Thawing the Pipes

Elsa has been on a rampage in Upstate New York this winter. Or is it Anna? I get those two confused. Either way, things have been freeeeeeeezing over the past few months.

Before you start torturing me by singing, “Let it Go,” I am encouraged that this frozen nightmare seems to be thawing out. And not a moment too soon, especially for some folks in Troy, NY who have been dealing with frozen water lines for the past few weeks.

Sadly, many of these people were without water for far too long. As I understand it, the frozen portion of their pipes were in city-owned sections of their water supply lines. Yet, the city, and in particular the mayor, said that it was not the city’s responsibility to thaw these pipes.

If my recollection is correct, it seemed there were a number of reasons that the city refused to directly help the homeowners. For example, city officials claimed the homeowners were to blame because they didn’t leave a trickle of water running. (This was disputed by some of the homeowners.) I also read that city officials called the frozen pipes an “act of nature,” negating the city’s responsibility. Other reports say the city claimed it could not act according to the city charter, in particular because the situations did not rise to the level of an emergency.

Clearly, the whole situation has been poorly handled by city officials. Even if the frozen pipes are entirely the responsibility of the homeowners, the city is coming across as being unresponsive.

Frankly, I’m still waiting to read the news report that declares the blocked pipes were caused not by ice, but by fish stuck in the pipes. Should that happen, Troy could call it an “Act of Cod.”

(Have I ever mentioned that I love puns?)

Seriously, though, there was one particular case that was especially troubling, and in the end – encouraging. One woman who had been without water for nearly two weeks is undergoing chemotherapy. Her son had been trying to navigate the difficulties with the city, while taking care of his mother.

Enter the plumber. After an exhortation from his mother, he donated his abilities and time to help out this family, free of charge. He did not wait for the city to come to a resolution, or for – please tell me it’s gonna be here soon – spring to arrive.

He fixed the problem. He thawed the pipes. Water flowed once more.

His example is one that I admire: while the city fiddled… he fixed the problem.

It’s another great reminder to listen to your mother!


Profiles of the Extraordinary – My Neighbor Tom

The low growl of a snowblower: it’s not spectacular. I suppose you could marvel at the way it chews up a snowbank and throws it in an arcing plume across the yard.

But I’m focused on the person behind the snowblower. In particular, my neighbor Tom. After every snow storm he’s out there behind his orange machine clearing piles of snow.

It’s not his driveway that he focuses on, at least not initially. Instead, he clears the driveway of a neighborhood shut-in. He clears another for a neighbor who recently broke his arm. He works through the driveway for a retired couple who are unable to take up the task.

And then he helps with mine. And perhaps a couple other neighbors, too. We’re perfectly able to take care of it ourselves, but Tom insists on helping. And that’s before Tom even tackles his own driveway.

After a winter full of snow storms and hefting snow over non-melting snowbanks, my aching arms are often grateful for the help. I enjoy the exercise of shoveling snow, but I’ll admit that it’s getting old this winter.

So why does Tom do it? I don’t think it’s because he’s a big fan of the snow. In many of our winter conversations, we find ourselves looking forward to the Spring thaw.

No, I think Tom does it for the best of reasons: to be a good neighbor. He looks out for the people on our street. It’s as simple as that.

I think it’s an extraordinary trait too often missing in our society. Tom sets an example for all of us.

Another neighbor and I talked about having a neighborhood barbecue when the weather improves. A get-together to thank Tom for his hard work.

Shhhh. Don’t tell Tom. We want it to be a surprise.

Profiles of the Extraordinary is a category within the This Ordinary Citizen blog.  It features Ordinary Citizens who show us what it means to be Extraordinary.  If you know someone who should be profiled, contact the author.

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