Marking up change; cleaning up indifference – a hero’s story

I arrived home last week and noticed that part of my driveway was spray-painted orange, as were a bunch of rocks in our front yard and also there were little yellow flags everywhere that read GAS LINE. “Cool,” I said to myself. “This will end smoothly.”

I had a hunch as to the culprit. A few years ago I arrived home and in place of one of our lantanas rested a beautiful new green tower. Far be it from to know or care about the purpose of this tower, but the only way I can describe it is as one of those things you tell children not to touch so they don’t get electrocuted.

No one had made us aware we were getting a brand spankin’ new electrical tower in our front yard, nor that we were unwittingly losing one of our plants in the process, but we traced the gift-giver/plant-killer back to a local cable company. I called and expressed my displeasure that we were not notified of this, as well as my desire that our plant be replaced. This request surprised the company, which, I can only assume, had been accustomed to replacing plant life with small electrical columns in private, residential yards with zero repercussions. They nevertheless heeded our request and explained their purpose by repeatedly saying “fiber optic.”

So, again, I had a hunch. I called that company to inquire about the latest situation, and they claimed it was not them, and instead suggested I contact the city, which forced me down a rabbit hole of long and ultimately pointless telephone conversations that eventually led back to: that cable company. Sure enough, that very day I arrived home and in my driveway was a human person doing stuff to our beautiful green tower and who was wearing a shirt representing said cable company.

I gathered my composure and kindly asked the man what was going on, and he pointed to the house across the street and said, “They don’t have fiber optic, so we’re doing fiber optic stuff and also, fiber optic,” or something like that.

“Oh,” I replied, “the renter in that house that’s been vacant for three years doesn’t have fiber optic stuff? Why didn’t you say so? GO NUTS and use my front yard as your personal fiber optic playground!”

What I really said, however, was, “Whatever. How and when are you guys going to fix this?” as I gently guided my hand over the sea of orange spray paint and yellow flags in our yard. He blamed that all on another company, which I quickly identified as their subcontractor, and so I repeated my question. He said, “Uh … we don’t.”

I asked to speak to his supervisor, who knocked on my door a few minutes later and with whom I had the same exact conversation. I said, “So let me get this straight—you guys come and mark up private yards without any notification, and then don’t clean up your mess?” He responded by assuring me the orange spray paint would wash away “eventually.”

If I wasn’t accepting this answer, you know darn well the wonderful woman with whom I share a soul/fiber optic connection was not accepting this answer. More calls would have to be made.

And call I did. I got all the way to the CEO, who was, it should be noted, kind and understanding. And informative. Basically, service companies (cable, gas, electric) are not required to notify homeowners of marking their property, nor are they required to clean it up. For the latter they cite “liability,” like, to use the example I was given, if the company were to power wash your driveway of spray paint and in the process destroy your driveway. In other words, “We wipe our hands of the issue we have caused based on the hypothetical scenario of us making it worse due to incompetence.” (Also, “Our power washers are WMDs.”) For the former—a simple, standard ol’ note on a door—they cite, well, nothing really. And this is all OK.

Until now. It appears I have found my new purpose. Some feed the poor; others raise awareness for health causes; a select few lead nations. I want to make sure cable companies can’t spray paint your rocks bright orange without letting you know first, and then CLEAN IT UP. Don’t call me a hero. I am not a hero. (I kind of am though.)

So, has this ever happened to you? If so, call or email your councilmember. That’s what I am going to do. Let us initiate change by connecting in a manner not unlike the fiber optic lines we are mutually rallying against.

Thank you.

Note: This column appears in the 9/4 issue of The Glendale Star and the 9/5 issue of Peoria Times.