& occasionally about other things, too...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Hoover Buildings

I've been quite busy with my citizenship test preparation. So, not much time to read, and hence, one of the rare posts that belongs to the "Occasionally about other things, too" category. 

What’s in a name? Apparently a lot, if it’s Hoover
Herbert Clark Hoover Building

Unlike in North America, where buildings are identified by their street numbers, in India, they are identified by their names.

The Department of Commerce headquarters in Washington DC is on 1401 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC. It’s also called the Hoover Building, named after Herbert Clark Hoover, who was both the Secretary of Commerce and subsequently President of the United States.

File:Fbi headquarters.jpg
J. Edgar Hoover Building
The Federal Bureau of Investigations headquarters in Washington DC is on 935 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC. Coincidentally, the FBI headquarters is also known as the Hoover Building, named after the legendary head of FBI chief J Edgar Hoover.

In the early 2000 I worked for the US Consulate in Bombay. I had what many agreed was a resplendent, flowing beard that had recently begun to turn grey. I looked like a college professor. 

In March 2002, less than a year after 9/11, I was selected for a two-week workshop at the Department of Commerce headquarters.

It was my first trip to the US. And I knew I had to go to the Hoover Building.

On the connecting flight from a city in Europe (I think it was Amsterdam) to Washington DC, I was sitting next to a spunky woman in her late 60s.

As I recall, she was returning home after a short European sojourn.

We chatted for a while about movies, India, the United States.

“What do you do?” she asked me.

“I work for the US government,” I replied, and offered, “I’m going to attend a training session in Washington DC.”

“Where in DC?” she asked.

“The Hoover Building,” I said.

Then, I wasn’t aware that the FBI headquarters was also at the Hoover Building.

Her interest spiked immediately.

“What sort of training? Languages?” she asked.

“I don’t really know,” I answered truthfully.

“Oh, I get it. You aren’t allowed to talk,” she said.

“No, it’s nothing like that,” I said.

Then after a pause, she asked, “Are you really from India?”


“You look like you’re from somewhere in the Middle East.”

“Oh, that must be because of my beard.”

“I guess,” she said and smiled vaguely.

I smiled back and we chatted some more about movies, but her demeanour had changed perceptibly. She was more observant, she was asking more questions.

“Welcome to America,” she said when our plane landed at Washington DC.

Then added enigmatically: “Have a great training. We need people like you.”

I went and checked into the Four Seasons hotel. It was only the next morning when I went to the concierge and asked for a cab to take me to the Hoover building, the man behind the counter, after dialing the cab company, asked me, “Which Hoover building?”

I checked the address and said, “The one on Constitution Avenue.”

The drive from the hotel to the Hoover building was quick, and memorable.

“Are there two Hoover buildings in Washington DC?” I asked the cab driver.

“Yes, the more famous one is the FBI headquarters,” he said, and looked at me from the rear view mirror.

I realized that my fellow passenger in the transatlantic flight had taken me for a spy.

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