Saturday, June 18, 2011

I can be a B...

My neighbors, S and T, have been complaining for a couple of days that there was a leak in their basement plumbing that needed to be fixed. They asked me if I knew where their curb box/valve was so their plumber could shut off the service and make the needed repairs.

It turned out that he needed to call the City of Columbus water department to locate the valve and eventually turn it off.  From all accounts, on 6/15 the city came out couldn't get it to shut off so they came back on the 16th, where between 3 crews and 6 guys they finally managed to shut it off for the necessary 20 minutes or so for Jason, the plumber to make the repair. And then came back out and waited for the city to restore service.  The crews determined that the water valve was not facing the right direction.  Somehow it was turned at an angle and sort of facing the other side of the street.  In all of the manuevering the city crew somehow told Jason that it would be OK for him to dig down to the valve to figure out what was wrong. 

When I came home Thursday evening there was a gigundonormous hole in their yard with a far accumulation of water in the bottom. And the pipe that one usually accesses the valve through was laying across the hole, which had 4 stakes and caution tape surrounding it. S and T thought that the city would be back on Friday to fix it.   

When I got home Friday afternoon there was still a hole.  What I didn't realize was that the City had turned off S & T's water that morning.  After dinner I watched/heard a City water department employee arrive and tell T that the City had never been there, that they knew nothing about it, where was their (S & T) permit, and that they knew nothing about the hole, that they wouldn't fix it until T pumped the water out of it and there was no way that he could turn the water back on.   As an observer I have to say that the guy never introduced himself, and talked down to T as if she had 1. done something wrong or 2. as a woman, was too stupid to do anything about it. 

T called S to explain the situation, I volunteered access to my bathroom in the meantime.  They called their landlord, who under City regs is the one who has to contact the water department.  She was told that they couldn't get someone out to turn the water on until sometime Saturday at the earliest.  In the meantime S came home and produced the signed paperwork left by the water department over the last 2 days. 

As a former bureaucrat I know most of the tricks, so I suggested contacting the Mayor's hotline.  Turns out it's only open M-F and only until 6pm.  (That's so effective for a HOTLINE.)  So my next trick was to call the posted after hours emergency contact number for the water department.  Turns out if you follow the directions it gives you, it will hang up on you.  So much for that, so I called back and stubbornly waited out the answering system to force it to send me to a real, live person.  I started explaining the situation, pointed out that a lack of water service is a life safety issue and that something needed to happen to resolve this issue.  At one point the operator interrupted to ask if this was address X.  Why yes it was, and I had the tags, stating that they had turned the water off and on, resolving the issue on 6/16, and that I didn't understand why there was a tag dated 6/17 stating the basement was flooding and they were shutting the water off on 6/17.  She stated that they would be out on Saturday sometime to turn the water on.  I pointed out, politely, that this was a life safety/health and welfare issue and what were we supposed to do with no water.  That this needed to be fixed ASAP.  She indicated that she would talk to her supervisor again, but that she thought that he would again say that they had no manpower and would try to fix it on Sat.

Politely bitchy is how I refer to this tactic.  S&T were impressed by the effort, and were more amazed by a phone call to a friend who happens to be a reporter with the local paper.  His advice of who to contact at the City Desk, while not directly effective, provided us with some amusement value.

The three of us, decided to kick back on their porch to see what would happen.  You can't imagine our surprise about 2 hours later to see a City water truck zip past the house.  We had some neighbors cars juggled around to provide him access, but in about 30 minutes he had the hole pumped out and the water working again.  Following a lengthy discussion, it was determined that the City would have to come back out and replace the leaking curb valve and line clear back to the main.  Turns out that the line is lead of all things and should be replaced for health reasons anyway.  Based on the discussion, it looks like the soonest they could fix it would be Weds or Thurs of next week.  Be interesting to see how long that hole stays open.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Getting my hands dirty

On today's never ending list is the garden, more specifically the container gardens.  Every summer I create a series of container gardens to cover the driveway between the house and the nominal one car garden shed, known to the county auditor as a garage.  (Never mind that I've never had a vehicle in there, I don't think one would fit even if it were empty.)  The container garden is where I get to try all the plants that we tend to label as weird.  They may be unusual textures or shapes, many are definitely tropical and uncommon in the northern US.  This year's color theme seems to be trending towards red, white and blue.  Mainly because I love black and blue salvia and the hummingbirds that it attracts, then I started adding red wave petunias or true red geraniums and complementing them with silvery textured foliage or white flowers.  And interspersed with elephant ears of various types. 

But all of the containers have to be planted and there are getting close to 20 or so.  The planting "bench"/ staging area is also on the driveway and I have literally been shoveling potting mix into containers from the 25 gallon bins of potting mix and compost that overwinter on the drive every year.  I believe I counted 13 or 14 bins before I started filling containers and I've only emptied about 6 as of last night.  I fill a container, plant it and if it is small enough to be easily moved, set it to one side to be arranged in the final grouping.  If the container is large and there are several that I could actually curl up in, they are set on pot feet in what I hope will be their location for the summer.  All of this takes time, and when I have a large enough chunk of it, I can get a rhythm going and really make progress. 

Hopefully I can get the containers planted over the next couple of nights and move on to infilling the small areas available in the perennial beds with annuals for summer long color.  The theme in the front yard appears to be leaning towards yellow and black/purple with the bicolored petunia baskets on the porch and the chartreuse gladiolas in the new planting bed.  I'm thinking that yellow snaps and maybe purple petunias will fill in the holes nicely.  The backyard is a riot of colors from the perennials, so I think that I'll fill in the few gaps with something that will attract more hummingbirds or butterflies.  I also need to rehang a couple of hooks on the fence and deck posts so I can rehang the baskets that are supposed to be there.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

What part of NO don't you get....

I was moving cars around and unloading my latest plant purchases this evening when an older woman stopped my and gestured the yard waste piled against the curb in front of my house and asked if she could had some of it.  I shrugged and replied that while I didn't know what she would want with the limbs from my lilac that I didn't care, but that the evergreen branches were not mine.  To my shock she wanted to dump my yard waste bins and take them with her.  When I said NO, absolutely not, she informed me that she needed them as she had to plant some sort of veggie on her patio and she needed the pots. 

Again I said sorry, but no.  I need them. 

Didn't I have extras?

No, I have no extras.  I use all of the ones I have.

I will pay you for them.

I'm  sorry but they are not for sale.

But I want them.

No, they are not for sale.  I have no extras and I'm not giving them away.

She was most unhappy when she drove away. 

Understand that my yard waste containers are black 25 gallon pots that were originally used to hold trees.  Generally trees that cost a couple hundred dollars if you are buying them retail.  I just have recycled them into weed/yard waste/recycling bins because they are large enough to hold a significant amount of materials, yet small enough that generally they are easy to handle.   I don't have easy access to containers this size any longer and I don't want to go looking for more.

I called my sister, to tell her this strange episode and her response was "Well you know she's just going to come back and steal them.  You did write your house number on them with a Sharpie?"  I reminded her that they were black and a Sharpie would be useless. 

So I went out in the garage and looked for some lurid spray paint left over from an old construction job.  Bright hot yellow is what I found. 

So my once plain, simple and I thought kind of elegant black yard waste pots now have my address scrawled  on them in a high contrast spray paint.  Tacky tacky tacky.  And my formerly neat stack of containers that used to reside next to my chimney on the driveway have been relocated to my work/staging area in front of the garage. 

All because some woman doesn't seem to understand the concept of NO.