Audit Trail: Bureaucrat on H Street

A brazenly unsafe pie place.

A bureaucrat examines an eatery that deserves to be placed on the watch list.

As a special favor for my wife, who was celebrating her birthday that evening despite the actual date being Tuesday, I consented to attend a live musical performance in the neighborhood of northeast DC known as “H Street”. Generally, I try not to make a practice of granting special favors, but all her paperwork was in order and she had given the required 60 days advance notice.

I also generally try not to make a practice of engaging in social activities on weeknights. The policy objective there is to maintain a regular bedtime schedule, which studies have shown can significantly improve sleep performance when coupled with an afternoon nap beneath one’s desk. In this instance, however, it was actually going out that improved my sleep performance, as my wife notified me that if I stayed in I would be sleeping on the couch that night.

The preliminary agenda for the evening began with us meeting after work at an upscale bistro nestled between the check cashing center and the Crown Fried Chicken at 7th and H. When I arrived the hostess informed me that they had no record of my reservation, and that the wait would be two hours just to put our name down for a table. The missing reservation was one that several times over the course of the week I had specifically instructed the intern to call and confirm, or at least I thought about it in my head and expected him to take the initiative. I suppose the lesson learned here is that some tasks are better left to the full-time analysts.

Worse than the wait was the crowd. By my rough count, the 53 patrons standing around in the bar area exceeded the maximum allowable occupancy of 50 as per the clearly posted signage. I had half a mind to report them to the fire marshal. Then again, he already had a table way in the back, and I determined that it would impose undue public burden for me to try and squeeze my way over to where he and the attractive young woman who must have been his very affectionate niece were seated.

With time at a premium, my wife proposed we skip dinner and go straight to dessert at a pie place next door to the concert venue. This was not on the agenda, nor was it in our agenda contingency plan. It was only after my wife called the restaurant and got the manager to confirm orally, and then in writing via text message, that they served savory pies in addition to sweet ones that I reluctantly agreed to relocate.

Well, you can imagine my alarm upon arrival to discover that the pie place advertised itself as “dangerously delicious”! We turned around and marched right out of there. Or at least I did. When I finally felt it safe to stop I found that my wife was still inside ordering at the counter. For security purposes I maintain possession of both our wallets when we visit “up and coming” neighborhoods, which meant I had to go back in there and pay for her pie. Admittedly, I signed the credit card receipt with a bit more force than was necessary for the pen to register, but I was pretty worked up over the all the unmitigated risks, and this was my way of blowing off some steam.

Of the concert itself I have little to report; I could hardly hear the band through my construction-grade hearing protection equipment. At least the venue kept its emergency exits brightly illuminated and free of obstructions. That alone was enough to earn it an Exceeds Expectations on its performance evaluation. As for the rest of H Street, I’m afraid I’m going to have to assign it only a Commendable rating this performance cycle. Not only were its restaurant waits long, but its pies were delicious to an unabashedly unsafe degree.

Further, not a single taxi driver would agree to take us back to our home in Fairfax. In the after action review I will make a note to have the intern look into whether this violated any local taxicab regulations. No, better make that one of the full-time analysts given the intern’s recent performance issues. Speaking of the intern, I just now remembered that I asked him to wait with a birthday cake in the coatroom of the restaurant and then pop out and surprise my wife upon my signal. I suppose I should also task one of the analysts with going out to H Street to collect him at some point before the start of the fall semester.

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