Thursday, September 29, 2005

Ok, this time I mean it... I'm going to New Orleans

Well, I got up at 5am and spent the better part of a half-hour trying to get on the internet to look up the directions of where I was supposed to meet my team to go to New Orleans. I thought I had figured it out, and I drove to "Camp EPA", which really is just an unused parking garage which now has some EPA trailers and vehicles in it. I thought I was all set, but nobody was there. I got a phone call from the coordinator, who was wondering why I was 10 minutes late. Well.. it ends up they just left without me, and I got to sit in the office and learn my new job. I'm actually glad I didn't make it out there today, because without seeing on paper what folks are doing, I would have been totally blown out of the water on Saturday, when I start performing my duties in earnest.

I have a space at the Operations Section in the Incident Management Team. Basically, we've taken over a section of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality's 10th floor, and we've got an entire mobile office set up in here, right down to the snack table complete with Moon Pies. That's right: we've got Moon Pies, so you know that we're getting things done.

It's very hectic in the IMT, but it's actually strange: in my normal duties with EPA, I'll create a document, make 3 or so copies, give them to 3 different people, make 3 sets of edits, and repeat the process until everyone's happy. That's pretty much what I did today. So, it's not that bad (sure, I say that now...). I'm the group supervisor for the Environmental Sampling Group. There are 5 teams of people that are taking water and sediment samples across the city, and I'm the guy that keeps track of where they're going, what they're doing, where they've gone, and where they've been. At least, that's what I think I'm doing. The general rule of thumb around here is that things change.

There are really good folks in this building right now. I've only been here a couple days and I'm pretty wiped, but some of these people have been here since just after Katrina hit. They can quite possibly be labeled 'certifiably insane' for their commitment to their jobs, and their ability to handle the absolute insanity that is addressing a disaster.

I have a car, so I drove to a little deli and got a sandwich. It's chicken salad, and it's delicious.

This town--actually, this whole state--is like an old shoe. Even the really nice part of town is run down--like the stop lights are rusty or the sidewalk is cracked. The old part of town looks even older. Everything in this state looks like it's been used for a long, long time. It's got character though. And really good food. So I shouldn't complain (even though I still will).

So you saw the rom of cots that I've been sleeping in the last couple nights. Thank my Lucky Charms that Jim gave me a set of earplugs, because I can hear people snoring across the room even with them on. Regardless, I've been sleeping just fine. But now, much like George Jefferson, I get to move on up to that de-lux apartment in the sky-ay-ay. I'm heading out to "Camp Katrina" which is a bunch of trailers (3 per trailer with our own shower!) located at a stable. I don't think the horses are there, though. If we're hanging out with manure, that would be a slight step down from the cot room.

Last night Sandy and I got a couple cases of beer and drank with a few guys on the corner, tailgate style. We can't drink on State property, but the State doesn't own the sidewalk or the outer portion of grass. Well, maybe they do, but we are still able to drink on the sidewalk and that outer portion of grass anyway. There's a guy from Philly named James who is hilarious. The three of us sat and told stories like I would with my good friends from home. It was a great time.

So Tomorrow I'm going out to New Orleans with a water sampling team, and this time, it's for real. I promise I'll fill my camera with pictures, and I'll probably let them speak for themselves. It should be an adventure, because even though we have street maps, when the State Department of Transportation gives out traffic reports like:

"All roads are drivable, except for the ones underwater"

...you know it's going to be interesting. (the state DOT actually did give out almost exactly that report, which gave everybody here a good laugh)

This will be interesting. But for now, I sleep.

Our "mobile office" is through the doorway, to the right is about half a floor's worth of cubicles, most of which are occupied by EPA staff.

The cubicles to the right.

The first half of out mobile office. Everyone's in a meeting right now (I'm not a big fish, so I do not have to attend), but it's really packed most of the time.

The second half of the mobile office. My space is that laptop facing the end of the table to the right. Sitting down is Pete, my boss. He's a cool guy. He's got a quality I need to learn: he's direct and to the point. He also didn't kill me for making a few mistakes on my first day. Here's to hoping I don't make any more.

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