I just had the most extraordinary conversation. I still can’t quite believe it happened.
I’ll try to tell you it without giving away the details and I’ll change the names because this is a small town and we all have to get along.
I have been having a conversation, over the phone and over several months, with a public servant, Ms Public-Servant, from a local government department regarding a public safety issue. Ms Public-Servant has been very helpful, very knowlegeable, and today I met her in person, at the unsafe public place in question, and we continued our conversation and have agreed on the next step.
Then, about ten minutes later, I went to introduce myself to a senior official, Mr Von Manager, who is new to the area, to advise him of this ongoing public safety issue and to fill him in on the past several months’ worth of discussion and activity that I have been part of. Mr Von Manager said he was very pleased to meet me because, coincidentally, he had received a letter from a third concerned party, Mr Concerned-Party of Safety Conscious Organisation, just this week, informing him of this particular public safety issue. Mr Von Manager said he realised it was a big issue around here because he noted that Mr Concerned-Party had copied two other people in on the letter; somebody from Safety Conscious Organisation, plus someone from the same department as Ms Public-Servant – a man whom we shall call Mr P. S. Colleague.
Are you with me?
Mr Von Manager then told me that he had written back to Mr Concerned-Party and also copied it to the others. He then found a photocopy of the letter and showed it to me, and I got Ms Public-Servant’s business card out of my pocket so that we could check that she and Mr P.S Colleague do, in fact, come from the same office of the same division of the same government department. Yes, they do.
And then Mr Von Manager told me that we should make sure that Ms Public-Servant and Mr P.S. Colleague are both on the same page, or that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing, or something.
And then he said “and I assume that he is her boss because he is a man.”
“I assume that he is her boss because he is a man.”
Excuse me, but what the fuck.
Mr Von Manager then gave me the photocopy of the letter that he wrote back, with the names and addresses of the two other recipients at the bottom of the page, and I had a closer look. The first recipient was Mr P. S. Colleague, whose job title was not given. We do not have the job titles of either Ms Public-Servant and Mr P.S. Colleague. The second recipient was someone by the name of Ms Must Have Slept Her Way To The Top, because her job title is “President of Safety Conscious Organisation”.
*update – I have since spoken again with Ms Public-Servant and she confirmed that she and Mr P.S. Colleague are indeed colleagues, and equal ones at that.