life between the pages

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.”
Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


where have i been in the past three weeks? i wonder. aside from the ruptured tendon, that thankfully did not turn out to be the achilles and will not require surgery, it's been busy, in a word. and three of us had a bout with whatever the local nasty virus is this month; we survived.

so. i get so fired up about work nowadays. is it hormones, old age, or just being fed up with the stupid career choice i made? i leave it for you to judge. a brief recounting of facts:

1. April 25 - Board of Adjustment Case, in which the Planning Board rendered a 6-0 unanimous decision in favor of the applicant, who having filed a Request for an Appeal from the Interpretation of the Zoning Administrator (for which I was asked by two council members to recommend that the applicant file such an Appeal, so we could not prosecute the applicant for putting up the structure without a permit, while we changed the ordinance to allow him to do what he probably could have done to begin with, except several members of the community and Planning Board felt that it wasn't allowed. Are you confused yet? Wait, it gets better). Intepretation indeed. Then they spent two and a half hours of the public's time roasting the ZA over the coals for "over-regulating." Apparently some of them didn't know the politics behind the case. And I learned --how could I not have known already? --how fickle and forgetful most politicians are when they get on a podium in public and the topic is "deride government regulation." Forpitysake, I told them to begin with the damn thing didn't need a permit but they insisted on finding some way to permit it, in order to "control it." What was this thing, you ask? An unlighted wooden scoreboard at the local public ballpark that IMHO didn't fall into the category of "needing zoning approval" because it wasn't a sign, and it did not require a building permit due to its size and construction. Still, some insisted that if we didn't require them to get some sort of permit, they might build something bigger and light it & then they would be out of compliance & it would be a PR nightmare for the Town. Better to figure out some way to permit them. So I pulled out the permit application, they filled it out, then when it came time to pay the fee they balked because they are a "non-profit." The ordinance doesn't give any breaks for "non-profits," they have to pay just like you and me. But the two aforementioned councilmen decided at this point they shouldn't have to pay and we should change the ordinance. And besides, what was wrong with the scoreboard anyway? This is what you get when you have government by committee, and none of them have any training in this sort of thing. The trained one (me) ends up looking like the chimp watching a tennis match. I can't keep up with where the ball is coming from half the time, and the other half it is bonking me on the head.

I ask you: why do I do this? No, I ask myself. There is surely something for which my brain and energies are better suited.

All I ask is, tell me what the rules are. I don't care what they are, I just want someone to explain them to me. And don't blame me because you don't like the damn rules that you made. Even if I do work for the government. I'm just here, I'm not a criminal.

OK, I'll stop whining in a minute. I just have to get thru this and try to make some sense of it.

2. I understand people are mad at me because I had to miss most of last week due to aforementioned injury and illness. There are dozens of phone calls to return, even though I left an out-of-office message regarding my situation. Howsomever, I think I did a damn good job keeping up with things in spite of those challenges. We had 5 subdivisions in various stages of approvals to be heard at the Town Council meeting on Monday --and I sailed thru those with my requisite professionalism and "can-do" attitude. The engineers and applicants for the most part deserve nothing less --they, like me, are just doing their job. The developers rarely attend these meetings & when they do, they don't understand a word of what is happening. I long ago learned to separate the technical staff from the greedy.

3. To continue: What I did not need yesterday was the Mayor leaving a nasty voice mail --no, two nasty voice mails --stating that she had a complaint that I "cursed" a customer in my office and "this behavior will be cause for immediate termination if she hears about it again." This is absolutely ridiculous, I in no way "cursed" a customer or anyone or anything else, not even my foot, or the fact that for the past month my office has been upside down & I have been enduring construction of a new storage closet complete with new lighting and shelving, and have had nearly every piece of furniture re-arranged or replaced. Translation: can't find a thing, and can hardly think what to do with it when I do find it. Still, I kept my bitching to the blog and the Planner's list. Never once was I anything less than respectful to any person I encountered. Now, I may have had a few negative thoughts, especially toward the contractor who threatened my job when I declined to sign something he wanted signed that day without consulting as I had been required wtih the Planning Board Chairman first. She was unavailable, I left her a message. Not good enough. I was costing him hundreds of thousands of dollars. How did I like that on my conscience? I (again politely, but firmly) informed him I had nothing of the kind on my conscience, I had done what I could to get him an answer regarding the signature and was certain the Chairman would call back soon. I would get it taken care of as soon as was possible. He growled something absolutely insulting which I will not repeat. I lowered my voice as I do when I start to get angry, and stated that I did not allow attitude in my office, and he could leave this minute and send in the next person who was waiting out in the hall to see me. Explosion, consternation generale! I heard him stomp up the stairs and slam the door to the Administrator's office. I expect that is whence the accusation of cursing came. However, I am not guilty of cursing out loud. Perhaps silently. I am not as senseless as that would require. As I have said elsewhere today, I need this job, much as I hate it sometimes.

I would ask the Mayor tomorrow when we have our "meeting" about this and "other complaints she has received," for the respect she would give any normal person when investigating any complaint, and that is, the respect to ask, "Is there a problem? Can you tell me what happened?" For if that is not to be forthcoming, I think there will be a problem indeed. And I am not likely to hang around too much longer to discover the particulars. Life is much too short, and I am much too unhappy lately. A conversation with one of the local engineers who attended Monday night's meeting was enlightening and encouraging. He said, "I expect you'll land on your feet. Talk with the Mayor tomorrow. She's apparently forgotten how professional you always are --I suspect she must be buckling under some sort of pressure herself." Kind words, and helpful to hear.

Will try to put all this in its proper perspective, and march on toward whatever goal I am supposed to achieve. Surely that will manifest itself sooner than later.

1 comment:

Bill said...

You are working in a small town where your position is jeopardized on a daily basis, because you have no cushion, no buffer between you and the elected officials. That's an almost untenable situation for a planner who tries to follow the intent of the code and good planning principles. If you don't have a Council-Manager form of government or whatever the NC equivalent is, these elected officials feel they can tee off on you with impunity. They are actually prohibited under that form from such direct contact with staff...of course, if occasionally happens, but at least staff has some element of protection. The anti-regulation, anti-land use management folks will always be there; but much depends on the demographics of your community. I get infuriated at times about some of our management and Council decisions relative to planning issues. They are often driven solely by political expediency...but that's the world we live in; either that, or we leave that world for one we can better control.