There’s something liberating about being homeless.
(Note: I’m talking about my work here; Hubby and I are perfectly happy in our four-room house, thank you very much)
At the end of February, my staff and I were evicted from the building in which we worked. Not a bad thing, given the propensity of the sheetrock in that building to breed variegated mould, but it was a little disruptive to our projects and our programmes.
How did that happen, you ask? Well, if I said that I work for the government, would that begin to clue you in? I work for the government and I have a fairly senior position — not senior enough to hold any real weight in a senior managers’ meeting, where I’m probably middle management, but senior enough to be responsible for the livelihood and comfort of about thirty people who report through various channels to me. At the end of February, what is known round here as a Cabinet Shuffle took place. Now that isn’t a dance, and it isn’t a rearrangement of furniture — it’s a rearrangement of portfolios of govenrnment ministers, and with that rearrangement went the movement of people.
The trouble with splitting one Ministry into two, with introducing a new Ministry mid-term (people who live in parliamentary democracies based on the Westminster model will know what I’m talking about; the rest of you can just go out and rent Yes Minister or House of Cards to find out) is that sometimes there isn’t enough office space. You’d think that there would be, because all the departments that existed are just as they were, but it’s not true. My department, for example, is being given far more prominence than it had before (and about time too!). The problem? Before, it was sort of merged with other departments, and shared a number of services. Now that it’s got more prominence and is going to stand on its own, it needs to get services of its own.
And, quite literally, an office.
The fun thing about looking for office space on behalf of the government is that (a) you can dream about stuff while (b) not having to make any of the final decisions. Things like the rental or building of offices for the government are decided by something called the Accommodations Committee, so all I have to do is go look at spaces and make recommendations. I’ve hooked up with this cool real estate agent who’s showing me inside arcane and flush buildings all over the town of Nassau, and I’m discovering some really nice spaces — most of the nicest, of course, have wonderful sea views. And I write down my reports and hand them dutifully (in the meantime, my department is scattered all over the place, some of my officers working from home) and call that work.
Ah, well. Four years ago, the week before 9-11, the Nassau Straw Market burned down. The thing about the Straw Market, which was a new building on the site of the old Market, and which some bright sparks in government had decided to combine with the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, putting the Straw Market on the bottom floor and the government offices up above, was that the Ministry of Tourism likewise burned down. (The absurdity of putting the agency that manages the nation’s most important industry on top of a place that sells things made out of straw, hello, is of a magnitude only achievable by governments, IMO, but that’s another story.) For the past four years, Ministry officials have been working from home and other places — thirteen different locations to serve you better, they quipped. They’ve got a new office, and they’re gathering, like crows, as each floor is finished.
So I figured if they could do it, my little department can do it.
And so I wander around town, looking at spaces and writing reports.