I work for General Services Administration, the government’s landlord and holder of the world’s largest real estate portfolio. With such a lofty position and title you’d think we would be housed in wonderful facilities. But you would be wrong.
The GSA Central Office, located at 1800 F Street NW in Washington DC, is a 70-year old building that has been in need of modernization for about 30 years. While the building maintains some of its original grandeur, with its marble clad hallways and grand staircases, the operational parts of the building – where the work gets done – is pretty dreadful. But on the west wing of the third floor is an architectural oasis – The Office of Design and Construction, formerly known as the Office of the Chief Architect. About 7 years ago a renovation took place in that area which covers about 5% of the total building. The walls are painted white, the floors is a combination of ceramic tile in the hallways and carpet tiles on the office areas and there are more white leather Barcelona chairs and Wassily chairs than I’ve ever seen collected in one place. It’s beautiful.
Up until about a month ago I had a work station in that office right next to an 8 foot high double hung window and right next to a mechanical vector unit (this suite of offices is the only one in the building with a modern mechanical system) and I was set. Then I took a new assignment with the National Program Management Office that will oversee the spending of $5.5 billion dollars we received in stimulus money. I had to move to the seventh floor, which is actually the old attic of the building and instead of an 8 foot high window I have a 4 foot high window that is half the width and half of that is filled with a window air conditioner. I’m now on the east side of the building so the morning sun requires that we close our shades in order to see our computer screens. Comparatively speaking, it’s pretty dreadful when I consider my former work space.
But then as I sit and look out the small portion of window that has no air conditioner, and no shade, there sits an almost perfectly framed view of the Washington Monument. It’s white stone cladding and its tapering profile is always a pleasant site to see and reminds me of how fortunate I am to live and work in a beautiful part of the country. The monument stands firm in all kinds of weather conditions. On a sunny day the white stone glistens and on a cloudy, overcast day – like today – the top of it disappears into the low clouds and makes you imagine that it continues to rise to untold heights. It is a symbol of the strength of the nation and especially of our first president, a man who set the original standard of integrity that we wish our current day politicians would follow. I’m sure some of you history buffs can cite some skeletons in Washington’s closet but I prefer to remain optimistic in my image of him. And this monument provides me with optimism on any day when world or local events might cause me to think otherwise.
And so I wonder what symbols or images or circumstances others might use to find hope in a sometimes hopeless world. I know that I have many others in my life but as I sit at my desk each day I find joy in this simple image and life remains good.