Friday, September 21, 2012

Box Eldering City Hall

There is large Box Elder in front of my house.  Or maybe it's an Elm.  Certainly, this tree is one that my mother would have called a "garbage tree".  Whatever this tree is, it stands in that zone of grass between the sidewalk and the street.  This means it is the city's tree. 

A couple of branches as big around as a baseball bat reached out from that tree and hung over my front lawn.  For most of the summer I mowed the lawn with one forearm thrown over my face.  Finally, I cut off some of the smaller branches when I was convinced of the very real possibility that the next time I mowed my lawn I might just lose an eye.  These scraggly branches were small in diameter and easily cut off, and up, with a hand pruner.  Right now, they lie decaying in the compost pile.

The baseball bat sized branches had additional branch shoots of course, and those branches hung over the sidewalk.  A tall person or a kid on a bike would be struck in the face.  What I did next is to blame for the city hall unpleasantness.


Taking my saw on a stick, I went after those baseball bat sized branches.  A while later, sweaty, and with saw dust decorating my cheeks, I had removed the ugly hazards.  Trouble is, now there were these big branches to dispose of.  The rules in my city for yard waste pick up don't include big branches.  In short, I was stuck with these big branches.  What now?  Whip out a chain saw?  I'd already used up precious yard work time on somebody else's job!  It was at this point, that I committed Unforgivable Act Number 2. 

Call it naivete. Call it an unfounded notion that most people are nice and reasonable.  Call it whatever  you like.  With full knowledge that the rules in my city for yard waste pick up do not allow for big sprawling nasty branches, I left sprawling nasty branches at the curb anyway- certain that when the guys in the big city truck made their weekly swing down my street, they would see those branches for what they were and take them away.

They did not.  They did, however, move the branches fully up off the street, onto the grass. 

Next thing I know I am on the phone with Junior Miss Bureaucrat of the city's Department of Public Service.  Snippily, she informed me that I choose to cut those branches down.  They were now my responsibility, not the city's.  She added that I should have called the city about the tree.  Realizing it was pointless to explain to this functionary that the first thought that enters my mind when something needs to be done is most certainly not to call a civil servant, I thanked her for her "help" and hung up.

My next idea was to talk to a grown up. Thus, later, I went two minutes out of my way to stop by the office of the Department of Public Service.  I figured I'd appeal to the guy who maintains the trees; straight talk, one callused handed can-doer to another. Greeting me at the office window with faux friendliness was a middle aged man, his lanky limbs draped languidly over an office chair as though it were a pool lounger. 

He said, "how are you?"  (Pet Peeve Alert!  Most of us are asked at least eight times a day HOWAREYOU and if we are lucky, one of those times comes from someone who actually cares how you are.  The rest of the time, the question comes from someone who is filling space with chatter that exists only to delay the point of the encounter).  I asked to speak to a supervisor over streets/trees.

Mr. Pool Lounger gave me a look that conveyed: oh you asked for something really stupid but I am here to help so listen up while I patronize you.  "Mr. Tree Supervisor is out with the crew on the street with the trees," he oozed.  "He checks in for messages though."  He handed me a pink pad of sticky notes.  "Fair enough?" he added, bizarrely.

I wrote my name and number down while he unctuously explained how busy Mr. Tree Supervisor was. 

What do you bet that sticky note with my name and number was crumbled and tossed on the floor before I made it to the parking lot?

No phone call as been received from Mr. Tree Supervisor or anyone else from the Department of Public Service as of this writing. 

Knock me over with a dried up garbage tree leaf.


  1. This is one of the downsides to city life. If I could drive, I'd live out on the country...WAY out in the country.

  2. I really dislike people who dislike their jobs, and public servants, I've found, really hate life these days on top of their "crappy" jobs. There are millions of people out of work right now. Those public servants sound like huge assholes similar to the ones I've encountered.

    I would love to be able to replace the assholes and institute a "no grumpy" policy. If you can't be helpful, I don't want you working for me! Oh my gosh, I feel like I'm on a soap box.

    I'm sorry you experienced such ogres. Ick!

  3. I like the way you wrote this. 'one callused handed can-doer to another.' Wonderful! Good luck with your city and that tree.

  4. Makes you want to smack them through the phone, doesn't it?