SO WE GOT some rain finally. Great. But none but a Baltimoron would think it's suddenly OK to start taking baths again. We still have drought conditions. We should still attempt to conserve water - take short showers with next of kin, use the Canine Prewash instead of rinsing dishes before loading the dishwasher and, if you see a fire hydrant that leaks, call 410-396-5352.
If that doesn't get results, call me and I'll call 410-396-5352. Or I'll call Kurt Kocher, the public information guy at the Department of Public Works.
Something like this happened last week after I got a message from TJI reader Rachel Ludwig that went something like this: "My friend in Rosedale has been complaining about running water on her street for more than a year, and the county says to call the city and the city says to call the county. What a waste! The hydrant is still leaking!"
(Note: Water lines that run into areas of the county, such as Rosedale, are the city's responsibility. By coincidence, I was with some Baltimore County firefighters in Rosedale just the other night - observing their method of exterminating Dumpster fires - and one of them explained how all hydrant repair orders go to the city DPW, grand overseer of the municipal water supply.)
I called Kocher. Kocher got right on the case. A city crew went to the scene, found the leaky hydrant, plus a more significant leak in the line leading to it. It was fixed within 24 hours, and Ludwig and her Rosedale friend, Rhona Miller, were happy and grateful.
"We've got some pretty good folks here who jump down in holes filled with ice-cold water to fix these breaks," says Kocher. "It may be the toughest job in government. They deserve the credit."
But obviously there was some breakdown in the process of getting the hydrant fixed, and Kocher pledged to have it tracked down.
"You might like to know," he wrote in an e-mail in defense of DPW, "that through the Citistat tracking program initiated by the mayor, we reduced the backlog of fire hydrants needing repair or replacement by 82 percent last year compared to 2000."
Impressive, but ...
I wish I could use the same adjective for the city's bulk trash removal policy. Sorry to bring this up again. But it's just not happenin' for me.
In the good old days, you just set your bulk trash out on the street on a certain night and some guys came through the next day and took it - unless your neighbor or some interloping junk man decided to cart it off first.
But with the O'Malley regime came - in addition to that already-scrapped Early Disposition Court - a new bulk trash regimen. New is not better. Not in my book.
Now, to get something like an old gas grill or armchair removed in this sleepy little backwater, you have to call DPW three business days ahead of time to make an appointment, and that's the part that's killing me. I can't remember to make the call. Even computer calendar alerts don't work.
Bulk trash day in my 'hood is the last Wednesday of the month. In order to get something picked up, I have to call by the previous Friday, and I never do.
It's not like I'm forgetful. It's just that I spend my Fridays thinking about other things - about the weekend, about what to make for supper, about the raw bar and the incredible array of young urban professionals during happy hour at Nick's Inner Harbor Seafood in the Cross Street Market. On Fridays I am not thinking about the busted space heater in my garage. You follow me?
You add the new recycling schedule to the mix and - sorry, Kurt Kocher - but, for the taxes we're paying in this town, it's all too complicated.
"I would like to know what brain trust is running bulk trash pick-up in this city," writes Katie Bass, just cluing up to this mess. "Now it's the recycling. One needs an advanced degree and a special page in the Daytimer to figure out the schedule.
"Let's see, that's regular trash on Mondays and Thursdays, and recycling every other week, on different days than regular trash collection, and in a different place than regular trash collection. That makes three nights a week I'm out hauling garbage from place to place at my house. And ... the last time I tried bulk trash, it took more than four weeks and a call by a representative of the mayor's office to get my three little items hauled off. Would somebody please tell me what's going on?"
Don't look at me, Katie. My garage is full of junk that should have hit the street six months ago. I'm going to try and locate Cool Poppa and Hubba Bubba, independent trash haulers from West Baltimore, and see if they can help me out.
Inner Harbor's new flock
Watch out, my fellow Patapscovians: "Ride the Duck" amphibious sightseeing vehicles are coming to the Inner Harbor.
I hear the driver wears a plastic yellow bill and quacks at pedestrians. It's just what the doctor ordered for this sleepy little backwater.
Jazzing things up