, "Good for you," in a sort of half-admiring, half "I wonder if you really belong here" way. This was the same attitude Id gotten from the Chief of when Id needed him to sign off on an course I wanted to take at the Department. Hed said, "Nobody ever takes these," although after thinking about it for a few seconds hed signed and said, "See if you get anything out of it."
One day, the Deputy Chief of , a bland, decent guy stuck at GS-13 or 14, called me into his office. Thered been some sort of routine request from Congress about and , and he wanted me to do a file review of all of the offices cases, active and inactive, going back five years, to find the information. He was apologetic about it, since even the words "file review" implied something wasteful and dull. But I didnt mind. Id read a few case files while working on various matters, and they were an interesting window into the work Id be doing once I went abroad.
The offices files were stored in long, low cabinets that ran the length of the wall between the Deputy Chief and the Chief s offices. There were probably about of them, going back ten years. Inactive cases older than that were sent to Archives. labeled TRBALLOON, pronouncing both of the first two letters, and then the word. either typed on a label or written directly on the folder. They varied in length, with the longer ones filling two or three of the orange folders.
Reprinted by permission of Bloomsbury USA.
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