Monday, February 11, 2008

Ian the Building Inspector

As promised, how I kept the bureaucrats at bay.

When Alan and I were opening our first B&B, we were young.  Naive.  Downright starry-eyed.  So much so that Alan forgot what fourteen years of Catholic school had taught him: it is easier to get forgiveness than permission.

We went down to the building department.  And tried to get permission.

"We're opening a B&B," Alan told the man behind the desk.  "What do we need to do to be in compliance?"

Out came The Big Book.  Much mumbling and page-turning.  "How many rooms will you have?"


OK.  Well.  And he listed off many, many things that we'd need to do because The Big Book said that a rooming house with more than ten occupants...

"But there won't be more than ten," I told him.


"There will only be ten.  Not more than ten."

He didn't get the concept.  I drew diagrams, just like I'd learned them in first grade:

                  10 = 10

                     10  > 10

As we were leaving, Alan told me, "I'm never bringing you here again."

But it was too late.  We were on the radar.  And for the rest of the time we had the house, Ian the Building Inspector would drop by every couple of weeks to see how we were progressing on our compliance.

And of course, we weren't.  Because the rules were dumb and I knew for a fact that we'd never have more than ten people in the house at any one time.  Hell, sometimes entire weeks would go by and we wouldn't have ten people in the house in total.

Which is one of the things I told Ian.  Along with other inanities like, "We're working on it,"  and "We have to do what, exactly?"

That, and offering possible, mind-boggling alternatives ("Instead of doing that, would it work if we did this, this and this, instead?") kept the anvil from falling on our heads. He kept saying he'd get back to us.  I suspect I was his entertainment that year.

Now, I'm not suggesting out and out breaking of the law.  But you have to know who you're dealing with.

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