City Roots

Every time Ma or Stepdude flushed the toilet, their, um, deposits wound up on the floor of the basement. The plumber they called in sent a root grinding “rod” through the sewer pipe that ran beneath the front lawn. Somewhere on the other side of the street, the rod got stuck and the plumber couldn’t reel the thing back. To Ma, I said, over the phone, “Sounds like the hook of a monster movie.” The plumber told Ma and Stepdude that the rod wouldn’t budge until the city dug up the street for it. This was particularly bad news for Stepdude, as the bathroom was his favorite room in the house—and the toilet, his favorite seat. So he, Ma, and their bear-sized shaggy dog had to spend a week in a hotel room. When a city crew finally got around to digging up the street (a major suburban artery) in front of their house, they discovered that they’d gouged out the wrong patch of earth. Meaning: They’d have to fill the cavity they’d made, repair the street and the grassy parkway, and start all over again—this time in the right spot, assuming they could find it. (Ah, but what if the hole-diggers got paid by the hole?) Meanwhile, City Hall informed Ma and Stepdude that they would have to bear the entire cost of the affair, per city ordinance. Did it matter that the pipe-penetrating roots belonged to a tree that was in fact planted by the city? Not a whit. What’s more, Ma and Stepdude would be held responsible for watering the new sod the city would lay down on the other side of the street. 

13 January 2001

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