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
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.