A Call to 311By
Me: Is this the buildings department?
Me: There is a tree in an abandoned building behind our apartment and it looks like it is about to fall over.
311: A crate?
Me: A tree.
311: You say there’s a crate about to fall over?
Me: No, a tree? T-R-E-E.
311: A crane?
Me: No, a TREE. A big thing with leaves and branches.
311: Oh, a tree.
311: Is it a city tree?
Me: No, it’s in the backyard of a derelict building.
The 311 operator pauses and then begins to read from her screen.
311: If the tree is not a city tree and branches need to be removed, residents should call a landscaping company…
Me: No, you don’t understand. The tree is not on my property. It’s on a neighbor’s property.
Me: The building has been boarded up so I assume the city already knows about it.
Me: And it looks like the tree could fall over any minute.
Me: I think someone needs to come out as soon as possible.
Me: There are lots of kids who play down there.
Me: Yes, it’s very popular with children. Both in our garden and our neighbor’s garden.
311: The tree is in your neighbor’s garden?
Me: The tree is in the garden of a derelict house behind our building. But the tree could fall in our garden or our neighbors’ next door.
311: Oh, well, we might be able to do something…
The 311 operator takes the tree’s details.
311: Your request has been logged and will be processed in the next five days.
Me: Don’t you think that, considering the tree could fall at any time, you ought to send someone sooner than five days?
311: Oh, they will.
Me: But you just told me five days.
311: Yes, but they will get this message today and when they see what I have said about the kids playing outside I am sure they will come out straight away.
That was a few hours ago. I am not holding my breath.