Over the last few weeks I’ve spent more time than what is healthy going through documents in the National Archives at College Park, MD. I’m doing research for my master’s thesis, which is why I came to the US in the first place (the travelling and the foreign culture experience is only a bonus). In a strange way, the research is both hard work and autopilot usage at the same time.
It is tiresome to spend hours and hours each day going through documents where, sometimes, you can barely read what it says, and often even if you can read it, it’s hard to know whether or not it will be useful (my thesis is yet unwritten, after all). For documentation purposes, I photograph every single document that might come in handy. Since I hardly will be able to go back (I hear the commute between Oslo and Maryland is a total drag), I’m terrified of missing something important. So I overcompensate, and take pictures of a lot more than I need to (like newspaper clippings of the Jordanian Prince Mohammed’s engagement pictures…)
The archive is a pretty strange community. A lot of the researchers come there from afar (myself being the prime example), and they often have a limited time to spend there. Thus they tend to exhaust the opening hours in order to get as much done in as short amount of time as possible (myself being a really bad example – I like to come late and leave early…). This means that they very quickly become friendly with the staff (members of which are doing an excellent job). The staff is more or less permanent, of course, but they too form a strange community since they constantly must adapt to new researchers while still keeping up with the “veterans”.
Me being me, and the job being relatively mindless at times, I cannot help but creating stories for some of the people I’ve come to see almost every day. For some reason, in my mind they are all playing a part in a pirate story (I bet you wondered where the pirate part would come in, didn’t you?).
There are two pirate ships. One is captained by the fearless Italian-Shooed Joe. He has a bright and capable crew under his command – Roy the Accountant is the first mate, and other prominent crewmembers include Ezra Mousetrap, Sheila the Nymph and Fireman Carl. However, in sheer strength, this crew is no match for the shipmen of the competing pirate ship – lead by Captain Charcoal-Barrel Bill. His crew includes musclemen and –women like The Duckman, Big Al, Big-Italian-Al and Hippalong-Sally.
Now, this tale wouldn’t be complete without a few ships from the Royal British Navy chasing the pirates like rats: the Virgin is under the command of Sir Adam Noblenose, who for some reason is cooperating with a whole family of Irish nobility – Patrick the Young, Patrick the Bohemian and Patrick the Lady.
Though this is a story begging not to be written (I have a bunch of those too), it seems that one thing is clear: even when I am doing academic work, my creativity points towards writing fiction. Like a pirate’s compass pointing north (or towards what you really, really want…).