Friday, September 02, 2011

Two cultures

A visitor last Sunday by the name of Irene blew a tree onto a neighbor’s house. Onto two neighbors’ houses, actually. It was a mature white oak that yielded two good-size saw logs.

The complicating factor, aside from the precariousness of the tree’s crown over the second house (its lower trunk having already crushed the front porch of the first house) was that the neighbor lives on a state road. So the state owned the tree, but the tree fell on private property. Well, rules are rules. It was the homeowner’s responsibility to get the tree taken off the houses. The homeowner, after due consultation with an insurance adjuster, called in a tree service who had worked on the property before.

It was quite a show.
Wednesday, three people showed up in two vehicles. One was a large stake-body truck that would be used to haul away branches and brush. The other was a log truck, the kind with a large hydraulic boom and claw mounted on the back.

One man did all of the technical work. He did both the chainsaw work and the claw work, making a complicated, difficult, dangerous job look like child’s play. It’s a joy to watch someone with that level of skill ply his trade.

His two helpers flagged traffic while he went about his business. Now I don’t know how traffic is flagged on construction sites in your state, but the standard practice around here is that the contractor gets a permit for doing pretty much any work on or near a road, then pays for a police officer to come park a cruiser with flashing lights and stand around in a Day-Glo vest chatting with the workers and occasionally glancing at traffic. In this situation, though, perhaps because of the extraordinary nature of the storm, that requirement seems to have been waived. There was no police officer anywhere to be seen. And despite the two large trucks jutting into the road, there were no traffic cones and no vests of any kind. Just two guys, one before and one after the worksite, in nondescript clothing, with nothing but hand signals, stopping traffic when it had to be stopped and letting it pass when it was safe to do so.

Some people took umbrage at being told to stop by a person not wearing a uniform and decided to thread their way through at inopportune times, but there were only a few near misses and no actual collisions.

Total of three people. At the end of the day, a full truckload of branches and brush headed out and the log truck stayed parked.

Thursday morning, the crew returned, this time with a fifteen-yard Dumpster instead of the large stake-body, and finished the cleanup, then left. No muss. No fuss. Just working guys doing their job as efficiently as possible.

All that was left was the upturned stump, where the tree had tipped out of the soggy ground. State tree. State right-of-way. The state’s job to remove the last piece. This is not a dangerous situation anymore, as the stump is nowhere near power lines or structures of any kind.

This morning, seven state vehicles arrived.
Supervisor’s pickup, large front-end loader. Backhoe. Cherry picker. Three dump trucks.

That was an hour ago. They’re still here. The road, during commute time, is blocked at both ends, forcing traffic to detour. At some point I’m sure they’ll get done with what they’re doing, but what they’re doing consists principally in picking up one large, heavy object and placing it in a truck for removal.

Just working guys doing their job, in full compliance with all state work rules.

To all those who complain about regulations hampering private business,
I offer this counterexample.


David Bergsland said...

Wonderful! Thanks for the example. I write often about bureaucratic typesetting which is the result of the same regulations and restrictions.

Of course, then there is the issue of vultures (Ooopps, sorry, lawyers ;-)

Benjamin Lukoff said...

Excellent story! Of course, a lot of the same people complaining about regulations hampering private business are the same ones who complain about bureaucracy run amok and government waste. This story is not likely to make them feel better :)

Dick Margulis said...

Who said I was trying to make them feel better? ;-)

Raymond Terry said...

Excellent Dick and very typical of any work performed by government entities. I know that down here in Florida, the county water department needs several hours prep time just to load the truck. Work starts about ten AM with customarily five men for a two man job. After watching them 'work' for several years, I am thoroughly convinced that shovel dragging, shovel leaning and walking slow 101 are required credentials for anyone hired.