Friday, December 31, 2010

I look out at the cusp of 2011 and I see....holes.

So I've been obsessed with what's been going on right outside our doorstep.  On the face of it, how could I not be?  It's right there in my face: our tenants' front room reeked of gas even though we have no gas lines powering anything in the house anymore, and it was still happening despite a midnight excavation that supposedly took care of it.

I was annoyed - yet intrigued.

How were these holes different from all the other holes I've been seeing about town?

First excavation around, I half-joked with our tenant that it would probably be filled in by Mardi Gras, as the Sewerage and Water Board and other entities supposedly in charge of street repairs are wont to do.  Neither of us expected much - the perverse joy this city seems to take in starting big, ambitious things, then abandoning them due to one reason or another (usually financial difficulties) had permeated our thinking.  We fully expected Entergy people to stop up the leak, then leave enough detritus and reflective sawhorses around just so the little guy could keep exclaiming, "Look, Mom! Rubble!" every time we went in and out of our front gate.  And, even though we were pleasantly surprised at how relatively quickly they actually paved over the hole, something still wasn't right.  The smell lingered.

Years ago, shortly before we moved back down to New Orleans, a transit strike crippled New York City for a good length of time, enough for loads of people to kvetch away on our Queens synagogue's listserv about how much the strike hurt their commutes and how dare the transit workers do this over something so selfish as better working conditions and better pay?  All people seemed to see on their ends was the traffic tie-ups, the staggering crowds waiting at platforms for the few trains that were running, the intense planning that had to be done to do something like getting to work or school and back.  I won't say it didn't piss me off, too, but I was saddened by how little friends and acquaintances seemed to want to look at the real reasons why they had to find alternate ways to do the things they once took for granted.  The city had been taking full advantage of the people running the transit system for quite a while, and it didn't take much to see that what was going on underground and on the elevated platforms was happening to employees all over the country in ways big and small - how much people were being shorted working hours so that they weren't entitled to benefits, say.  The people charged with maintaining an integral part of the city's infrastructure were being overworked and were then stomped on for saying so, and people were buying that the employees were somehow bad because of that.  So a person standing in a token booth has a hard do we all.  Suck it up.

Sure, the S & WB's track record with regards to fixing holes isn't great, and yeah, Entergy takes full advantage of its monopoly on supplying energy here.  As organizations, they're no angels in the areas of customer service.  There are no illusions there...but every so often...

A new crew came back around to reopen the first hole and were horrified at what had happened with the "repairs".  They took the time to monitor more fully where the smell was coming from. Dan spoke to them and found we still had a chunk of history in there that had to be removed: a wood-encased section of lead pipe that could well date from the city's earliest gaslight days.  Another hole was opened not far from the first hole. It seems they have sealed things up for the time being underground, though we are still awaiting the hauling away of the last of the detritus and the paving of the sidewalk.  But things got done.

So I guess my wish for the new year is that we all be as pleasantly surprised.  We all get our perceptions shaken in good ways.  And probably most importantly, we give each other the chance to exceed expectations.  Peace, love, and understanding.  Yeah.

I also hope Entergy doesn't have to dig up our sidewalk for a long, loooong time.

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