It is time for another blog from The Government Man, but first, a few announcements. I have been honored with an invite to present some wisdom and insights at the Federal Senior Management Conference in Cambridge, MD April 10-13th. I hope to see some of you there. Also, I have succumbed to technology and my book, Confessions of a Government Man: How to Succeed in Any Bureaucracy, is now available on Kindle.
Today’s blog consists of another excerpt from my book. The story concerns a court construction project. It has been substantially been cleaned up for the blog and family entertainment. Court bashing has always been a popular topic, even if it’s meant in good fun. Here is another strange but true tale.
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Meetings with the judges were unpredictable. We never knew whether they would last an hour or a day. Often it depended on the court calendar.
At the conclusion of another aggravating meeting, Judge “K” said, “Before we leave I would like to know if that episode in the ceremonial courtroom (which was under construction at the time) was somebody’s idea of a joke.”
We had no idea what he was talking about.
“Was it you or the construction crew that decided to put that lewd art in the courtroom?”
Again we drew a complete blank.
“Don’t you know what I’m talking about, Alan?”
“No, Your Honor.”
“Then let’s take a walk and we’ll see who knows what.”
Mystified, a delegation of high powered judges and mortal GSA people walked to the partially completed ceremonial courtroom on the ninth floor. The judge pointed at the ornamental slab of marble framed with mahogany which was on the wall behind the bench. That was where the seal of the court would eventually be inserted.
We looked at it and looked at each other and still didn’t know what the judge was talking about.
“Go a little closer,” said Judge K.
We looked more closely and then it hit us. “Damn,” I said. “Now I see it.”
The judge really did see something which resembled erotic art. The way this piece of marble was quarried and finished, the veins extended symmetrically from the center, forming what looked like the head to toe outline of a naked woman.
Now we had a real problem. This piece of art was not easily recognizable in the stone, but once noticed it would be a distraction in the courtroom. If The New York Post latched on to it, it would be front page news. The judges and GSA agreed that we had to do something.
This was easier said than done. The piece of marble weighed close to a ton, framed by very expensive mahogany. You couldn’t just dismount it and turn it upside down.
GSA was declared innocent of any intent. Judge “JW”, the chief appellate judge, volunteered to head the committee to resolve this problem. We took photographs; we had brainstorming sessions; we went to other ceremonial courtrooms; we called in marble experts.
We brought back the rigging equipment, cut the stone into quadrants and scrambled the pieces. It now looked worse because the design wasn’t symmetrical; you could see the seams. We put it back upside down, inside out ad infinitum but it looked out of place.
At the end of one of these meetings, our project engineer,“CF,” casually said to the court’s district executive, “Instead of modifying the stone, why don’t we just modify the frame?”
The next day Judge JW summoned us to an emergency meeting. We assumed it was related to erotic art.
As usual, Judge K chaired the meeting.
“Gentlemen,” Judge K said, “our district executive has come up with a brilliant solution to the marble problem. Instead of modifying the stone, why don’t we just modify the frame?”
When CF and I looked at each other with a collective, “Huh?” the judges actually thought this was news to us.
“Excellent suggestion,” said CF. “I’ll have the architect redesign the frame.”
The meeting was over in three minutes.
In that ceremonial courtroom today you can see a lovely piece of marble in a frame behind the judge’s bench. The Great Seal of the Court covers what previously had been the (you fill it in) and a piece of solid mahogany covers what had once looked like (you fill it in – see picture below).
I will post additional book excerpts from time to time. For more information about myself or my book please check out my website, http://www.thegovernmentman.com. For a look inside go Amazon.com. For kindle go to Amazon Kindle