Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Word For World Is "Suck"

Yesterday, Wednesday, I awoke to find that the entire water content of the sky had been dropped on Long Island.

Islip, about 15 minutes drive from Chateau Stevie, recorded 13 inches over the course of Tuesday night. This is the normal amount of downward-happening wet for the months of June through August combined.

This heavenly largesse has served to point out two important facets of Life on Long Island: Uphill Drains and Downhill Drains That Never Get Cleaned.

The various Suffolk County1 towns surrounding Chateau Stevie this morning are actually a bunch of houses and car-roofs poking out of a collection of freshwater (euphemistically speaking) inland seas.

Remember: this state once provided the manpower and brains that build the machine in which six men rode down to the Moon's surface and in which they flew back up to their spaceship afterwards. One might expect that in the intervening forty-five years The Great Drain Secret might have succumbed to the same mighty intellects. One would be wrong.

Wyandanch was now a wonderful new Great Lake thanks in part to Uphill Drains, carefully planned and installed a couple of years ago in the face of modern ideas on the Laws of Physics, and partly because the one drain that would have provided the semblance of urban civil engineering of the 21st century at work was blocked, I imagine by an amalgamation of garbage, leaves and road salt left over from winter. I don't have to work my imagination hard when I make that judgment, because I used to have a drain that got blocked every fall in the same manner.

I've written about that drain elsewhere, but for the lazy the problem was that sometime in the past a passing Brontosaurus had trodden on the cast-iron grid and cracked it, then the road crews had built up the road to about six inches above the drain so all the crap would accumulate there. Street sweepers, somewhat rarer these days than Brontosauruses in my neck of the woods, only made matters worse as they carefully collected as much superannuated crap as possible and swept it into the drain.

The drain was also a hazard to traffic in that a car wheel could easily buckle if the vehicle wandered too close to the curb and crossed it. I tried to get the town to do something about it, but my complaints fell on deaf ears until a cyclist drove down it and was injured. After I explained to the nice but clueless cop who was waiting to chew my ear when I got home that day that the drain was not my responsibility and that I was sick to the back teeth of complaining to the town about it, it was replaced.

The drain across the road gets blocked too, and until my drain was replaced we had our own Great Lake every year. I would unblock the drains with my trusty sidewalk scraper as idiots would drive into the foot-deep water to splash me while I worked, abruptly lose control of their vehicle and come close to hitting me3. Now the lake forms only on the other side of the road and the people who bought the house from the elderly lady who lived there for years have two kids who can bloody well stir their stumps and unblock their own drains.

Where was I?

Oh right. The Lake at Wyandanch made getting from the car4 to the platform a challenge, especially as wuckfits would deliberately try and splash passing pedestrians. It was quite fun listening to the funny noises the engines made after the unexpectedly deep water sluiced up into the works of those cars I can tell you.

Some of the fun might not have been deliberate sadism. There is a tree branch obscuring the view of the drivers who make the corner and when in leaf it completely blocks the sidewalk. In winter, when the leaves fall off, it presents hard, sharp twigs at eye-level to make the morning commute that more exciting.

This reflects back on the secondary problem of the drains (the primary problem being their often not being put in the same place the water will want to go), which can be stated as nothing gets done in New York until something bad happens. The concept of preventative maintenance is completely alien to the NY Psyche.

Trees overhang powerlines and the railroad, begging someone to cut them down before the high winds of the Fall blow them down, but every November we have power outages and LIRR delays and those in charge of the infrastructure have the nerve to act surprised, as though no-one could have predicted the inevitable chaos. Drains do not get cleaned until property is under water and insurance claims are coming in thick and fast.

The sheer amount this idiocy costs the taxpayer in settling lawsuits and service costs is breathtaking. When the Metrocard was introduced for real5 nothing was budgeted for cleaning the card swipes, with the result the turnstiles stopped working after about 6 months. In the late 80s we had an important and heavily-used bridge that was part of the New York State Thruway fall into the river because not one penny had been spent on maintenance in decades. That made the buggers sit up and take notice, all right. Of course, now there was the problem that we needed a new bridge and some way of getting the old one out of the way of the boats.

My train was delayed twenty minutes that day, but since that was a train to Atlantic Terminal I didn't care. When I have to change trains the problem of a ten minute or greater delay is really brought into sharp focus as the missed connection typically introduces a twenty-five minute wait for the next train, time in which the LIRR infrastructure can fail some more. I've had days that got so bad I've got on a train back to Wyandanch and written off the three plus hours wasted and tried to salvage the rest of the day doing something fun if not productive.

In any event, the rain didn't stop falling until about one minute before the train arrived, ensuring that everyone was soaked through. In my case I had an umbrella, but the rain sluiced off that onto my backpack which was so wet it was still damp when I got home that night. I was in a training course for most of the day (I managed to swing an in-house C# course I've been trying to get for months) so I kicked off my wringing wet sneakers so my feet could dry out while I became conversant in various topics of the New Paradigm.

When I got back to Wyandanch and opened my car door I was hit in the face by a miasma composed of superheated air, water vapor and stench of something dead. The air was obviously because after raining the day had become hellish hot, the water vapor was from what had run off me during the drive to the station that morning, but search the vehicle as I might I could not find a cause for The Stench. I drove home with the windows down, thinking maybe I'd forgotten to lock the doors and the car had been used as a lounge by some passing homeless person, but I know I did lock up.

Best I can come up with is that something had washed up under the car and rotted for a few hours, though I didn't see any evidence for that when I pulled away. Could have been something dead snagged on the various hooked doodads under the car now I come to think on it. Perhaps The Steviemobile was haunted by some long dead revenant, bent on exacting vengeance on the living for whatever reasons such things usually harbor. I dunno.

Either way, The Stench was gone this morning so either the dead animal caught up under the car fell off as I drove around last night or The Revenant caught sight of Mrs Stevie on her way out to work and decided the competition was too stiff.

  1. Long Island is broken up into several administrative bits. From west to east: Queens and Brooklyn, which belong to NYC and don't count as Long Island, Nassau County, famous for its method of calculating property taxes and for it's periodic public wars over how and when to change its method of calculating property taxes2, and Suffolk County which runs east to the Sea. And north and south to the sea if we are being absolutely accurate, but that is true for all the bits of Long Island except for Queens where you can hit Brooklyn by going south and Brooklyn where you end up in Queens by going North which is why we don't include them in the general geography of Long Island - it's too confusing when giving directions to the beach.
  2. Essentially they work out what your property is worth using a formula written in 1933, fudge the figure for bits of property that are taxable but weren't invented or in common household deployage in 1933 like central air conditioning, swimming pools and hot tubs, then refigure for 2014 dollars using another formula
  3. I finally got a clue and would park my old Excel in the middle of my side of the road with the hazard flashers on. Would-be splashers were forced to stop and pull around at slow speed and those coming from the other direction would always stop and rubberneck. Kamikaze idiot problem solved
  4. Which I parked on a slope so the engine would survive any more inundation - others were not so fortunate and the scrapyards are full this day of waterlogged cars and manly pickup trucks
  5. There was a false start a couple of years before

No comments: