Wednesday, August 5, 2009

National Grid

Last summer National Grid decided that they would dig up my block to do some gas line construction. After they had a nice rectangular sized hole dug that my car could easily fall in, they promptly stopped working for several months. I asked someone, when I saw someone, what was going on. They explained that Tutunjian (Troy's Mayor) had wanted them to research something different, or do something a different way. I just wanted them to fill up the hole.

One day, they came and did just that. I don't know if they ever finished or not.

This year, I got a letter in the mail explaining that they were going to be doing gas line construction on my block.


When I saw someone, I asked if this was related to last years project, related to sustainable wind-engergy infrastructure whosseywhatsit, or something else entirely. They chose choice three.

One morning, not long after I got my chickens, national grid proceeded to grind two holes in the sidewalk in front of my house, next to my tree garden. The noise is jarring, it shakes the whole house and knocks things off the walls.

When they were done working that day, they placed a saw horse over the holes.

Within a week, there was a bag hanging from the saw horse. Collected trash was placed there.

The sawhorse had two positions: jutting out into the road, making it hard to park, or obstructing the walkway that the sidewalk is expected to serve as.

Weeks go by. Months, maybe. I leave for my trip. It is still there. I return from my trip.

Still there:

Yesterday, I got fed up. I called the National Grid Customer Service line to inquire and complain.

I explained the situation and told the very patient girl that I couldn't "help but wonder, if this was several blocks closer to downtown in a richer section if this never would have sat so long."

She apologized and told me she was entering in a work order to fix concrete and remove debris. I looked up and down the street and told her about other National Grid holes I could see on my block.

This morning, at 9, my phone rang.

Whoever is calling me at 9, I thought, can leave a voicemail.

Within minutes, there was a knock at my door.


I climb out of my bed, throw on a tunic, and answer the door.

A man stood there who looked not unlike the only grandfather I had had. Not terribly frail, with shoulders a little too far back and a gut too far forward. A baseball cap set lightly atop his head, adding nearly a foot to his height. Around his neck, an off-white badge/ card hung from a lanyard, the type of plastic you wave in front of a bigger piece of plastic to unlock a door.

He told me that the job in front of my house had "fallen through the cracks," apologized, explained that it would be taken care of shortly, that two sidewalk squares would be re-cemented. He repeated "fallen through the cracks" several times, and after I had said "alright" and "thank you" to everything, he turned and was on his way.

I went back and listened to his message. It had a very light air of old jewish man accent and was staccattoed with the word 'that':

"Yes, National Grid Calling...reference is (my street address).....that....I apologize that, by the looks of things, the job just fell through the cracks...that..... will be permanently paved and the barricade removed within one week, this is for (my street address) and I do apologize. If there is a problem ...3 ....7....4...7...8..3..7....have a nice day....Henry Rouse."

I've just been blown over by how helpful and on top of things they have been since I spoke up. I remember reading in Jonothan Kozol's Savage Inequalities about schools in poor areas, how the parents don't speak up about things, either because they don't know they can or they don't know things could change. In this way I feel like an advocate for my block.

But then, do I raise the quality of living enough that property values and rents rise, driving everyone, myself included, away? I'm trying to figure out the balance between crumbling poverty and gentrification. How does one improve quality of living in a way that doesn't attract developers?

No comments: