UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

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01/09/2007 - 8:21 p.m.

Going in Circles

Well, the office is still under construction but I knew that it would be. I had to call in to the secretary for information about whether someone had called me and got an earful. Construction is not going well.

The reason for the construction was that, when we moved in years ago, the then-owners of the building simply slapped down carpeting over a bad subfloor. As the years went on, the carpet began to pull up and bubble. People began to trip. We explained our problem to central administration but no one paid attention for years. Each year, as head of the office safety committee, I would get a form to fill out about safety hazards and what needed to be done about them. Each year, I would dutifully fill it out, mention our carpeting problem, indicate that we had put up warning signs, and plead for a better solution. Nothing happened. I had my boss call and explain the problem. Nothing happened.

Then one day I got smarter, although it started with doing something dumb. I tripped. My foot failed to clear one of the biggest bumps in our carpet and I tripped. I fell over right in front of a secretary's desk. I wasn't hurt but I had a brainstorm. I filed an accident report. Suddenly, our carpet problem was a priority---at least of sorts. Central administration agreed. The carpet needed to be fixed.

Initially, there was contact with the new owners of the building and they decided on a quick fix. They had a carpet guy come out and re-stretch the carpet. He was hesitant to do so. He pointed out that the problem was the subfloor and not the carpet. He did not want to do the job and he would not guarantee it. He thought that trying to re-stretch it was stupid. He said that he gave it six months at best. They had him do the work and he turned out to be wrong. The re-stretch lasted seven months and then things were even worse.

A long time followed in which the state Department of Administration (as opposed to central administration in my agency) negotiated, or supposedly negotiated, with the building's current owners about who was responsible for the problem. Then there followed some time in which everyone agreed the building was responsible for the flooring and we were responsible for the movers to shift the furniture around but we needed bids. Eventually, we got to the part where we had the bids and needed to get everyone coordinated.

So, you may ask, what's the one thing we want from this construction? A carpet that does not bubble or pull up, of course. Over the weekend, they repaired the subfloor in the secretarial area and put down the carpet. This morning, just before they were supposed to move the furniture back, my boss and the secretaries looked at the carpet. And what do you think they saw? That's right, it was already bubbling up, apparently worse than before because the new carpet is stiffer than the old.

I think we're going in circlesóbut at least I'm at home and don't have to see it.

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