People like to trash federal government workers all the time as being underworked and overpaid, undeserving of even the smallest things… like basic office supplies, clean and healthy working conditions, safe drinking water, a living wage, and many other aspects that we all take for granted in an office-based work environment. But they have no idea just how difficult some of those federal government agencies are to work in, like my former employer.
This is the basement hallway in the 60-year old building where my cubicle was located for the last six years of my career before I retired. If the image looks dark, that’s because it was; budget cuts at the time were so extreme that only two lights illuminated the entire length, from one end of the long building to the other. Many of the offices on this hallway – most of which were crammed to four times (or more) of their designed capacity with cubicles – had similar levels of illumination in them; i.e., almost nothing. Of course there were no windows.
Sound levels were so loud that they were just below the OSHA levels for required ear protection. The plumbing broke at least once or twice per year, flooding most of the hallway and offices with raw sewage, which required the replacement of everything that it touched. The drinking fountains were unusable for months at a time; sometimes because high levels of lead were discovered in them, sometimes because they were saturated with other contaminants.
We didn’t have a break room, and had no place where we could wash dishes or utensils if we brought our own lunch. Trash – even food waste – was only collected twice per week, which got rank and attracted vermin. The janitorial service was laughable.
I could go on and on. I only continued working in such bad conditions because I was so close to retirement.
Photo info: Basement hallway where I worked Gaithersburg, Maryland April 2013 Apple iPhone 4S
Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, is one of my regular haunts for photo walks and plein air watercolor painting. I try to make it there at least once per year – usually just as the doors first open early in the morning – and I find that I have the entire place to myself for an hour or more. The draw of Fort McHenry for me is many aspects – the different history eras (its role in the War of 1812 and the creation of the Star-Spangled Banner, its role in the Civil War, etc.), Baltimore as a historic port town, the beauty of the grounds, and the quiet isolation within the big city.
One thing I enjoy about repeat journeys to a place is the comparison and contrast with prior visits. There are always differences concerning the weather, the lighting, the season, the mood, etc. Also, I tend to discover new aspects that either I overlooked on earlier trips, or were obscured from my perception by other factors.
Photo info: View from the fort Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine Baltimore, Maryland July 2011 Apple iPhone 4S
For several years, we owned a sailboat and docked it in a slip at Point Lookout Marina, down close to the tip of southern Maryland. Why did we choose to slip our boat some three hours away from our home? It was an easy decision to make for us – the water in the area was much cleaner than other parts of the Potomac River or the Chesapeake Bay, the critter level was off the charts, and it felt like we were immersed in nature every time that we visited.
One of our routines for when we remained at the dock for the weekend, was to go for a lengthy stroll each morning and evening, which resulted in many saturated sunrise and sunset photos, like this one.
Photo info: Chesapeake Charm charter fishing boat Smith Point at Point Lookout Marina Ridge, Maryland March 2013 Apple iPhone 4S