The other day, I was at the Department of Nice. It is in the Imperial Capital area and while it is not a very pleasant commute, once you are there, it is very nice. It’s still technically winter here, but the weather was very mild, in the 60’s with a gentle breeze. Many of the nice people, who work in the Department of Nice, took advantage of the nice weather and were out enjoying a walk around campus. It’s nice that they call it a campus. It has that same feel, like an oasis, where you see none of the coarseness of the adult world.
Walk around any big city and you see the full range of human society, from bums to businessmen. Everyone seems to have a purpose and everyone looks a bit hurried. Even the bums will have an urgency to their panhandling. It’s also noisy out in the regular world, even when you get away from the big city. The cars, the car horns, the construction and usually, in most cities, young people being loud. This usually means urban youth shouting and boasting or maybe hardhats yelling to one another.
It’s rarely noisy on a college campus. Maybe if there is an organized event with a PA system it can get noisy for a while. In good weather, the kids will be out playing games, but that’s not the noise of the outer world. Those are the noises of the schoolyard and no one can be vexed by them. It’s not like a car alarm going off or a jackhammer tearing up the sidewalk. Young people having fun or laughing as they enjoy the weather on a bucolic campus, just reinforces the beauty of it, the niceness of it. The campus is nice.
At the Department of Nice, I had some time to kill so I sat against my car, eating my lunch, watching people saunter around, enjoying the nice weather. The quietness is what struck me. In my neighborhood, it is only quiet in the dead of night and even then it is not very quiet. Outside the campus walls, in the Imperial Capital, it’s not quiet. The other thing that struck me was the relaxed look on the faces that wandered past. Nowhere did I see anyone with a worried look about what comes next. Everything is just nice.
On the ground floor of the building where I was needed, they have a nice little coffee shop, like you see at an airport. It’s not quite a shop and not a kiosk. It’s a counter with some couches and chairs scattered in front of it. I saw some young people, maybe in their late 20’s, hanging out and socializing, like you would see on any college campus. One of them was a skinny, hippy looking guy with a pony tail. He reminded me of a guy I knew in college, who would bring a guitar to parties. It was his hook to charm girls.
Spend any time at a government facility and you quickly see, if you are the noticing sort, that it is a different world. The Department of Nice is pretty much an adult daycare center, like every college campus. Except it is not a college campus. It is a government facility allegedly doing necessary work. Trying to find anyone who can tell you what it is they do and why it is necessary is not recommended. It’s not that anyone will get upset at your questions. It’s that no one in government land is defined by what they do. They are defined by their credentials.
The people who find their way onto the college campus, or the government campus, are not there to confront life. They are there to escape it. Once on the campus they quickly forget about the rest of the world. They become institutionalized, like convicts that spend decades in the penitentiary. The government never fires anyone and there are never tough times, requiring the bosses to make hard decisions. For the career civil servants, death is the only thing that can get them off the payroll.
It’s why everyone is so nice and relaxed. When you don’t have to worry about hard times, you can spend all your time enjoying the good times. There’s plenty of office politics, of course, and the stress that comes with it, but the people in the Department of Nice are secure in their positions. They know the check will be deposited every two weeks into their account. They know their job will always be there. They know that no matter what happens out there in the world, everything will be fine on campus.
The director of the Department of Nice was a pleasant fellow, described to me by his subordinates as a visionary. He presented me with his card, which had two lines of letters indicating his credentials. Other than PhD, I had no idea what the letter combinations meant. Similarly, I could not figure why he was considered a visionary. Maybe he described to his subordinates the world outside the campus. Maybe he told them of his plans for expanding the Department of Nice. Maybe visionary just means really nice.
The other thing about the director that stood out to me as that he was very aware that I had no reason to be there and we had no reason to meet. It was all ceremonial. Everyone else carried on as if it mattered, but the director was the exception. Maybe that’s why they see him as a visionary. He’s the one guy who knows there is no real purpose to the Department of Nice other than to perpetuate the Department of Nice. Maybe they admire him because he visionaried his way to a position where he could afford a Mercedes.
The reason the managerial class is in revolt since last November is not that they hate Trump or the people who voted for him, at least not in a specific way. It’s that we are alien to them. The people on campus live different lives than the rest of us. They are vaguely aware of the world of the Dirt People, but they no longer feel what we feel. They have no fear of failure. They no longer feel angst. They no longer worry about the ground under their feet. Unlike the bulk of America, the people in the Department of Nice, know what tomorrow brings. In their world, everyone is nice.
Coming home, I saw a cop I know checking out a now familiar set of bums. The bums were dumped in our slice of heaven by someone, maybe the city, maybe the state, I don’t know. They just turned up the other day. They spend their days camped out by the Food Lion or wandering the streets making a nuisance of themselves. For some reason I began to think of what it must have been like for Alaric and the Goths to burst through the Porta Salaria and see the Eternal City for the first time. I bet it was nice.