Crab cakes and a dip

I was thinking this morning about how adherence to laws, rules and codes is to be encouraged, yet how subservience to ill thought, unfair and poorly written mandates brings no dignity to those affected or justice to those who would be served.

It reminded me of one distant Friday afternoon when we were having a summer celebration in our side yard with 50 or so friends and acquaintances when a loud knock was heard at my front door. I was in the kitchen at the time and fleet-footed it to see who was there. It was a city enforcement officer, who without even saying hello, informed me that I had two pine tree branches that were hanging a foot or so too low over the curb and needed immediate attention and trimming. He had a clipboard and pen in his hand and wielded them like a pharaoh brandishing a shepherd's crook and a flail as a sign of authority.

I gently reminded the city employee that it was Friday afternoon at 4:50 p.m. and we were entertaining a throng. I assured him that I would get to the offending branches over the weekend, but was quickly told that I had to comply by pruning them immediately or suffer the consequences of a citation.

I told the city representative that to do so would require me to be rude to all my guests and he answered that it was of no concern to him. He went on to inform me that my locked mountain bikes on my front porch constituted an "attractive nuisance" and should be immediately brought inside and out of view.

This man was the very definition of blind enforcement, caring naught of what was going on around him, focused only on the two hanging branches and now my two locked bikes. then it was past 5 p.m., so I invited him into the yard to partake of the party. He refused saying that I had no choice but to do what he said and pronto.

Well, by then I had neglected my guests for about 20 minutes and felt it time to let my feelings be known. I informed the clipboard toting official that if did not want to join us, he should depart and leave me to socialize with the invited. He then re-crossed his arms in front of his chest and announced that if I did not yield to his commands he would have no choice but to issue me several citations.

It flashed across my mind that I had been asked to go to the kitchen for more shrimp and dip, but had ended up talking to one of the biggest crabs I had ever met. The condemned branches had not been pouncing on cars or muttering obscenities to pedestrians, but had simply, over the course of months, grown and drooped under their own weight. When the official stated flatly that he would not leave until I had done his bidding I began thinking of alternatives to his presence.

I assured him that we could resolve the matter amicably, but he would have not of it. It was then that I escorted him off my property, then offered that we could meet Monday morning and inspect the sylvan suspect and handcuff the tree if it resisted. I wished him well, reminded him that he was off-duty and no crime was in progress, went into my house and locked the door. I grabbed the shrimp and dip and rejoined my guests, one of whom immediately asked me what took me so long.

"It's like this," I offered. "A guy from the city wanted to help me trim my tree, to which I offered to help clean his clock. I just have to admire, though, that he was working overtime."

Lance was last seen staring at a piece of "art" in his side yard. He was trying to understand how a pine cone, which is three dimensional, is classified either as a sign or a statue, both of which are illegal in the minds of our code enforcers. You may edify just as soon as this all becomes clear to you.)

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