How to win friends and influence people: bribery!
The result of biologist E.F. “Ed” Ricketts’ 1940 expedition in the Gulf of California (then called the “Sea of Cortez” on U.S. maps) have been an invaluable contribution not only to the study of Pacific marine and tidal biology, but to travel literature … and to the sizable library of foreign observations of Mexican culture as well.
The Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Research and Travel (1941) was a collaboration. From notes, Ricketts contributed much of the research journal, while the Leisurely parts came from a member of the crew, the pioneering ecologist’s drinking buddy, editor, lab assistant, crewman and partner in crime, John Steinbeck:
Did I say crime?
… in regard to the bribes one sometimes gives to Mexican officials. This is universally condemned by Americans, and yet is a simple, easy process. A bargain is struck, a price named, the money paid, a graceful compliment exchanged, the service performed, and it is over. He is not your man, nor you his. A little process has been terminated. It is rather like the old-fashioned buying and selling for cash or produce.
We find we like the cash-and-carry bribery as contrasted with our own system of credits. With us, no bargain is struck, no price named, nothing is clear. We go to a friend who knows a judge. The friend goes to the judge. The judge knows a senator who has the ear of the awarder of contracts. And eventually we sell five carloads of lumber. But the process has only begun. Every member of the chain is tied to every other. Ten years later the son of the awarder of contracts must be appointed to Annapolis. The senator must have traffic tickets fixed for many years to come. The judge has a political lien on your friend, and your friend taxes you indefinitely with friends who need jobs. It would be simpler and cheaper to go to the awarder of contracts, give him one-quarter of the price of the lumber, and get it over with. But that is dishonest, that is a bribe. Everyone in the credit chain eventually hates and feats everyone else. But the bribe-bargain, having no enforcing mechanism, promotes mutual respect and a genuine liking. If the acceptor of a bribe cheats you, you will not go to him again and he will soon have to leave the public service. But if he fulfills his contract, you have a new friend whom you can trust.
So… now I know not to make that left turn, and as a bonus, I have a new friend whom I can trust.