She called again today.
The voice message was clearly her and although she has never left her name or phone number, she has left very specific opinions of our fine city while perched above it in her car, from the traffic gridlock that happens weekdays around 7:30am.
And according to Freeway Cathy as we lovingly call her…there’s a problem in Gotham City.
It’s my job to take in messages from random alert citizens and put them into a computer system that wings them to the proper departments for fixing.
Years of motherhood have prepared me for this very destiny.
If there’s one thing I excel at, it’s listening to
complainers whiners tattle tales helpful taxpayers and assuring them of satisfaction in the murky future while attempting to get the wrapper off a granola bar.
It delights me no end that they never ask for lunch money or what’s for dinner, so I listen encouragingly and speak in a soothing manner that implies that, were my supervisor amenable, I would, that very moment, leap from my chair and fill the offending pothole that just ruined their transmission and two tires myself.
It only took me three months to lose all faith in humanity but the girls in the office – the ladies who handle bigger things, like tracking The Joker – applauded that I held out that long.
“Our newbies usually arrive there a lot faster.”
It was the little old lady who tipped me over the edge. She sounded so frail and honest on the phone but turned out to be a fabricator of the first water.
I discovered that skepticism cannot be overrated and that even the police are not above passing on dubious information.
“We have a report of a tree branch down blocking both southbound lanes on Batman Boulevard.”
Many scrambling people later, I saw a photo of the grievous traffic antagonizer: an eight inch twig.
And, as much as I’d like to help, some people are simply beyond the scope of my expertise.
I took a call from a distraught woman:
“Gotham City Hotline, how may I help you?”
“You have to stop my house from shaking!”
“You’re building something big down the street and every time the machine hits the ground, my whole house shakes. The windows rattle. I work from home and all day long, my house is shaking!”
We chatted for a minute until she realized that a. it wasn’t the city building anything, it was private development, b. no, I couldn’t chain myself to a bulldozer and make them stop immediately, and c. it was temporary.
“This happened at the last house I lived in,” she sighed before hanging up, “wherever I go, giant construction equipment follows me.”
I had another one:
“There’s a smell. Make it stop smelling.”
“Yes. It’s terrible. It makes people cancel their dental appointments because they don’t want to lie in the chair with their mouth open and breathe in the stink. If you would be so kind as to seal up every manhole in the area, I’m sure it would help.”
There were others:
“I have mosquitos in my yard. Make them go away.”
“There’s bees in my tree. Make them go away.”
“There’s vomit on the sidewalk/tree roots in my sewer/graffiti on the fence/water running down the street/trash in the park/tires in the alley. Make it go away.”
“Your crews cleared out an entire vacant lot and made the weeds go away, but you missed a spot. Come back right now and do it.”
“The water just went off in the middle of shampooing my hair. Make it come back.”
“Bad guys love our corner because the street light burned out. Make it come back.”
We have a mayor here in our fair town (Alfred), and he does a fine job.
But when things go bump in the night – involving tires and a transmission – the civilians of Gotham City know where to turn.
And the bats in my belfry.
Make them go away.