Won’t Sit Idly By

, , , , , , , | Working | October 3, 2018

(Boston is recovering from an intense storm around April. Now that snow from the blizzard is finally gone, the city starts working on the roads. Among the work is sewer assessment, which means fixing anything that’s damaged and giving what’s not a cleaning. The city distributes flyers through the mail to notify us of times when work will be done in our area over the next month or so, asking that we minimize water, and that any strange smell emanating from our faucets and toilets is normal and not hazardous. On the day my neighborhood is scheduled for this work, I’m up at six am, making myself breakfast as usual when I hear the sound of an idle truck and workers yelling. Since local legislation states work can’t begin until nine am, this is already unusual. What follows doubles down on that.)

Worker #1: “We’re all set up? When’s [Person] getting here?”

Worker #2: “Should be here around seven.”

Worker #1: “What’ll we do until then?”

(Rather than a verbal answer, the sound of the idle engine is now mixed with the sound of chain links rattling. I look out the window and confirm my suspicions: these workers, two black men that are easily twice as jolly as Santa are pulling on my fence to help them as they limber up for the job ahead. I step outside.)

Me: “Get off the fence!”

Worker #1: “Relax! It’s a fence!”

Me: “Fences aren’t meant to hold your weight! Now, get off it and turn your truck off!”

Worker #2: “Fine! Jeez!”

(They both step back and release the fence, and proceed to stand there waiting.)

Me: “The truck?”

Worker #1: “It’s fine!”

Me: “You’re burning gas right now. Turn it off!”

Worker #2: “It’s no problem. It’s got one of those engines that doesn’t use much fuel.”

Me: “It’s not about fuel. It’s about air quality and the law. To help reduce pollution, Massachusetts passed an Anti-Idling Law which prohibits vehicles from sitting idle for more than five minutes without just cause.”

(Both of their hands launch above their heads while grinning.)

Worker #1: “DON’T SHOOT! DON’T SHOOT! OUR HANDS ARE UP! DON’T SHOOT!”

Me: “What the f*** are you talking about?”

Worker #2: “You’re a white guy talking like a cop! We don’t want to get shot!”

(I have no response. I do, however, report the idle engine — which miraculously turns off just before the police drive up — and file a complaint with the city about the workers showing up incredibly early, attacking my fence, leaving their engines idle, and harassing me when I try to protect my property, also being sure to mention, “If my fence had broken and they’d gotten hurt, they’d have sued me for their medical bills.” The following week, the crew is back, but they park next to my neighbor’s house, instead. My neighbor is not only a friend, but also very old and very gossipy. When I come back from work at around 3:30, he emerges from his backyard, where his wife is also sitting, and I hear a distinct chirping.)

Me: “Is your alarm going off?”

Neighbor: *nodding* “They parked their truck next to my vent. The exhaust fumes are leaking into my house and setting off the monoxide alarm, and they won’t move the truck.”

(I once again go out front and talk to these workers, and I find a different crew member with a monitor connected to a large pipe leading down into the sewer.)

Me: “So, why is your truck idle?”

Worker #3: “We’ve got a camera down in the sewer taking magnified pictures to see if there’s anything we can’t see. We need the truck to power it.”

Me: “Oh. So, where’s the cord connecting it to the truck?”

Worker #3: “What?”

Me: “The cord. If it’s getting power from the truck, they have to be connected.”

Worker #3: “…”

Me: “Turn the truck off and apologize before I get inside, or I’m calling the police again to report an idle engine and reckless endangerment.”

Worker #3: “‘Reckless endangerment’?”

Me: “You filled the home of two senior citizens with carbon monoxide — endangering their lives — and you refused to turn off your engine or move your truck when he confronted you about it. And even with your equipment running, the alarm is still audible from here.”

(Thankfully, that works. Even so, I invite my neighbor over to help file another complaint with the company. The following week, the team is back on the job. At this point, I am just curious to know when the work will be over.)

Me: “So, what’s the…”

Worker #4: “Shut up!”

Me: “Excuse me?”

Worker #4: “Our union rep told us you’re a troublemaker and we’re not supposed to talk to you! So shut up!”

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