Two hours is a long time to curse. It takes stamina. And creativity. Eventually, after throwing down all the standards and in order to realize the full internal cleansing that profanity can provide, one cooks up combinations of obscenities so original there should be a Pulitzer category for them.
Today's tantrum occurs during the scraping of our sidewalk. The red card clipped to our front door yesterday announced a $100 fine for not shoveling. For the record, we had shoveled, just not down to the cement. Eight neighbors were also red-carded. That's nearly a thousand dollars' worth of sidewalk.
I can see the faces of the guys reading this in the City-County Building. Their eyes roll with a "do the crime, do the time" headshake. I'm not a violent guy. So as the blade of my flat-head sprays sparks across the cement, I keep my focus on cursing rather than the image of sweeping papers and computers from these guys' desks onto their instant-coffee-stained laps.
A warning of a $100 fine would have motivated me to scrape the walk - only without the swearing. I'm confident a warning would have had the same effect on my neighbors.
If I were a card-carrying, get-off-my-property, anti-guv'ment, beer-can-chucking, gun-polishing libertarian, then my rage would feel legitimate. But no such luck. I'm one of those wimpy asses who want the government to hike their taxes to help public schools and shore up police, fire and other services. I didn't do nothin' to create Wisconsin's structural deficit, but I don't mind one smokin' bit if they ask more of me to help us get out of it.
Shoveling citations won't do that. My $100 likely covers the cost of the process of citing people for not scraping their sidewalks to the cement.
A couple of springs ago, city sewer workers spent two straight days, like whack-a-moles, popping in and out of the manhole in front of our house. The week ended with the sewer cap in our basement exploding off the pipe threads. The brown geyser that followed painted the walls and floor of our finished basement.
The spray, an impressive, steady pulse of misty poop, was as efficient as sprinklers on a golf course. Peggy had come home on her lunch hour to grab something she needed for that afternoon. "It smells like crap in here," she thought, which can be a generic olfactory response to any home with teenagers under the roof. But then she heard it.
Phone conversations with city officials twisted and turned over trails of bureaucratic bumps and down blind administrative alleys. We rolled to a stop at the corner of Runaround Road and Stall Street. We were on our own.
And so I scrape on and torture myself with thoughts of citizen and city accountability.
The morning after my scraping/swearing binge, I sit down to write this story. To my surprise, two guys in hooded sweatshirts, one with a clipboard, appear out front. The one without the clipboard snaps photos of our walk. I raise the window and yell through the screen: "That's a work of art, isn't it?"
They spin around.
"I have photos of Mayor Dave's sidewalk in here," I lie. "You wanna see 'em?"
"Hell yeah!" one of them cheers.
I laugh and tell them I made that up. They say they're surprised I was ticketed. They explain that a sidewalk fine is not random, rather the result of a direct, phoned-in complaint.
I say "So long" and close the window. Blaming these guys for my fine is like blaming airport ticket counter attendants for engine delays.
So I blame the city for a ticket and not a warning. And the person who phoned us in. If you are that person, please know I take safety and access seriously. If you truly felt at risk, I apologize.
Unless you're the dog walker who consistently contributes poop to our property in ways different from the city of Madison. In that case, just for you, I left a nice, sweet square of black ice.