Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Welcome to my life

Didn't think I'd make it today. I was just about to go to bed when the electricity finally came back.

Luckily, I'd already written my post using the battery on my laptop. Oh the lengths I go to for you, NaBloPoMo...


I’m working on a story right now that requires a visit to a certain hospital clinic here in Dakar. I want to meet some of the patients, to give a bit of a human face to what otherwise would be a dry health story.

After a bit of chasing, I finally got the cell phone number of the doctor in charge of the clinic. Cell phone number because no one is ever in their office and the art of returning phone calls is as rare as it is treasured.

So I called him.

I explained who I was, what I was doing, and that I hoped to visit his clinic.

And he politely explained that he was in Bamako (the capital of Mali, a neighboring country) for a conference but he’d be back on Friday.

“So I can come visit the clinic next week?” I asked.

“Of course. Call me next week and we’ll coordinate.”

And so I hung up, annoyed at being put off another week (this story has dragged on for weeks already), a bit mystified that his Senegalese cell phone worked in a different country, but on the whole fairly satisfied.

But after talking with Rose, we determined that the missing piece was the clinic and its patients, not that particular doctor, and surely even if he was in Bamako, the clinic was still in Dakar. So I determined to call him back and get a number or a name of the person running the clinic in his absence.

“Who are you?”
“What do you want?”

“We spoke yesterday. I’m a journalist. I know you’re out of town, but can you give me the name of someone who is in Dakar now?”

“I can’t hear a think you’re saying.”
“What do you want?”
“Call back in an hour.”

It wasn’t exactly, “I’m going through a tunnel, csdroushsldfafjoai… You’re crsshhhedlkjlckagoid up! I think caaoseiruadskjf cut off.”

But it was close.

So I called back in an hour.

“I’m in Bamako. I’m very busy. I can’t possibly help.”

“Yes, I know, but do you have the number of someone at the clinic in Dakar? Someone who’s there now.”

“Call this number.” And he rattled off the digits.

I dialed.

Charming Receptionist: [answers phone]

I explain who I am, what I’m doing. That the doctor gave me this number as he’s in Bamako this week.

CR: What do you mean? No he’s not. I just saw him this morning.
Me: [Mute surprise]

The conversation continues.
Me: But this is the Right Clinic, is it not?
CR: No this is the psychiatric clinic. I’ll give you the right number.

Liar. Big, fat, baffling liar.

So tomorrow, I’m going to just show up at the Right Clinic. At 8 am, as that’s when Friendly Receptionist at the Right Clinic says he’ll be there. Because he’s the only person I can speak to as, she claims, everyone else is away on a trip.

I predict wild, raging success. Cooperation, inspiration, and efficient productivity.

And I wonder why it takes me so long to get anything done.


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