Yesterday we had a retirement party for our longest serving NIV FSN*: this marked the end of a 32 year, 7 month, and 17 day career. She told me her earliest memory of working at the consulate was fingerprinting Vietnamese refugees in order to register them after the war. She remembers the CG back when he had my job, on his first tour. I was born sometime in between those two events.
"All if it was fun, all of it was enjoyable. Who knows, Katie -- maybe you'll have a 30 year career, too." Hmm. Perhaps. I'm not sure that I want to try and imagine myself at that age. "How do you feel?" I asked her. "Are you sad?" She smiled slyly. "This morning I woke up when it was still dark, got on the train with all the crowd... I'll never have to do that again."
Earlier in the week the DCM happened to come down from the embassy and did a walk-through of the consulate. He asked her how many FSOs she'd trained during her 30 plus years. Dozens, I would think. I have a lot of respect for the FSNs, putting up with all of us while we come and go. It must be hard to always know more than your boss, to have to re-learn management styles every two to three years, and to suffer through all the transitions and upgrades and 'bright ideas'. It makes any sort of FSO managerial role a tricky one. You need to be the one in charge, but you can't be stupid about it. I was thinking about it the morning of the party, while proctoring the FS Written Exam. I remember taking it myself in London, and being so utterly clueless about what the job would entail at the time. I'm still pretty clueless about a lot of it. I tried to picture the test takers working in our office; I tried to picture how the FSNs would feel about having one as a boss. Back at my desk, an email from the management section arrived, reminding me to turn in some forms so that they can get started on planning my transfer.
I hope I'm doing a good job here. And I hope I do a better job next time.
We're hiring to fill an FSN position, if anyone's interested.
*This is the second FSN to quit the NIV section on my watch; probably something I did.