Listening time: under 3 minutes.
This is a charming account of negotiating communist bureaucracy at the height of the Cold War. John Steinbeck and his pal Robert Capa showed up in the Soviet Union in 1946 for a month of exploration. Here they encounter a small hitch at immigration due to the incompatibility of lead pencils and rubber stamps. I like the assiduity of the official and of our two friends as they try to help him help them complete the necessary procedures.
It’s a happy ending.
Photo credit: mevem at pixabay
‘Now a new problem arose, the stamping of our papers. From the pocket of his tunic he took a little parcel wrapped in newspaper and from it extracted a rubber stamp. But this was all he had, he did not have an inking pad. Apparently, however, he had never had an inking pad, because his technique was carefully designed. From another pocket of his tunic he brought out a lead pencil; then, after licking the rubber stamp, he rubbed the lead pencil on the rubber and tried it on our papers. Absolutely nothing happened. He tried it again. And nothing happened. The rubber stamp did not make even the suggestion of an imprint. To help him, we took out our leaking fountain-pens and dipped our fingers in the ink and rubbed it on his rubber stamp. And finally he got a beautiful impress. He wrapped his stamp up in his newspaper and put it back in his pocket, shook hands warmly with us, and climbed off the plane.’
Source: John Steinbeck, A Russian Journal, with photographs by Robert Capa (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1999 (1948)), p. 13