Because we’re grey on the outside, LUSTY on the inside
When I moved to Ottawa last winter, my initial impressions were more or less consistent with its reputation as a dull place with no nightlife, populated by well-heeled civil servants who spend their days toiling in the iron cage of bureaucracy. I held to the popular belief that these talented, dedicated, but otherwise boring and unimaginative people are unappreciated and often mistreated by a hostile government made up of showboating politicians and led by a tyrant of a prime minister who constantly questions their motives and loyalty. Watching the legions of expressionless men and women clad in dark coats and grey slacks drifting in and out of drab office buildings simply reinforced my prejudices.
Luckily, my eyes were opened early on to the real Ottawa. I live about 20 minutes from the Hill — and within a seven-minute walk of five sex shops. Being new to the city, with time on my hands and few friends to worry about running into, I naturally became familiar with all of them. I now no longer subscribe to the view that life in Weber’s “iron cage” of bureaucracy is boring or dull. During one visit, I spotted a program officer from one of the big departments. I listened in as she engaged in a lively discussion with staff about which nipple clamps were best for her. She was also interested in handcuffs and something called a “diving dolphin.”
It occurred to me then that maybe the lack of nightlife in Ottawa is because people here have more fun things to do in private. It also occurred to me that I should reconsider the relationship between the Harper government and the civil service. I wonder how many bureaucrats support the judgment of our overbearing prime minister that civil servants are indeed naughty, liberal-minded, and need to be “punished.” — Colin Gillespie