I’m madder than a building inspector in a rat-infested hovel without a pen or a pad over the fact that the city fines homeowners for sidewalks cracked by the roots of trees the city planted decades ago, creating miniature Grand Canyons that pose a serious hazard to citizens such as yours truly.
The disaster I always feel pressing in became a reality at 3:35 pm the other day — and a fateful day it was — when the ol’ Screecher was riding his trusty Tornado in front of Councilman Mark Treyger’s Stillwell Avenue office and such a chasm caught a wheel and sent his trusty steed toppling over, pinning him on the ground. If you’ll excuse me for a brief moment — or as my Spanish-speaking friends like to say, un momentito — I’ll return to the first person here.
Fortunately for your trusty narrator — sorry, let me try that again. Fortunately for me, Treyger’s staff was on hand, as were a gaggle of pedestrians going about their business, and they all gathered around to try to help me up.
“Wait! Wait! Stop!” I yelled. “Take the scooter off my leg first!”
The gathered do-gooders saw the wisdom of my command and righted Tornado, then, mustering the strength of a thousand suns, lifted me up and placed me in my customary seat. Inside Treyger’s office, they peppered me with questions, when really all I wanted was for someone to bring me a plate of peppered steak.
“Should we call 911?”
“Do you want some water?”
“Do you feel any pain?”
“Are you all right?”
The questions were like needles on my full bladder, and it was then that I remembered why I left the Access-A-Ride pickup spot outside Staples in the first place — I needed to find a bathroom.
I answered nature’s call, then placed a call to Access-A-Ride, my constant savior and nemesis, the Saudia Arabia to my U.S. state department.
Anyhow, I want to thank Councilman Treyger’s Staff, especially Jeannine, who had attended my Bensonhurst West End Community Council Open Community Meetings long before she joined the councilman’s staff. Unfortunately, I don’t have the foggiest what the names of the rest of his staff are, apart from Igor, his staff attorney. What I do know is that they are all competent, knowledgeable, and ready to present a helping hand when you take a nosedive in front of their office, and I truly enjoyed the four hours I spent camped out in their office, not least because Jeannine volunteered to pick me up four footlong sandwiches and some salad from Subway.
Access-A-Ride gets no such praise from this humble columnist — I mean, me. As much as I love the councilman, my extended stay in the welcoming arms of his staff — not literally, of course — was a byproduct of the staggering ineptitude of Access-A-Ridge dispatchers, who I called every 10 minutes to follow up on my original pickup request.
The only redeeming moment came after my Access-A-Ride chariot finally arrived at 7 pm — any later and I’d have turned into a pumpkin, I have no doubt. The driver dropped me off, then chased after me to ask if I had lost my credit card. He was not only quick, once he got going, but honest. It’s guys like him that keep state departments like me dealing with that dodgy operation.
On an even more positive note, the Subway on Stillwell Avenue makes the biggest, best sandwiches I have ever eaten. Mind you, this is coming from a guy who has eaten so many sandwiches, some of his friends call him Earl. I mean, call me Earl. I am seriously considering going on that Subway diet.
Now is the point in the column where I do a complete 180 without any sort of appropriate transition and remind my readers that man is locked in a ceaseless battle with the forces of nature, particularly trees. These things start innocently enough, offering ornamentation alongside our driveways and highways. But soon they are encroaching on valuable, vital real estate, such as sidewalks, cellars, and even city streets. And when our city’s prodigiously deployed pavement and road salt do their magic and sap the life out of these menaces, they remain standing, brittle branches looming, ready to crack the head of the unsuspecting pedestrian passing below, as a kind of twisted vengeance for humanity’s attempts to control the wild impulses of nature.
Spring is coming, so remember to watch for which trees get their leaves back. Those ones are your friends — for now.
Screech at you next week!