Losing their jobs came as no surprise to employes at the Department of Energy's gasoline rationing office. But it was something of a jolt when government movers carted off their desks a week before their last day at the agency.
For many in the rationing office, the incident was the final insult for employes who signed on to help implement a policy sought by Jimmy Carter but later shunned by Ronald Reagan.
"I was shocked by the insensitivity of it," said Ken Bragg, a 58-year-old governmental relations specialist who ended 13 years of federal employment on Friday, a victim of Reagan's budget and program cuts. He had expected to finish out his last week in the rationing office, which has been abolished, but was at DOE headquarters being processed for his dismissal when the movers came Monday afternoon.
"When I came in Tuesday morning, my desk was gone, all my personal papers, resumes, my Rolodex with all my telephone numbers, everything," Bragg said. "I couldn't believe it."
Kathy Litwak, 34, was equally horrified to find an empty space where her desk had once been. A gift she had bought for a friend was on the floor, its wrapping tossed aside, but that was all that was left.
"I lost personnel material going back 11 years, all my writing samples, rationing material and paperback books," said Litwak, who is being transferred to another DOE office but is looking for a job out of government.
A Department of Energy spokesman said late Friday that the General Services Administration is taking over the rationing offices, located on two floors at 1111 20th St. NW, and needed to have the premises vacated for new government tenants.
"The office was slated to go out of business, and I'm told the employes were told to pack up their things well in advance," the spokesman said.
The employes unlucky enough to be out of the office when the movers came were the ones who suffered the most. The others were able to salvage their personal belongings before six offices were cleaned out.
"I'm not exactly sure what happened," said Litwak, who was also at Energy headquarters when the movers showed up. "They had sent around a written notice to clear out the desks by Tuesday night, but then they came Monday afternoon."
Both Litwak and Bragg were driven to a government warehouse in the Maryland suburbs to look for their desks. They found a storage room of look-alike furniture stacked up to the ceiling. A warehouseman atop a forklift went from desk to desk trying the key to Bragg's locked desk until he found the right one, its papers intact.
Litwak was not as lucky. Her desk had never beenlocked and its contents had been dumped in a warehouse hamper. She and Bragg spent two hours searching through the discarded material, where she finally found some professional files but not the resumes and personnel papers she needs.
Litwak and Bragg are not sure how many other rationing employes had similar troubles, although Litwak knows of one secretary who was out sick when the movers came and returned to the office Wednesday to find her desk gone.
For Bragg, the rush to move them out was the final straw. "We were still on active duty, and I've just never been anywhere where an employe was denied his work space."