Recently I wrote The Snow Shovel Chronicles Part I. Go read it.
You didn’t read it did you? Sigh: I’ve got to do everything don’t I? OK fine, I’ll paraphrase:
“It’s snowing like a son of a bitch. I could get to town but only with a lot of effort. I’ve got the gear to clear the driveway but I don’t feel like it. I think I’ll sip whiskey instead.”
See? That wasn’t so hard.
While I was IGNORING the snow I clicked over to The Munchkin Wrangler. His post The Snow Gestapo caught my eye. Go read it.
You’re back from reading it? So soon? Bullshit, you’re lying! Since you didn’t read it (I can tell) I’ll grab a few quotes from the the initial article at the Boston Globe; “Snow Police On Patrol”.
Let’s begin with an introduction to a petty tyrant:
“In a city where there is too much snow and no place to put it, Sergeant Steven Tankle enforces the rules.”
At first I imagined some nerd cajoling folks to shovel the sidewalk. Instead he comes off like RoboCop but less human.
“Tankle works for the Boston Code Enforcement Police… Think of them as the snow police: They wear badges, carry handcuffs, and make meter maids seem popular. Run afoul of them and face a fine of up to $200.”
Handcuffs? A guy who deals with snow has handcuffs?
Aside from the handcuffs I’m not surprised that there is such a thing as Code Enforcement Police. I knew Boston had eleventy zillion laws. [Note: I haven’t verified this. There may be as few as ten zillion laws.] I suppose it’s logical that some are about snow. What did surprise me is the detail involved:
“City ordinances require residents to shovel their walkways within six hours after a snowfall and specify in nitty-gritty detail that the path cleared be no less than 42 inches wide.”
At least Mr. Tankle is the only clipboard carrying monster out there right?
“Officer Daniel Donovan, on patrol yesterday, issued a $50 ticket…”
So there’s two of them?
“The Boston Code Enforcement Police were out in full force, all 16 of them.”
Sixteen of them? That’s a lot of salaries for keeping an eye on snow. Good thing Boston is doing so well economically:
“Earlier this year, City officials projected a budget deficit of approximately $140 million.”
Oh no! A deficit! What can be done?
“The $140 million gap would have resulted in as many as 1,000 layoffs…”
I know sixteen employees that wouldn’t be missed.
At any rate Boston did some shifting of funds and wage freezes and…
“…these efforts decreased the deficit and saved 446 jobs, the FY 10 budget still projects 565 layoffs.”
So 565 folks got canned but they spared the sixteen I’m thinking about. Apparently 16 guys for snow enforcement is essential for civilization.
Back to the snow and it’s staff of sixteen overseers. (Note: this staff has nothing to do with actually removing snow…just assessing fines on residents.) With all that brass keeping an eye on snow, Bostonians should grab a shovel and get with flinging it right? Wrong! Criminals sometimes clear snow incorrectly:
“A young couple was shoveling snow off their Honda, badly.”
You can shovel snow BADLY? How? In my book, shoveling snow is shoveling snow. How can it be wrong? The best place for snow is “not on my car”. The ground qualifies as “not car”. I’ve never bothered airlifting snow from a car to a nearby lawn. The idea is as foreign to me as FedExing it to Norway.
Luckily the bureaucracy sprang into action to maintain order and keep us safe from our unhinged ways! Snow on the road is bad. Swish snow from a car parked on the street to the ground and you’ll face Code Enforcement wrath! For example; when a Code Enforcement Officer found a band of evil doers he stepped up to the plate!
“He pulled up to the possible perpetrators, three people clearing snow from their cars.”
“‘What are you doing?’ Tankle asked. ‘Clean all this up, or you’ll get a $200 ticket.”’
“Everyone in the group stared at the pile of snow in the street.”
Of course they had a lame excuse:
“Mendes Teixeira, one of the shovelers, said they were not the guilty ones. ‘It was there before,’’ the 25-year-old said, looking perplexed.”
Code Enforcement Officers know that excuses are the work of foolish peons out to subvert authority! Time to issue an order:
“Tankle told the group to move the snow from the street to a snowbank.”
And Code Enforcement Officers know how to make sure peons can’t escape the long arm of the law!
“He said he would come back to make sure they did and took their license plate numbers just in case.”
Ignorance of the law is no excuse either. Remember the first couple with the Honda? Officer Donovan knew what to do with them:
“The couple, who did not want to be identified, froze in shock. They wanted to know what they had done wrong. They said they had no idea about the law.”
Another lame excuse? Don’t they know what’s good for them?
“The woman began crying.”
What’s this? Weakness? Time to boss someone around!
“‘It’s illegal to throw snow in a city street,’ he said before handing them a $50 ticket.”
At least this is rare. Wise men know to use their power judiciously:
“This month’s blizzard has brought a flurry of tickets, 173 yesterday alone, compared with 20 issued in all of December 2009.”
173 tickets in one day? I suppose society needs to be educated about how to properly shovel snow:
“City officials said they have issued pamphlets and brochures alerting residents to stepped-up enforcement.”
At least residents appreciate their work:
“Tankle, an officer for 15 years, said that angry violators have thrown cans of soda at him…”
Well at least things haven’t gotten violent:
“…he has occasionally had to call for police backup when a ticketing turned threatening.”
At least only a trained police officer has that kind of authority:
“…he [Tankle] has never had to arrest anyone.”
He has the power to arrest? Over snow?
Let that all sink in. A staff of sixteen? You can shovel snow…wrong? Fines from $50 to $200? Handcuffs? Power to arrest?
I smell a bureaucracy that’s gone too far.
The Munchkin Wrangler did too. He concluded that they were not nice guys. I believe he used the word “blockwart” which is derived from city block level Nazi party operatives.
I disagree. Comparing them to Hitler’s machinery is so passe’. It’s my considered opinion that we have here examples of the common garden variety petty tyrant (see also: bully).
In my next post I’ll explain why petty tyrants should be met with resistance even if it’s merely a matter of deliberately being hard to boss around.
Meanwhile, in Brooklyn…
Here in California, near San Francisco, we have the fireplace police. 50 officers were out on Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2009 and giving $200 tickets for using your fireplace. In the summer they issue tickets for barbequeing. Ain’t life grand?
I’ve heard of it in some cities but never experienced it.
I’m disappointed that people enforce laws like that. A misguided egghead might write or promote the law but at some point a person has to implement it and they’ve got to know what they’re doing to people. If you’re issuing a $200 ticket on Christmas as kids are hanging a stocking for Santa…you’re a monster.