Recently, an intergovernmental entity had formed, attempting to merge the two existing unions: Mercosur and the Andean Community, thus forming the third-largest trade bloc. This new political organization was known as Union of South American Nations. Their sole purpose was to establish free movement of its people, improve economic development and build a common defense policy for the country.
But like any government, from sophisticated to third world, there are and always will remain the bureaucracies.
Danica stormed into the office of SAHASE, South American Historical And Scientific Expedition permit preparation and approval division. She let the door drop back on its overly tightened spring, slamming into the frame.
Someone obviously liked having the door kept firmly closed.
Hayden sauntered in behind, dodging the door deftly, hands in his pockets looking exasperated. Having shared Danica’s jeep back into town to save on gas, something he was now deeply regretting, he sighed openly. He had never driven for three hours in a vehicle with someone who couldn’t stop talking.
Mostly to tell him why he was wrong.
‘Next time I see one of your flags, I hope I have to take a shit.’ But he chose to keep that little thought to himself.
It was a small barren office which consisted of two desks, one phone, a fax machine and a computer that made most typewriters look modern. On the dirt soiled walls, or it might have been its paint colour, were numerous tourist posters defining the wonders of South America, from the world’s highest waterfall: Angel Falls in Venezuela to the world’s largest river: the Amazon, from the world’s longest mountain range: the Andes to the world’s largest rainforest: the Amazon Rainforest.
Hayden wanted to point out. ‘But we’re already here.’ But felt it would fall upon deaf ears.
Behind the desk, boots up on the blotter, hands behind his head, napping comfortably, sat the administrator. A small man, five six, with short black hair, curled and pressed around his sides, with dark tanned skin and brown hair on every exposed area except his face. He wore a light yellow short sleeved dress shirt and matching pants, both sweat stained, and a name tag pinned to his pocket which read, “Diego Mantoya - Customer Service Is Our Mandate.”
To the side of the desk, a five foot circulating fan, blowing hard across his face, to which he seemed totally unaware.
Danica slammed both her hands onto the desk, her permit crumpled under her fingers with authority, shaking the four legged furniture until a stapler fell off the side into a tin garbage can beside it. It clanged as it fell.
The man’s eyes opened lazily, feet unmoved, not startled in the least. He seemed to get woken up like this a lot. He muttered without looking up. “Welcome to the South American Historical And Scientific Expedition permit office. How may I be of service of to you today?”
Hayden was impressed. No sarcasm at all.
Danica got down right to the point. “You can be of service to me by explaining how I and him…” She gestured with her thumb to Hayden without turning. “Both got permits for the same segment of jungle for the same time frame for two different scientific explorations.”
The man already had the answer prepared. “It’s a big jungle.”
Danica appeared to have been visibly slapped. “You mean it was intentional?”
Diego let his feet drop to the floor. He reached over and opened the first drawer to his right. He pulled out two trays, one with unapproved blank permits and one with stamped and approved ones. He explained with as much patience as he could. “Basically, you come in and you ask for a segment to work. From there, we ask you to show us your credentials and we validate your survey plans. Once confirmed, I check to ensure no one is living on the area you seek or owns it. Once validated it is a public domain, I give you a permit.” He held up a recently approved copy. “Viola. And you’re good to go.”
Danica was flabbergasted. “That’s it. All I have to do is point at your map and say I would like to search there and all you do is make sure there are no huts on it and I get a permit?”
“That and no villages.” Diego smiled, speaking without inflection. “But essentially, you got it.”
Even Hayden found it a bit amusing. This office was more interested in the administration fees than the overlap of scientific teams.
But admittedly, each permit provided for a two mile radius from the point of selection, so too many overlaps was entirely difficult. Plus, how many people really needed to block two miles from being encroached upon by other researchers?
Hayden then turned to glance in Danica’s direction. ‘Well, maybe one.’
Danica slammed her hands on the desk again. “Do you know how much money my company has invested in this little project of mine?”
Diego smiled. “In regards to your permit, seventy-five dollars.”
Danica seemed insulted. “Maximum Pharmaceuticals invests a Hell of a lot more than that.”
Diego pointed to the crumpled paper in her hand. “Not for that permit. It was only seventy five dollars.”
Hayden interjected with some annoyance. “I paid eighty.”
Diego smiled. “Yours was Canadian. We charge more for the conversion.”
Hayden was about to point out if Diego bothered to check a newspaper, he would discover, the Canadian dollar was higher right now. But then again, he felt it was not worth the debate.
Danica on the other hand was not ready to give in. “My company is headquartered out of Toronto Canada.”
“Really?” Diego looked visibly surprised at that. “Then I must terribly apologize.”
Danica turned to give Hayden an ’I told you so look.”
Which was quickly wiped away when Diego interrupted her with. “Then you still owe us five dollars.”
Hayden had to turn away to control the burst of laughter that shot out from his chest.
Danica snapped back to see if he was kidding.
Diego wasn’t. His hand was open for the additional five dollars.
Before Danica could make matters worse, Hayden handed Diego a five dollar Canadian bill.
Danica sneered in Hayden’s direction. “I could have paid the five dollars so you know.”
“I don’t doubt it.” Hayden slipping his wallet back into the side pocket of his pants. “You look like a woman with money.”
Danica was unsure if Hayden was being humorous or sarcastic. “I’ve written three books.”
Hayden shrugged. “I’ve never read them.”
“I’m not surprised. I use very few monosyllables.” Danica turned back to Diego, but still speaking to Hayden. “That and I can’t picture you getting past page eight without muttering the word ‘Duh’ at least three times.”
Diego snickered loudly. “That was a good one senor.” He officially recorded the five dollar bill in his logbook. “Your wife is very funny.”
Hayden and Danica both turned in his direction and spoke in unison. “We’re not married.”
Diego grinned at that. “Could have fooled me.”
Hayden leaned against the rear wall and asked Diego pointe blank. “What are our options here?”
Diego looked as his manual, which appeared untouched as it had a deep coffee ring on top from where his drink always sat. “Well, you both can do one of three things.” He stared at Danica and Hayden. “One: you both work on the same plot of land, of two miles….” He let the word two miles stretch out defining how big an area it was and the two of them fighting over it like bickering children was foolish. “And do your work without bothering the other.”
Danica and Hayden said nothing. Both had their arms crossed and providing equally icy stares.
Diego continued. “Two: One of you returns your permit, no refunds of course, and leaves the other to do their work. When theirs expires, you may return and I will provide you a new permit.” He looked at his stamps. “At half the price.”
Hayden and Danica turned to one another and their facial expressions said it all, neither would be returning their permit.
Diego offered his final suggestion. “Or three, I revoke both your permits and alert my government to have both your passports banned indefinitely, followed by the formal sealing of our borders from both your companies… Corporate and educational.” He looked to them both. “Blocked from entrance into South America for the next ten years.”
Diego paused to ensure they both understood the magnitude of forcing the administrator to become involved, whose only desire was to stamp forms and nap all day.
Hayden barely waited a second to jump in. “I’m for fucking door number one.”
Danica stared at Hayden and what she felt was an unnecessary use for swearing. “I’m for number one as well.” She glared in Hayden’s direction with resignation. “Presuming he can stop pissing on my markers.”
At this Diego bristled, turning in Hayden’s direction with true annoyance. “Sir. I must point out, urinating on our land is punishable by a very expensive fine.”
Danica smiled waiting to see Hayden get himself out of this.
Hayden asked. “How much for a permit?”
Diego looked at Hayden with seriousness in his eyes, then smiled. “Eighty more dollars.”
With Danica’s mouth wide open in shock, Hayden reached for his wallet.