- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2003

A vital part of the District's public-service machine is laboring extra hard to overcome another case of institutional inertia this week after residents made a plea to officials with the Department of Public Works.
The plea was: Pick up the trash, please.
This is not E=MC squared. This is an elementary public health matter.
Trash is trash, except to the vermin in our midst.
To the icky, four-legged creatures scurrying about the city, trash is a breeding ground, a warm home, a wonderful place to hang out and watch MTV.
The city has a problem with rats, in case you did not know. Mayor Anthony A. Williams has been waging war on these carriers of disease since a gallon of gas was a buck. It has been slow going, not unlike most public-service projects in the city. You can't stop the Norway rat. You can't even hope to contain it.
There ought to be a law against rats, and not to start a fight with members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. They probably would like to implement a contraceptive program with rats, where you catch and fix them before releasing them back onto the streets.
City officials have an explanation for those residents who noticed a mini-landfill by their premises. We had that terrible snowstorm Feb. 16, and it sort of pretended to snow last week, and we have a "backlog." Great. Public works is backed up. Perhaps its employees should be drinking prune juice this week.
Let's do the math with Feb. 16. Right. That was more than two weeks ago. That was last month.
To which a public works official said: "Residents should try to be patient a little while longer, and [they] should start seeing the trash disappear."
It is funny how it works with city officials. They ask you to be patient, especially if you try to reach an actual person employed in the bureaucracy by telephone. You do that and you end up undergoing a Rubik's Cubelike ordeal. You have to press all these numbers and you have to memorize all these menu items and you have to cross your fingers and hope not to have a massive coronary in frustration.
The city asks you to be patient, but neglects to be patient if you overstay your time in a parking space by a couple of minutes. No, the city is never patient with the demands on your time or the events in your life that chew up the day and cause you to be late. No, it never works that way at all with the city.
The city does not feel your pain. It only feels your wallet.
Patience is merely the name of another one-way street in the city.
If you asked a ticket writer to be patient around your vehicle, the ticket writer probably would think you were a nut case.
You: "Mr. Ticket Writer, I am trying to catch up on my missed appointments because of the snowstorm on February 16th. You and all the other ticket writers should try to be patient a little while longer."
Ticket writer: "You're joking, right?"
Alas, the city trots this stuff out with a straight face.
It snowed on Feb. 16. Be patient.
You have a car-eating pothole on your street? It snowed on Feb. 16. Be patient. You have to get your driver's license renewed? It snowed on Feb. 16. Be patient. You want to talk to someone in property assessment? It snowed on Feb. 16. Be patient.
Feb. 16 is threatening to become an all-purpose crutch in the city. Maybe city officials should circle the date in red and move to make it a local holiday each year.
In a positive development, public works officials and D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz have absolved Feb. 16 of all blame in the startling parking-fine increases that went into effect last Saturday. Unfortunately, that is about the only point of agreement in their did-too, did-not squabble.
Feb. 16 certainly did not deter the ever-increasing number of ticket writers in the city. They were out in it. You know they were. And they were not patient. Patience is not a virtue in their council-approved racket. They were out in it to protect the snow-emergency routes. They fought the elements with their dog-sled teams and wrote their hearts out in the interest of a budget-strapped city.
Those people are indefatigable. It is too bad they do not work in trash pickup.

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