It happened about one in the morning, last Sunday. A young man lost control of his car and hit a telephone pole. The police say he was drinking, and his night got worse after destroying his mother’s Infiniti. On the bright side, the pole and car got the worst of it; he wasn’t hurt.
The next day, a gaggle of Verizon guys appeared with a new telephone pole, and they promptly (and surprisingly carefully) put it into the ground next to the old one. They were a bit miffed, I was told, that nobody called them in the middle of the night, because the pole was broken and was, in their view, a threat to human life. It could fall at any moment, they said, and that it had gone twelve hours in that condition was a needless threat to public safety. I liked these guys.
The next thing to do was for the Verizon people to contact the LIPA people, the beleaguered Long Island Power Authority, a state agency “in transition” following its disastrously bad handling of Superstorm Sandy last November. That was last Monday.
As of Thursday, the pole still dangled, untouched by LIPA hands. Since it was in front of my home, and nobody else apparently gave a damn, I called LIPA on the normal consumer complaint telephone number and explained the situation to a pleasant woman. She told me she would send off an email to the people in charge of my area.
The next morning, this morning, the untouched broken pole called my name and said, “do something.” So I called LIPA again. This time, another pleasant woman said she would connect me to a guy named Turner, who was in charge of my area, though I should anticipate that I would have to leave a message for Turner, who might get back to me should he deem me worthy. She wasn’t being rude, but just realistic.
After some discussion about whether LIPA had anybody around there who was sufficiently concerned about the potential of a pole falling and killing people (the answer was, essentially, no, there was no one in charge of not killing people at LIPA), she transferred me to Turner. Shockingly, he answered the phone.
After telling him who I was, he explained that he got the message the day before. He knew. He told me that nobody from Verizon had informed LIPA of the need to remove their wires from the pole so that the broken pole could be taken away. I told him that was kinda surprising, given the speed and concern Verizon showed in putting a new pole in, reflecting their concern that they not kill anyone needlessly. I told him about the Verizon guys saying that the old, broken pole could fall at any moment, and it wouldn’t be pretty.
Turner then explained to me, using the small words that a parent uses with an imbecile child, that he had his guy out to look at the pole, that his guy had 40 years experience, and that his guy said the pole won’t fall. It will be fine, he paternalistically told me as he gave me a virtual pat on the head.
After dutifully noting that no doubt his guy’s assessment, that the pole would not fall and kill babies and grandmothers, was far more credible than that of the Verizon guys, that it was a potential threat to life and limb, I questioned why, given that five days had now elapsed since the new pole had been installed and everyone was waiting on LIPA to move its wires before the other utilities could move theirs, would Turner not just get the friggin’ wires moved.
In support, I offered two thoughts. First, should his guy be just a little wrong and the pole fall, causing death and mayhem, he would look pretty darned foolish on the front page of Newsday. Second, that it had already been five days since the new pole was installed, and that was an unconscionably long time for LIPA to do what was surely a pretty basic function. And finally, because this was a core part of their job, and it wasn’t like I was asking them to put doilies on top of the telephone pole to make their wires look pretty.
Nope, Turner told me. Sorry, but our official LIPA position is we’ll get to it when we’re damn good and ready. I noticed the weather outside was gorgeous, sunny and warm without being too hot. Not a cloud in the sky. Not a likely day for disaster to strike and demand all hands on deck to turn on electric for the elderly in need of their life-saving equipment to remain fully juiced.
You have something more important to do today than this?
“Sorry that you’re disappointed,” Turner told me. I told him I was very disappointed. He didn’t care. Not even a little.
So if you happen to be driving past my house and a broken telephone pole falls and kills you, let me know. I might have some useful information for you. And should you be working for LIPA, or be concerned with the failure of a state agency to demonstrate even a modicum of concern for the potential and needless death of people for no better reason than some bureaucratic douche said so, pray that if the pole falls on a car, it’s not the one carrying your family.
Glad to hear that LIPA has more important things to do. Five days later. Can’t wait to see whether they show next Monday, as the second week of needless threat begins.
Update: Well, first the good news. LIPA crews, with three trucks, appeared by magic to fix the pole. Now the bad news. They appeared at rush hour on a Friday to work on the pole on a major artery, effectively closed the road entirely for no apparent reason, forcing cars to drive off the roadway.
Is that all, you ask? Nope. Not all.
Although there were a number of workers standing there watching, there were no flagmen directing traffic, so that the cars and trucks had no clue if it’s safe to try to get around these huge LIPA trucks, causing substantial problems and potential danger for drivers on the road.
But that’s it, right? Well, no. Not quite.
In addition to the danger and huge inconvenience caused by this remarkably poorly handled work, there is the wanton destruction of the shoulder being used as a roadway by the cars struggling to get by. And then, there is the needless damage caused by the LIPA trucks on the other side, wreaking havoc wherever possible.
And that’s it, right? For the moment, yes. When they’re done, we will see the extent of the damage caused and what garbage (they always leave garbage) they’ve left behind.
Is this how they always work, causing as much trouble, risk and damage as possible, or is this special because they’ve been shamed into doing their job, and they’re pissed off about it and are deliberately making it as miserable as humanly possible?
I’ve put the question to LIPA media relations and will report back the response. Or lack thereof.
Update 2: And the word back from the LIPA spokesman:
Sorry the job is not satisfactory for you. National grid is LIPA’s service provider. I’m sure you know this by now. They handle all our services including work on the wire and poles. I would suggest you reach out to them as far as comment on safety. I would also suggest you take some photos for review.
So not our job and we don’t give a damn. Got it, although whether it’s satisfactory to me is utterly irrelevant. What about satisfactory to the hundreds of people being put at risk? And sorry he didn’t like the photos above. Unless, of course, he didn’t bother to look at them.