The Spin Cycle

The Spin Cycle

A day in the life of a Zoning Officer

Every day in the zoning office is different, yet every day unfolds in exactly the same way.  Driving to work, I organize and prioritize the most important tasks that needs doing that day. I outline my daily goals. By the time I sit at my desk, java in my R.I.T. mug next to the phone, my day is ready to unfold- exactly as I planned it. Then I sip the bitter coffee and I'm ready. At that moment, the phone usually rings.  I begin to spin ever-so slowly, nothing to be worried about, I've been in this spin before. 

It's Mrs. Gigliotti from 4th street, a chronic complainer of all things that irritate her.  "What can I do for you today, Mrs. Gigliotti?" I ask, as I grab a pencil and notepad.

"Everyone calls me Mrs. G", she replies indignantly.

"Yes, Mrs. Gigliotti, how may I be of service today?" A smile creeps onto my face and the spin slows.

Her first complaint is about a small inflatable swimming pool in her neighbors yard. Shouldn't they need a fence? I look at the weather channel temperature on my computer desktop. It is 30 degrees outside. I envision happy little 3rd graders ice skating on the surface of the little pool.  Her second complaint is about a fence on 5th street. It is leaning into the alley. She is afraid it will fall over onto children playing in the alley. 

I try to calculate the chance of this happening: height of fence x degree of lean/condition of posts x width of alley/percent chance of third graders in the alley/percent chance of specific hour in a day when fence may fall= percent of chance that fence will land on the head of a small child. I realize I forgot to include wind speed.  My result is 1 in 1.32 million chance that that fence will fall on a male third grader, striking with sufficient force to bend the handlebars of his bicycle.  (girls are smart enough to ride on the sidewalk or pavement and avoid a stony, bumpy, unpaved alley.)    Of course, I promise to investigate her complaints as soon as time allows. The phone call has now struck the 25 minute mark. The spin quickens again and I think I can really feel it now.

The Town clerk steps into my office. "There is a someone here to see you."  She ushers him and he sits down across from me- this young man, possibly in his early thirties, well-groomed, immaculately dressed. He looks like a concierge or a tie salesman.

 "I really don't want to complain, but my neighbor is not cleaning up after their 6 dogs, " he tells me,  "Now that the snow is melting, the dog feces has liquefied and is running under the fence and into my yard." Mr. Doggie-Poo hands me an envelope stuffed with photographs. He has pictures. Pictures of brown liquid running under a fence. This is his backyard. This is the brown dog-poopy water running into his yard.  he tells me he also owns two dogs, but he cleans up after them.  But...BUT....I am thinking....how am I going to know for certain the poo-juice is from his neighbor and not from his own dogs?  My...head...spinning...faster...and...faster.

I try to explain that poo ownership may be difficult to prove in court, but Mr. Doggie-Poo is very upset. His complaint expands to include every single iota of his neighbor's unacceptable personal dog habits. My mind wanders into daydream. I am in front of a Judge. "Your Honor, I would now like to call to the stand Dr. Chow, an expert in canine DNA testing." Finally, Mr. D-P is running out of angry things to say. I bring the meeting to a conclusion, making promises as I walk the complainant to the exit. I will write a letter to the owner of the 6 dogs, as soon as I am finished with a few higher priorities, such as:

  1. Forcing a slumlord to provide heat for his tenants
  2. Issuing a Notice of Violation to the tattoo parlor that opened without permits
  3. Inspecting a fence that may fall over at any second, crushing Mrs. Smith's entire 3rd grade class
  4. Issuing a Cease and Desist to the children illegally ice skating on a small inflatable pool. 

I am now spinning quite nicely, reflecting sunlight at every turn. 

I decide to leave the office and head for the streets and alleys. On my patrol, I see violations at every turn- house alterations, unlicensed cars in back yards, little illegal swimming pools everywhere, and every fence is about to fall over into every alley.

Spin! Spin! Spin!

I return to the office. The phone rings. It is my darling wife. "Honey, guess what? I bought a dog!"