Public Works

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An early morning rain filled the crevices of this grate on Friday.

In the mid-morning, a group of kindergarteners came up Friendship Avenue, by the park, and each child stopped to inspect the grate. The three women chaperoning the group hurried the children along, but after a few steps, one of the chaperones, who was wearing a felt Peter Pan cap, turned, instinctively, to find a straggler squatting in the crosswalk.

“Lydia!” the woman called. “You cannot stand in the middle of the street!”

The straggler was a small girl in a pink dress and matching shoes. With the order, she jogged across the street, but before she got more than one cement tile closer to the others she spied the rain-filled utility grate. The woman in the Peter Pan cap had already continued on her way. It took her a few steps to realize the girl was not by her side.

“Lydia, c’mon.”

The girl kept poking at the grate.

“C’mon, Lydia.”

The girl finally scurried along.

Half an hour later, the group came back up the block from the other direction. Again, every child stopped to inspect the utility grate, and again Lydia lagged behind the others.

This time, though, she had a short stick, which she poked like a wand into the rain that was pooled in grate. The group continued around the corner, onto Gross Street, and the girl followed the others, but after a few seconds the woman with the Peter Pan cap turned, instinctively, to find the girl, once again, squatting in the middle of the crosswalk. This time, the girl was poking her stick into this pothole, which was also full of rain.

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“Lydia! You cannot play with a puddle in the middle of the street!” the woman called.

The girl crossed the street. She stopped to consider a house. She swatted the bushes.

“Lydia! Don’t hit those bushes,” the woman said. “It’s not nice.”

The girl paused, dawdled and finally followed after the others, but slowly.

*            *            *

Not long after, the city repainted the bike lanes on Friendship Avenue.

The chore requires an ill-proportioned truck. It’s a behemoth wearing a dainty extension on its forehead, a long rod that culminates in a tiny wheel. The wheel is a guide. To align the paint gun properly, the driver sets this tiny wheel right at the edge of the white line.

A second guy sitting in the back of the truck operates the paint gun. The truck has to move slowly to keep the line straight, and the car traffic quickly backed-up behind it.

The bike lane, though, was completely empty.

A bike rider zipping toward the block slowed when he saw the operation and rode alongside the guy operating the paint gun. He asked, “Can I go while you’re doing this?”

With an unnecessarily large smile, the guy in the truck said, “It’s all yours.” The bike rider kept pace with the truck for half a block, chatting up the guy, before speeding off.

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