Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Out of Town, Boondoggling on a Charrette

I'm doing a domestic business trip this week, and I can't get myself out of the habit of checking my pockets for my passport. Not that I'm in a particularly foreign-seeming city, it's just that my TDYs are all foreign travel except for maybe one a year, and it seems so strange to travel and not go through customs and passport control. Worst of all, there was no expediter at the airport and no white Suburban to pick me up outside my hotel each morning. I have to get my own rides here? What's up with that?

I'm here tagging along with some OBO design professionals to meet with a firm of architects for an intense workshop on an overseas embassy building matter. By which I mean, the architects do the intense work while I sip coffee and occasionally make a comment. In architect-talk, this is called having a charrette.

A few years ago, during the reign of General Williams, my OBO colleagues would have been prohibited from using the word "charrette," which was banned by Williams after he was embarrassed when someone corrected his mispronunciation. He had a problem pronouncing foreign words, and he handled that by banning them from his presence rather than learning how to pronounce them correctly. Foreign place names also gave him fits, but there was no way to ban those from use within OBO. The O does stand for Overseas, after all. Williams just had to suffer through and try to avoid the need to pronounce the difficult ones. But I think that made him even more determined to stamp out the elective use of a foreign word where a domestic one would do.

I make a point of saying "charrette" at every opportunity when working with OBO, just for the pleasure of exercising my freedom of speech.

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