It is Monday morning and time again for another blog, based on my recently published book, Confessions of a Government Man: How to Succeed in Any Bureaucracy. My memoirs of my GSA career are probably not as newsworthy as those recently published by George Bush, but they’re a lot funnier. My last blog had to do with the United States Courts, specifically a federal judge who detained me at gunpoint during an unfortunate misunderstanding on my part. Today I have just a few quickies. These short tales are but a few of the many episodes with judges which I discuss in Confessions.
Designing a courthouse with a committee of judges is like designing a mansion for a sultan with eleven wives. Here are a few cases in point
A chief judge insisted upon a window behind the bench of his courtroom in a building under design because he wanted natural light. This was against the advice of the world-class project architect and anyone else with any common sense. Did I say that among their eccentricities, some judges consider themselves to be the great American architect? The result of this fiasco, as predicted, was that the natural light coming in from the aforesaid window prevented anyone from seeing the judge. Then the judge said, “Why didn’t anyone in GSA tell us this would happen?” (At that point I popped a few more Excedrins) The solution was to spend about $60,000 to have an artist create a custom designed and aesthetically pleasing fabric to install over the window. Ironically, the fabric looked so nice that architectural reviewers considered this an act of genius, with the judge of course, accepting all credit for this innovative design feature.
In a similar show of stubbornness, a female judge insisted that her newly created chambers in a renovated building face the side of the building with a great view but a church steeple across the street. We told her that the bells will disturb her. “Don’t worry,” she said. “My brother is a contractor and he can design another seal inside the window which will block out the sounds.”
The bells disturbed her. Her brother’s creation didn’t work. What was her newest solution? “Tell the pastor not to ring the bells during the day.” She ultimately came to terms with an hourly serenade.
How can I forget the frantic call from a GSA building manager after a judge demanded that he immediately replace the toothbrush holder in the judge’s private bathroom because it didn’t match the marble? I told our building manager that it would be cheaper for the government if he would just go up and brush the judge’s teeth for him.