Among the many joys of Haus Ownership are the mysteries that we, the completely clueless and Un-Handy, get to solve. To wit: we moved into the Haus in the dead of winter, mere weeks before the Big Snow (Blizzardocolypse? Snowmageddon? The one where everybody abandoned their cars on Lake Shore Drive?) and thus missed one teeny, tiny, soggy quirk of our parkway. The “spot” lasted well beyond the snow. It lasted past all the other sogginesses of Spring. It froze, thawed, and refused to budge. Trash from God-knows-where seemed inexorably drawn to settle there. Sometime around April, we woke up to the fact that this might be a problem…
After a consensus of chatty neighbors was reached, we called 311 to report a leaky water main. How young we were then! How innocent! Within days, magical runes of spraypaint appeared on the grass and sidewalk: Here there be gas pipes! Beware! Naturally, we assumed colossal behemoths of industry would arrive any minute to seal this wasteful mess with a bow of tidy bureaucratic perfection!
See how ridiculous that sounds?
Instead, weeks passed with no friendly water workmen or huge metal diggers. More trash piled into the “pond”. We cleaned it up. Called again. Then filled out the online “Help My Water Is Attacking the Street” form for good measure. Still nothing. I’ll sum up a long, predictable story by pointing out two highlights: In August, the water was too deep for our helpful neighbor to mow the parkway for us anymore – as in his lawnmower sank. (You really haven’t lived until you’ve seen that.) We were calling/uploading complaints at the rate of twice per week. In mid-August, I called the Alderman’s office. A lovely woman there ran to our Haus, took pictures, tracked down permits, raised a red-tape ruckus… and then called me to say something along the lines of “Now, it’s in God’s hands.” Except what she actually said was “Now, it’s the Water Commissioner’s problem”. Same diff, right?
My emotional involvement cannot be overstated. After all, I have thrown myself into the idea that now that I finally have a house of my/our very own, I WILL BE the HausFrau par excellence! My gardening is intense and cathartic! My ambitions for espaliered fruit trees scoff at the laws of gravity! My obsession over paint colors has reached a level of scrutiny shared only by religious scholars translating the Dead Sea Scrolls! I am in this to Win this!
And there is a giant scummy pond of trash in the front of the house. “Welcome!” it says. “I am a giant scummy pond of trash!”
Well, no more! You can imagine my glee, my unreserved whoops of ecstatic joy, when today the doorbell rang and there in the street was the biggest, bluest, most laughably gaudy construction-site-on-wheels ever envisioned by proud bureaucrats. I may have actually frightened the workmen when I jumped up and down and clapped. But they were very brave, and as I type this, they are noisily at work defeating the Puddle Beast.
Number 1: There are three crews to service the entire North Side of Chicago above Division. Three. That’s it.
Number 2: Upon noticing the exact same problem across the street, Water Man was bummed he hadn’t arrived at our location earlier in the day to fix both. They can only work until 3 pm. (And before you arise in fury at “union hours” ask yourself what would THAT look like in rush hour? And then ask yourself “why am I reading the most liberal girl on Earth’s blog, anyway”? See? Now we’re learning.) A huge break on North Avenue had kept them busy from 8 until noon.
Number 3: Water Man has been on the job for about 6 weeks. Our Haus is in “His” new area. And he wants his area “clean”. Italics all his own.
Number 4: Anytime an emergency call comes in, your little problems (like non-lethal trash ponds) get shuffled back to the end of the list. It can take up to a month to clear the priority jobs and get to the back log again. (!!!)
Number 5: The last guy with Water Man’s job was a lazy idiot. (This would be, um, hearsay.) The back log is GINOURMOUS.
Number 6: Calling the Alderman’s office only works if the Alderman in question has “clout”. (Al Swearingen on Deadwood would call that “juice”.) Water Man had no knowledge of any Aldermanic interventions. Draw your own conclusions there, Ward 35.