Thursday, June 17, 2010

When Government Works

This afternoon a coworker and I were discussing how great the staff in Jim Graham's office is.  I often call on them when I need the wheels of D.C. government to move a little more quickly than they're apt to.  This reminded me of one particularly riduculous instance when the staff was really helpful.  I could fill volumes with the strange things that happen to me on a daily basis. I don't know why they happen, but I figure I may as well capitalize on it by sharing them with the public.

I woke up early one May morning about three years ago to a loud grunting sound coming from my living room.  The living room is adjacent to my neighbor's bedroom, so I automatically assumed someone was getting a little early morning delight.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  When the noise continued, I decided to get up to investigate.  That's when I realized that the noise (which sounded kind of like a deep, gutteral "huuuuh, huuuuh, huuuuh...") was coming from my window air conditioner.  Since it  was 6:30 in the morning, I was pretty limited on my course of action.  It was too early to call anyone, so I decided to bang on the a/c unit.  That just angered the beast inside.  It "huuuuhed" a little louder.

I sat on the couch watching the morning news, distracted by the groans until 7:30 when I called my parents.  They offered little help.  I looked up the number for Animal Control and called them.  Being a D.C. Government agency, they were not really helpful.  "We'll send someone out as soon as we can," the operator assured me, but couldn't give me any idea as to when that might be.  It was worse than dealing with the cable company.  I emailed my boss with the unique situation and told her that I'd be working from home for the day.  And the waiting began. 

While I was waiting, I started to receive emails from coworkers.  They had heard from my boss about the creature in my air conditioner and wanted to know if we could start a pool to guess what it was.  Never wanting to put a damper on anyone else's illegal gambling, I encouraged their participation.  Several coworkers even called me at home so I could describe the noise to them, thus upping their chances of guessing correctly.  One coworker guessed it was a rat, another a squirrel.  There was a guess for coyote, one for a pigeon with Jerry Fallwell's soul reincarnated (as he had recently died), and one brave soul who suggested a dik dik (which, it turns out, is a small east-African antelope).  Each person had ponied up $5 to enter the pool. 

Around noon, I called Animal Control back.  They informed me that my case was already closed and that an officer had already been to my home.  I assured them that this, most definitely, was not the case.  The operator told me that there was a deer loose in the street "somewhere in the city," and that that was taking up all the officers' time.  She couldn't tell me when I might expect an officer to save the grunting beast in my a/c.  So, as the May temperatures climbed in the noonday sun, the poor creature grunted a little more laboriously and a lot less frequently.  Not long after that, Wonderful Husband (then Wonderful Boyfriend) arrived with lunch to keep me company.

By the time 4:00 rolled around, I'd had about all I could take of being trapped in my apartment with an angry beast of undetermined origins.  It finally hit me, if I couldn't get the city to do what I wanted it to, I'd better call in the big guns.  I called Graham's office and spoke with a woman who, I'm sure, did her best not to laugh as I described the predicament.  She put me on hold while she called Animal Control herself.  She nearly got the same runaround that I did, as they told her they had already closed my case.  She came back on the line to tell me this, and I assured her that I was still infested.  So back she went to Animal Control, and, I'm guessing, threw her City Council muscle around, because not five minutes later, Officer Bobby had arrived. 

Officer Bobby (I'm making that name up, but, as you'll see, it suits him) was 14-years-old.  He had recently grown a mustache.  He had borrowed his father's uniform for his big day on the job, and it was three sizes too big.  Officer Bobby was extremely skilled in wild animal removal.  He used the very sophisticated technique of . . . wait for it . . . banging on the air conditioner.  Pure genius.  I'll bet you didn't know that I could be a Animal Control Officer.  When that failed to dislodge the mystery creature, he scratched his head, looked at me and WH and said, "Well, I don't know."  I encouraged him to remove the air conditioner and see what happened.  It was at this moment that he looked at me as if I had told him to catch a wild animal . . . oh wait, I had.  He enlisted the help of WH to pull out the a/c unit while I stood back squealing and covering my mouth with my hands. 

Officer Bobby and WH pulled out the unit and revealed a very disheveled looking pigeon who promptly flew out of the a/c and away from our apartment.  They replaced the unit and Officer Bobby looked at me, said, "Well, that's it," and left.  WH and I looked at each other very confused and turned on the a/c to finally cool off the apartment.  My first order of business was to inform my coworkers of the results (sorry, no dik dik) of the extraction, announcing the winner of the pool.  There was some argument as to whether the pigeon actually did have Jerry Fallwell's soul or not, but since the stakes weren't all that high, we agreed that was the closest guess to correct and awarded the money accordingly.

So, while it's not the habit of WashingTina to endorse political candidates, what I can endorse is the absolutely stellar staff in Jim Graham's office.  Just wait till you have a wild animal in your air conditioner, whether it be coyote or dik dik, and you'll quickly find, the path of least resistance is through the City Council.  If only this were the case for all government matters.

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