Tuesday, March 14, 2006

'Tunnel Street' Update No. 4, or the City of New York doesn't know how to take a compliment

I have no clue why seeing a decently cleaned yet still dimly lit and semi-graffiti-covered tunnel from Broadway makes me so happy, but as I was heading to the 191st St. 1 train station this morning, I noticed a pair of men in New York City Dept. of Sanitation uniforms actually cleaning Tunnel Street. (See, I'm using its real, unmarked city-approved name now, without batting an eyelash, the irony slowly draining away ... I must be going batty.) I flashed a big smile at the workers as I passed, which I imagine is not something that trash guys normally expect from sane New Yorkers, but what the hey.

I get to work, I'm feeling so giddy and do-goody that I decide to dial up 311, which is the non-emergency hotline for NYC services, and compliment the city on its grand show of service to its uptown citizens. After realizing that the phone system requires me to dial as if I'm dialing from outside the city, I finally get through to a 311 operator and start giving my compliment-in-lieu-of-a-complaint, going on and on about how nice it is to see the city working for once. Then I remember that she just routes the calls to the correct person and realize I have to tell the same high-on-life story to another person — sort of how I've ended up outlining an ailment at the doctor's office first to the nurse, who doesn't usually write any of it down, then have to do the same dog-and-pony show again later for the doctor.

As the first woman at 311 transfers me to another woman, I can sense a mildly sarcastic yet not entirely disrespectful tone in the way she utters the word "compliment." So then I tell the second operator, the Dept. of Sanitation "specialist," the story of my nice and clean tunnel, and she listens dutifully, and I emphasize, that I hope this becomes a habit of the uptown crews, because it hasn't always been the case, and no, it's not part of the MTA's system, it's a city-owned tunnel, a city street at that. (Didn't she read it in the Times too?) And then finally at the end, she says something like, "Oh, we don't record compliments, only complaints." So I get off the phone and my co-worker, who'd obviously been listening in, says in all honesty that it was a nice thing for me to do. Nonetheless I'm left wondering if I'm a complete dope, and yet still I kinda hoped that someone somewhere in the great bureaucracy that is the Independent Republic of N.Y.C. got the message that they'd done good.
Another tunnel update [CS]
Power of the Press(ure Washer?) [Curbed]

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