A CLEAR, cool morning, My wife and I skipped church in lieu of a lazy morning with a pot of coffee and the newspaper. Something in the paper prompted Barbara to ask: "Have you considered being something other than a bureaucrat?" "I am not a bureaucrat. I am a dedicated public official." It was an old and familiar dialogue in which we each said our lines with a chuckle in spite of the latent seriousness in her question. That led to a rambling, inconclusive disussion of careers and lifestyles.
After a light lunch, Barbara caught bits of an old Humphrey Bogart movie on television while I paid a few bills and scratched out a book review for the Middle East Journal.
At dusk we started cooking for our dinner guests: a young deputy assistant secretary of defense and his wife and the president of the American Institute of Architects' Foundation and her husband. A nice evening with seafood; much talk of war, historic preservation and the housing market. Monday
Barbara dropped me off at the Treasury Department and was off to her job as a convention planner. Work began with an incoming telephone call from our American staff in Riyadh. A laundry list of issues: scheduling for a construction project, staff arrivals, budgets, etc.
Morning consumed with a review of a concept proposal for another project. The joint commission had become big business: 20 projects, over 150 staff people and their families living in Saudi Arabia.
On budget matters, I suddenly realized I had slipped into the habit of rounding off to the nearest one hundred thousand. Strange. It is such a large amount of money in the evenings and so small during the day. Two more phone calls from Riyadh.
Lunch with a friend on Capitol Hill who is looking for a job in the international area. After lunch, I began working through the telephone messages that had accumulated during the morning. Much of the afternoon spent on a Freedom of Information request for material on our electric power project.
Barbara had a volunteer organization meeting after work so I took the bus home. A dinner of scallops, leftover pizza and cucumber soup. I only get to assemble such repasts when I'm on my own. Tuesday
We began the drive into Washington together and succumbed to the lure of coffee and doughnuts in Old Town Alexandria. Some mornings that bakery is just impossible to drive by.
In the office, I interviewed several candidates for a newly established project assistant position. Most seemed to be disgruntled Department of Energy employes. Yogurt and nuts at my desk while looking at field reports.
Out at 3 for a doctor's appointment. After the appointment, I persuaded Barbara to duck out early. We drove to Middleburg -- just to be in the country for a couple of hours. It was quiet out there, deliciously quiet. We shopped and strolled, ending finally in a little country pub with a crock of stew and a glass of wine. Wednesday
A man had contacted me wanting my ideas on establishing a foundation for international cultural and political exchanges. We met over breakfast downtown. A good discussion but all very theoretical.
After breakfast, I dashed the three blocks to the Treasury Department. A few phone calls and quick dictation, then to an Inter-Agency Action Group meeting: a convocation of the dozen or so federal agencies which are involved in the joint commission. The State Department representative provided a good debriefing on the situation in the Middle East and, in particular, the meaning of the Mecca Mosque incident.
The afternoon was terrible. A problem with a visa for a non-American wife of a project man about to begin a two-year assignment in Saudi Arabia. More contrary telexes from our field people. After all the haggling we do amongst ourselves on the American side of the commission, dealing with the Saudis seems like a snap.
The boss gets after me because of the mixup on the visa question. It was infuriating because he was absolutely right. Mea culpa.
I have to prepare for contract negotiations and need to go to Houston sometime next week. Which days are least inconvenient? Out of the office around 6:30. Barbara is out of cash so I have to walk to her office so that we can get the car out of the parking garage. Perfect finale to a perfectly miserable afternoon. Thursday
The debris from yesterday's unsolved problems covered my desk. By midmorning, fresh incoming telexes and memos had started to cover the old problems. More design changes on the financial information center the joint commission is helping the Saudi Ministry of Finance build in Riyadh. The boss says I should start thinking about getting back out to Riyadh on the project. It will be my ninth trip. Another meeting on accelerating recruitment for the U.S. staff.
With a hot pastrami sandwich at my desk, I glanced at the State Department cable traffic and news clippings on the Middle East. In the afternoon, the Department of Energy sent over several technical annexes to the solar energy agreement between the two governments. I found myself spending more time worrying about how to get them quickly to Riyadh, than the ideas contained in them. It's times like this when I feel more like a bureaucrat than a public official.
In the evening Barbara was off to her aerobic dance class. I worked on personal correspondence. Friday
The morning is bright and sparkling. For a change, we get up early enough to have a real breakfast before heading to work.
After a few calls and a short meeting to review the scope of services for a new contract, I went to see the boss (a senior Foreign Service officer seconded to Treasury) for a few minutes. The question was how to best augment the American staff of one of our smaller projects. The "few minutes" turned out to be 2 1/2 hours involving a discussion of other projects, the future role of the commission, home office-field relations (a perennial favorite topic) and a bit of sideline commentary on the current state of play of the Egyptian-Israeli negotiations.
Went to a farewell lunch with a friend who was moving to the West Coast to be international marketing manager for a medical services company. By midafternoon, I had worked through enough papers to get back down to Thursday's problems and even made a dent in those. But some of Thursday's problems will be part of Monday's agenda and the Houston trip will have to be later in the week. Saturday
I went to work for Barbara -- running errands in preparation for the 15 couples coming for cocktails that night. A going away party for close friends being transferred to Richmond.
The grocery shopping put me in a foul mood. The lines were slow and I had trouble (as usual) finding the items that were on Barbara's list. The cheese wasn't in the cheese section where it should have been. It was in the gourmet section. And the gourmet crackers, of course, were not in the gourmet section. Home in time for a quick bowl of soup and then off for a couple of hours of soccer scrimmaging.
Ten grown men and a couple of high schoolers kicked a blue and white ball around a football field. A newcomer to soccer, I have fallen in love with it. But driving home, muddy and tired, I wondered if the game won't accelerate the aging process rather than keep me young a little longer.
The party was a great success. After all the guests had gone, we settled in by the fire with the guests of honor for a quiet talk of Washington, Richmond, the Middle East. We would miss them.
Later, as we cleaned up the dishes by ourselves, Barbara's eyes moistened. Damned Washington! People move away too much. Good friends are always leaving. It was another of our familiar dialogues. She was right, of course. It is a bit sad. On the other hand, in our town many friends move in as well as out.