Audit Trail: Le Bureaucrate à Montréal

Photo of the bureaucrat at the Montreal Jazz Festival

A bureaucrat fights to find a signal for his BlackBerry during some performance or another.

With the Fourth of July falling on a Thursday and my flex day that Friday, I found myself with four days off and no emails to answer no matter how many times I checked by blackberry. On an uncharacteristic whim I decided at the last minute to fly to Montreal for the annual jazz festival. That left me just two months to book my tickets. Happily, the cost was covered by all that per diem I’d saved up eating nothing but saltine crackers and sardines when I was in Paris meeting with our European counterparts. More happily yet, with the mileage I earned on that Paris trip I was able to upgrade to economy plus. I didn’t have enough miles to upgrade my wife as well, but it was only a three-hour flight, and I’m sure she understood that I get leg cramps if I can’t stretch out.

Although the new summer intern was too busy with orientation to handle my flight arrangements, I did manage to spring her from ethics training to book my hotel. She found me a charming Marriott right at the airport. As a promotion they were offering double points that weekend, so now I’m only two stays away from Silver status. The intern even got them to honor the U.S. government rate, and I sure felt like a rock star presenting my badge for ID at the registration counter. At the end of the summer I must remember to sign a glowing letter of recommendation for the intern if she remembers to draft it and leave it on my desk.

I really can’t say enough about the hotel. The rate schedule was prominently posted on the room door next to a detailed emergency escape route; on the nightstand they had a list of which number to call in a myriad of contingency situations; and the bottled water in the mini fridge was completely complimentary. Did I mention that the hotel pool had a lifeguard? And that the Jacuzzi jets automatically shut off after the ten minute suggested soaking limit? On its performance evaluation I rate the Montreal Airport Marriott Hotel an Exceeds Expectations with a recommendation for a merit increase.

As for the city of Montreal itself, I’m afraid there’s little I’m able to share. The Marriott had a shuttle that took us straight to and from whichever concerts my wife had arranged for us to attend, and I spent the hour or so ride each way catching up on emails, or at least waiting for some emails to come in so I could catch up on them if they did. You’ll have to ask my wife how the concerts were. She seemed to enjoy them, though I can’t say for certain since she’s currently giving me the silent treatment. I tried to make it up to her by offering to let her use my seat in economy plus for part of the flight back to Washington, but her response was something unprintably French. Quebec was clearly a bad influence on her.

Let’s see, who did we hear perform? Oh, you know, there was Johnny what’s-his-face, and that gentleman with the trumpet, or was it a trombone? I knew I should have had my staff prepare me a briefing book for the trip. That will have to go in the lessons learned document I draft once I get back to the office.

Since I had too much on my plate to pay much attention to the jazz fest, what I propose to do for its performance evaluation is pull some accomplishment bullets from the event brochure and use them to justify the standard rating of Meets Expectations. That’s what I do when reviewing my staff, and I haven’t given them the chance to lodge any complaints so far.

Overall, my finding is that it is probably unnecessary to conduct further onsite examinations of Montreal except as a transit point for any flights requiring an overnight layover at that excellent airport hotel. I would, however, still recommend a cautious belt and suspenders approach, including continued ongoing monitoring from Washington via weekly touch base calls to discuss their preparations for next year’s jazz fest. That way if our Assistant Secretary should one day decide to think about possibly considering attending the event we will be able to pull together some bullet points for a briefing.

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