Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"X" Marks the Spot

I spent Tuesday on the phone – pleading and threatening as a crew took steps to replace the utility pole in front of my house with another one. Of course, they did it all wrong. No thought what ever given to how the installation would impact pedestrians – even though I have been talking about it for two years straight. How did this happen? It’s a mystery that no one seems to fathom.

Fortunately, there was no hostility. Everyone was polite. Them fellas was from Tennessee, so I put on my best North Carolina accent and we got along just fine. Of course, how could anyone expect a crew from Tennessee to know local conditions in Montgomery County? I first talked with a dusty, bearded man with a concrete saw yesterday morning. He told me lots of things about what they were doing. I asked where they wanted him to put the hole for the new pole. He said, as he pointed to two spots on the ground,” I thought I might put it right here, or right there.” So, This guy from Tennessee with the saw in his hand is the same guy who decides where the hole goes. I tried to talk to him about ADA, and things like wheelchair clearance, but he didn’t seem too interested.

I really thought that I might end-up in jail, because I was going to get this project stopped – one way or another. If I hand to stand in the hole until law enforcement came to take me away, I was ready. I think I was ready, anyway.

PEPCO was having trouble figuring-out who was doing the work. Early in the afternoon I got a call from a Mr. White with PEPCO. He asked if I knew the name of the contractor, because he couldn’t find who would be working in the area. I told him that I was visually impaired, and couldn’t read the name on the trucks, so I took the phone outside and gave it to one of the crew. That’s right, PEPCO didn’t even know they were there. PEPCO found out they were there by calling ME. Montgomery County doesn’t know they are there? PEPCO doesn’t know they are there? Everyone is conveniently in the dark as we ignore ADA.

X marks the spot where this one battle takes place. It seems insignificant – even trivial. But this one pole stands for the thousands of utility poles that spring-up in our sidewalks. Poles that are invisible obstacles. Invisible because we choose not to see them. In a place like Silver Spring, we need new eyes- eyes that see these obstacles for what they are. Eyes that look for proactive solutions, rather than excuses. As a pedestrian, I am tired of being treated like a hot potato – tossed from one agency, department, committee, or coalition to another – only to find more excuses. Tired of being told that progress takes time. Tired of going to meeting after meeting where the topics never change and the results never measure-up.

X marks the high-water mark. This is where I stopped it – if only for a day. Anyone with me?


  1. In fairness, I did not do this alone. Several people worked to top for reveiw. I simply refused to take an excuse... or did I?

  2. Three cheers for you, William! It's not easy to deal with these bureaucracies. It takes your persistence, some patience, and, sometimes, petulance. As an ally of folks with disabilities, (I have a wife with Cerebral Palsy, and a friend who builds and rides wheelchairs) I have noted many of the issues you face.
    One likely source for allies is Impact Silver Spring, which has an office at 501 Sligo Ave. -phone: 240-247-0283 Happy new year! -Earl

  3. Thanks for the encouragement and advice. I have emailed with someone from that office, but have lost contact. I guess I should call and say "Hey." I have lost all of my connection with ACB, too.