Initially, the unprecedented snowstorms that blasted Washington DC provided a interesting diversion. After a day or two of unplanned unproductive time, however, the snow-induced Federal government closure had me wondering whether my departure date would be significantly delayed. With one lease ending and another beginning, a delay would have been a real headache.
I dutifully sat in front the computer at 6:00 pm every night last week, hitting the refresh button on the http://www.opm.gov website that would announce the operating status for the Federal government the following day. For five consecutive work days, the site proclaimed that all non-essential government services in the DC-area would be closed. No passports (including my diplomatic passport that was ready a week ago) would be delivered. No previously scheduled classes (including the mandatory two-day course I was scheduled to take) would be taught. No offices (includes those with whom I was required to consult) would be open.
My lease in Arlington ended on Friday and I had arranged, after a planned stopover in Syracuse, NY, to take possession of my new place in Ottawa on Saturday. Thus, if OPM announced Thursday night that the government would be closed for a sixth consecutive day on Friday, I wasn’t going anywhere other than a local hotel. I would have to stay and do nothing until at least Tuesday because Monday is a holiday. Thankfully, OPM announced that Friday would a “liberal leave”, late open, day. Not a typical schedule, but offices would be open and hopefully everyone I with whom I had to meet would be in the office.
I finished packing everything I could cram into the car, and the movers arrived around 9:30 am to pack out the rest. While they packed, I cleaned. They did an amazing job and I was on my way to run a series of last minute critical errands within 90 minutes. I managed to find all the various departments up and running, procured the requisite signatures to demonstrate I had no outstanding materials, I had passed my courses, I had processed all my timesheets and vouchers, and that I was good to go.
A call to the passport office to determine the status of my diplomatic passport and Canadian visa (yep, although I don’t need one if I’m going across the border for a vacation, I need one to cross the border in my official capacity for two years) was less conclusive. It seems the visa had been granted, but was still with the Canadian embassy downtown and they had nobody to run over and get it. No problem. Off I went downtown. Unfortunately, the visa pick-up window is only open between 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm so I had to wait. Amazingly, the stars aligned and, at 2:00 sharp, I got in and, after a bit of search, they found it. Phew.
Everything checked off, I jumped in the car and hit the road North. The hardest part of the drive was getting out of the DC metro area. Traffic was backed up for over a mile. Assuming it was a snow-induced accident (of which there have been hundreds over the past week), I was a bit surprised to discover the cause to be a young woman in high heels, stomping angrily down the third lane of the highway. Traffic in both directions slowed to a crawl. The fact that she was topless might also have had some impact on the number of rubber-neckers slowing traffic.
I hit Syracuse just as snow started falling and, after a fitful night, left early this morning for the last three hours. I won’t pretend that it was no big deal to present my credentials for the first time while crossing the border. The customs officer glanced at my car stuffed to the gills and remarked suspiciously that it looked like I was moving to Canada. I was more than happy to explain my new position as Vice Consul at the US Embassy in Ottawa (nevermind that the title sounds a lot more impressive than the accompanying duties). His attitude changed immediately and, after a bit of a chat, provided the inaugural stamp in my shiny new diplomatic passport.
Ottawa is going to be a great fit. The place I rented in Arlington, VA was perfect as a home base for A-100 and ConGen training, but I doubt very much I will ever live in Arlington again. This Arlington Rap video has been making the rounds for a year but it really captures the feel of the place. Next time around, we’ll look for a place in Dupont Circle or around U Street.
After only twelve hours in Ottawa (and despite the two Starbucks I passed within 3 blocks of my building), I already know I’ll be coming back someday in the future.