Of Slings and Arrows


Hamlet didn’t go far enough. Along with the various slings and arrows that he accused Outrageous Fortune of aiming at him, he neglected to mention the most frustrating arrow of all: Bureaucratic Run-Around.

Our entanglement with this particular miasma came by way of four potholes which began to arrive on our street in early January, probably caused by the strange upheavals in weather which we have been experiencing in North Carolina. Beginning as small indentations in the asphalt, they grew to such proportions that they were a danger to any cyclist, car or pedestrian who encountered them. Flat tires, front end alignments, a broken ankle… the possibilities were endless.

We named them for the cast of Wagnerian operas. The one nearest to us was Siegfried, the big one farther away to the left was Brunhilde, and the huge one to the right had to be Odin. My husband insisting on naming the last and smallest pothole Ophelia because (he said) this one appeared innocent compared to the rest.

Realizing that these potholes would remain a hazard until something was done, we put  a call through to the Department of Public Works of Wake County—something requiring a great deal of patience since the DPW phones rang busy, it seemed, for days. When a human voice finally answered, it was to inform us that we were not eligible for county services. Our street was too north, a little too far south, just a tad too far west and much too east to be in their jurisdiction. “But, just a minute,” protested my spouse. “We pay taxes to the county but don’t get services? It sounds like taxation without representation to me!”

Like a too-stretched cord

Patience can snap when tested

By indifference.

We were given a telephone number to call. Two days of busy signals later, a human voice answered and offered another number… and another… and yet another. There were hours of excruciating frustration and epochs of being put on hold. I wonder if there anything quite as maddening as being put on hold? If there is anything quite as irritating as hearing that disembodied voice explaining that our call is valuable?

Then, the incredible happened. An official looking truck rolled into our street. Several men dismounted. “What are they doing?” I whispered to my husband, who had gone to check things out. He replied that they were taking measurements. It would probably another month before we saw them again, he said.

But here is a lesson to those who would lose hope. Not quite a week later, the same truck rolled down our street disgorging men with shovels and cement! They dug. They poured. They departed. The reign of Siegfried, Odin, Brunhilde (and little Ophelia) had ended.

The neighborhood rejoiced. No longer did we need to steer our cars around gaping holes in the ground. Children could skate board and bicycle without fear. All was well.

Then, it rained.

Last night we experienced a deluge, a gully washer, a torrent. This morning as I set out on my walk I noticed that a small corner of what had been Ophelia had fallen in and that a bird was washing itself in the small pool of water that had gathered there.

I never did trust that Ophelia.

A bird is bathing

            In that small roadside pothole…

            Everything has use.





About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: maureen@wartski.org/ My blog is here: https://maureenwartski.wordpress.com/ Or friend me on Facebook!

18 responses »

  1. Maureen,
    You can make bureaucratic run-around into poetry. Hooray for literature’s influence even on potholes. Don’t you want to write a column for your community paper? Readers would love your fresh view on the world. Maybe you should consider sending a few blog post samples. Just don’t stop writing for the rest of us. 🙂 Many of your post could serve dual audience, I think.

    • Thank you, Linda! Some kind soul suggested that I publish some of the blogs… what do you think? I’ve thought of newspapers and such, but… that’s hard work for an old lady. 🙂 I really am getting lazy!!

      • Maureen,

        I think you could post the same write up in two places most of the time…for writers and for community readers. Some newspapers have bloggers. I’m sure the News and Observer should if our local paper does. I used to write a column on a rotation basis in our community section. I wrote “Tips for Parents” from a group of educators. We weren’t paid but lots of people said they enjoyed our articles. I’m not suggesting creating one more project for yourself. Just see, if there is an interest in what you are already writing. Why not? Hey, they might even pay up your way. 🙂

  2. Ah well, Ophelia did self destruct. Good post.
    One time we were having trouble with our TV/Internet connection through the cable company we had in Maryland. We called and were put on the computer diagnostic maddening loop to no avail until eventually we got a live person and had the problem sorted out for that day. Of course it happened the next day and when we got to the live person, I asked if there was any way to bypass the useless computer. So the next day, when we had the same problem, I calmly tried the bypass. Didn’t work. I got so frustrated I yelled, “I hate you!” The next thing we knew a live person was on the line and solved the problem for good. We figured the computer either recognized my frustration or, more likely, heard my rant as “Agent.” So now, when confronted with any computer voice trouble-shooting loop, I just say “agent” loudly and firmly. Works like a charm. Sarah

      • Dear Maureen,
        I laughed and laughed at your blog post. I think sending it as an editorial for the newspaper would be good. With some phone systems, you can dial “zero” and speak to someone. Say”agent” like you did or Customer Service. I’ve tried these and generally they work. I love how you and your husband named the Pot Holes. Incredible. Operas include a great deal of emotion!
        When I was a little girl, I watched them pave a pot hole on Grove Avenue. The next hour, a big truck ran over it and “PLOP” it fell just like a cake in an oven. They had to come back and repave it and do a better job of what my husband calls, “tamping” the gravel and ground underneath the paved area. This means to pack down the dirt and gravel tightly by a succession of blows or taps, so that it’s sturdy.
        Celebrate your sense of humor!
        Never Give Up
        Joan Y. Edwards

  3. Thank you, Joan! I may give your idea a try (I say ‘may’ because I am being inordinately lazy these days! But you inspire me (as you always do). I love your story about the pancaked pothole. Meanwhile, Ophelia grows larger….. perhaps she will turn into another Brunhilde!

  4. I so enjoyed reading your latest blog as we have all had to go through this endless waiting and being transferred to another department and then suddenly losing the call!

    I agree tha you should submit it to a local paper!

    I most of all enjoyed the beautiful painting at the end – just like a Renoir! I assume it was not a quilt.


  5. Hi, Marilyn– can’t wait to see you! Submitting it will be a bother… and, as I said, I am too lazy these days. Blog writing keeps my writer’s hand busy, and it is a VERY lazy hand. Things may change.
    Thanks for the comment about the painting… I’ll show you the original when I see you! 🙂

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