Sunday, September 15, 2013

The New Digs

One of these days I'm going to write a post that is timely and not have to say, this happened weeks ago and I procrastinated so long that now what I'm saying just isn't as relevant as it once was. But that's not today.

We moved to the new St Elizabeths campus, Douglas A. Munro Coast Guard Headquarters Building last month. Our first day in the new space was 11 Aug 13, after months, no *years* of hearing and talking about the first new Coast Guard-specific Headquarters building we've ever had, built just for us.
The best view on campus -- overlooking the Anacostia River
The move itself was fairly uneventful -- though I do remember a certain amount of elitist whining about the movers being in our way during the week that preceded our move date. In our defense, though, we were trying to actually build the FY 2015 OMB-stage budget for submission to DHS on the 14th of August. Like get the verbiage and formatting and numbers and tables right for like a dozen different appropriations (I'm somewhere close in that number). So things were already a little tense for CG-82. We joked about it, and went frantically  back to work.

According to the move schedule, we had to be out of our spaces at Transpoint by 1600 on Thursday, and we had Friday off. I teleworked, declining to participate in the chaos that I knew would be the temporary worksite arranged to accommodate CG-82's aggressive worklist.

Showing up at St Es on Monday was some weird combination of the first day at a new school and moving household goods. CG-8 was assigned to the second increment, so we were the second bunch of people in the new building. CG-1 had moved over the week before (which has been *really* nice for me because all my programs were immediately available in the new building and I knew who to ask for all the good gouge about where stuff was and how it worked). I took nearly the most indirect, but most obvious route to get from the parking garage to my new cubicle that first morning (I have since refined by route to one that is completely inobvious, but super convenient  -- gotta love the freight elevators!).

The exterior Ceremonial entrance courtyard
The inconveniences I remember from that first week seem like stories from a vague and distant land now. The water from the taps hadn't tested as potable yet, primarily due to the building having been under construction and not occupied yet. Bottled water was provided, but it prevented the little cafe in the building from providing anything but pre-prepared sandwiches and packaged snacks for food. At least there was coffee available the second week -- CG-1 had to suffer through no coffee (ADM Neptun's comment was something about "the perils of pioneering"...tee hee). The sections of hard pasteboard that were put out on the carpets for transporting the moving crates were loud...people walking up and down the passageway was a cacophony. Every single entry point had a different requirement for entry -- or maybe it was every single security guard had their own standard for allowing access. Some glanced at IDs, some wanted to touch them, some made you try the electronic gate system first and then wanted to look at the ID too, and some barely grunted as you passed by.

The cafeteria, still in early stages -- now there's outdoor seating :)
The building is a maze. There is no other way to describe it; every floor has a different layout; only one elevator goes from the top floor to the bottom; the numbering of the floors starts at the Ground level (G) and goes *down* to Lower Level 9 (LL9), so you have to go down to go up, and up to go down; staircases are nearly impossible to find, and some don't let you back into the building proper, just into mechanical spaces; some of the doors to get outside aren't full access, an alarm goes off if you use them; and that first week, a lot of the access doors to the exterior courtyards were locked, so I walked around the courtyards for twenty minutes looking for an alternate way back to my office, only to have to go back to the same door I came out.

I'm not really sure how that FY15 budget got put together -- I suspect it was due to the very very very hard work and dedication of the Coordinator and one key analyst. By that time, all my stuff was pretty much done, and I was just standing by to help however I could. Regardless, not much got done besides the budget build that week, and even that was done begrudgingly. We were all too busy exploring our new home.
 
View of one of the interior courtyards -- the shade structures are on LL5
 And explore we did. I remember at least two long walks with fellow Reviewers dedicated to wandering most of the levels to check things out (yes, including the Commandant's Office --couldn't help it).  We walked out onto one of the grass-topped roofs and found a great spot for a barbeque set up. We cracked jokes about how the metal in the water feature in the LL6 courtyard may have been cropped out steel from a cutter, except it was *****WAAAAAY***** too thick, and not nearly pitted enough. We tramped along the entire length of the LL1 boardwalk that fronts the catchment pond, and wondered when the morale paddleboat races would start. Yeah -- not that much got done that week.

But it was somehow very exhausting anyway. I left the first couple of days by 1730, feeling like I had put in an 18-hour day. I think it was just the newness of everything...even figuring out where to change into uniform wasn't as simple as it used to be anymore. I used to wait until MC stepped out, close the door to my office, and be done with it. The new cubes don't allow nearly that much privacy. Now I have to make sure I've got all the requisite parts and pieces and make my way to the changing room down the hall or the restroom. At least I can multi-task if I change in the restroom :)

Things have settled down quite a bit now, and will continue to normalize as time goes on, programs come over from the other buildings, and amenities start up at the new one. My biggest dilemma right now is dry-cleaning. I'm out of clean uniforms for next week, and just dropped two off at the local dry-cleaners in town yesterday. I didn't have a chance last week (it felt like I bounced from crisis to crisis with not a minute to spare) to look for the temporary dry-cleaner's location in the new building...which really is pathetic on my part, since it's even on the same floor as we are. Once I get back into the dry-cleaning routine, one uniform in, one uniform out, I will have crossed a major hurdle in the move.

I'm still getting used to working in a cube farm. I didn't realize how spoiled we were, with our own offices. Sound is somewhat dampened in the larger space, but I can still hear distinct conversations from at least seven other Reviewers if they're talking in their cubes. And it's much easier to interrupt and distract people. It's just a pop of the head over the cube, instead of walking past their office door. I'm trying to use IM a little more effectively, so they can ignore me for the moment if they want to. The "gopher city" effect is definite cause for hilarity though...you call someone's name from a little ways away, and 9 times out of 10, if they're at their desk, they'll pop their head up above the cube wall, just like a gopher emerging out of their hole. The stand-up desks add to that effect, but I have become quite attached to mine.

I rearranged my cube twice before I feel like I got it right. Within the first five minutes of being in our new cubes, MC and I had taken out one panel of the cube wall between us, so we could sit at our desks and still talk to each other. Definitely a configuration management faux pas, but critical to coordinating work in the Body Shop. I tried putting my computer on the stand-up desk, but that meant my back was to the cube entrance which was a little awkward. Now, my computer is facing MC's cube, and my phone is on the stand-up desk, which I try to use for phone calls and for things that don't require computer work.

And I don't think I've said it yet, but the new building is just plain *nice.* Natural light, lots of views of green plants through the windows, the courtyards...all of it is such a welcome change from those dark, sick buildings we were in. The inconveniences are minor, and will be part of the landscape soon enough as people find ways to deal with them. I have high hopes that the new building, with its communal feel may help to change some of the culture at Headquarters...but that's a post for next time.