Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes
At a recent U.S. Senate Hearing, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said he sent his deputy, David J. Hayes, to the Gulf ”without a change of underwear or a toothbrush” one day after the BP oil spill began. I want to ponder how traveling without a change of underwear made Hayes any more effective as a government official. I will leave musings about the toothbrush to a professional.
Traveling without a change of underwear defies anything Mother once taught us about being prepared. Wearing clean underwear, because you never know what might happen, is a weird admonition, but ever present in everyday communications between caregivers and their children. The Secretary of Interior’s orders to defy this wisdom, I suppose, is meant to signal that he is no mother.
Sending an employee to do hard work without a change of underwear conveys an urgent timeline. Even though it was the day after the spill began, Salazar conveyed that there was no time to go home and freshen up. There was no time to assure family members or eat dinner. Immediacy meant a swift departure to the scene of the disaster even if it meant the possibility of becoming smelly.
A week later, Salazar is not talking so much about his Deputy’s underwear. In the news yesterday, Salazar self-reported as angry and frustrated after meetings with BP executives in Houston, 33 days after the initial blow-out. What both men and our nation have discovered is that traveling without a clean change of underwear is no ultimatum any more when a six-pack of boxers or briefs can be procured at any nearby Wal-Mart.