On the Audit Trail: Bureaucrat at the Beach

Photo of a bureaucrat relaxing cautiously on vacation.

A bureaucrat relaxes cautiously in the shallow end of the pool at his beachside rental home.

Taking advantage of the extra extra long weekend afforded by Memorial Day (I already have every Friday off), I loaded up my Ford Focus with briefing papers to review and set off for the beach. The interns did a great job renting out a house for me that offered the government rate, and they even stocked it with O’Doul’s for a little well controlled rowdiness, which was fine by me so long as my friends agreed not to tag me in any Facebook photos without my necktie on.

After we picked up the keys from the rental company, I was disappointed to discover that the house suffered from a serious lack of documentation. Where was the schedule detailing trash and recycling pickup times? Why was there no itemized inventory of the kitchen utensils available? What would happen if Robert from the rental company were to fall ill and not be able to provide answers to these and other questions for future beachgoers? Surely they must maintain some sort of binder of institutional knowledge to ensure smooth knowledge transfer!

Thus it was with much trepidation and fear of unmitigated risks that I changed into my swimming trunks, grabbed my blackberry off the charger, and shuffled down to the beach, where by this point I was almost certain there would be no state-certified lifeguard on duty.

My wife wanted to bring a bottle of O’Doul’s to sip on the sand. Not wanting to appear the party pooper, I reluctantly consented, provided that she first transfer it from the glass bottle to a covered plastic container. Without the aid of an itemized inventory list it took us nearly a full minute before we could locate a child’s sippy cup to serve as a stopgap solution until we could draft a more fulsome beverage transport policy later that evening.

Upon arrival I was relieved to find that there were rules posted at the beach entrance providing an overview of the items which were prohibited in the name of the public interest. Per said rules, it was with a heavy heart that I felt compelled to point out to my wife rule number seven, which expressly forbid the consumption of alcoholic beverages. It was only after she had gone back to the house to retrieve the O’Doul’s bottle that I accepted her assertion that it was non-alcoholic beer. I then recycled the bottle with perhaps a tad more emphasis than was necessary, but I was admittedly mildly worked up over the whole affair, and this was my way of blowing off some steam.

In the end, the trip, I would say, was a tentative success, pending the after action review. Nobody stayed in the hot tub past the recommended 10 to 15 minutes; the charcoal grill was attended to at all times when lit; and the police responded with alacrity when I phoned to alert them of a noise violation perpetrated by our neighbors throwing a raucous party next door.

For any bureaucrats out there considering a similar getaway for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday, my one piece of advice would be to add an extra hour or two to the travel time provided by Google maps. Their estimates may be spot on for speed demons, but they are nowhere near conservative enough for those who view the posted limit as an upper bound on what constitutes a safe travel velocity.

Overall, I would assign the beach a Commendable rating on its performance review, although once my Director has had the opportunity to provide comments on my draft, I will be forwarding the rental home management company a list of recommendations to implement before I conduct a follow-up vacation with them next Memorial Day.

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