If you are easily offended by harsh language or would like to perpetuate your believe in the Fairy Tale that your local government officials are looking out for you and your best interest and will be there when disaster strikes, skip this rant...

 

   
 

“Playing It Safe In The Face Of Disaster?”
by Eric 'Renderking' Fisk

December 17th, 2008

Ren's RantsIf you've been following the forum over the past couple of days, [**New England Ice Storm**] then you'll know that I'm in the middle of one of the greatest natural disasters in New England in decades. I'm currently writing another rant about the actual events surrounding this disaster and the damage that nature can do. I started to write about how people can come together and get through the worst of times. When something is beyond your control and there's nobody to blame, you have no other choice but to man-up and get the job done. That's what we do, that's what we try to teach here on The Fedora Chronicles and encourage people to do on The Electric Speakeasy.

I started that rant by saying that I hope you do experience some incident that will put you to the test. I would hope that everyone reading this will face some type of adversity, some prolonged event that would act as an obstacle in your path or pursuit of living comfortable and uneventful life. I hope you face a trial and tribulation then come out feeling better about yourself and your place in the world. With out going through something, you'll never really know who you are.

I'm going to open this rant the same way. That rant is about man against the forces of nature and the struggle that helps define us. This rant is along the same theme - replacing nature with bureaucracy.

 
   

 

   
 

Uncommon Valor in Unprecedented Darkness And Cold...

What happens when a writer is unable to write? Not because of writers block - a loss of creativity - but because something is so crazy and insane you can't put it into words and make it sound believable. Such is the case with what I'm trying to type now. I've tried many different ways to say this an all of this reads like a work of fiction.

In short, after the storm ended the first order of business was to first make the stores were allowed to open so people could get the vital food and other supplies. The second major task was to clear a path leading to a very public facility in the event that it was needed for a shelter. The police, fire department, public works and the power-utility company worked together to clear the way and get this facility because there could have been an urgent need.

Because of the herculean tasks and accomplishment This building now has heat, running water, electricity for lights and computers, and propane for the gas stoves.

The facility in question is something we paid for. We pay for it every year. It's bought and paid for via our tax dollars, more so if you're a property owner. In they years that my wife and I have lived here, public officials in question DEMANDED that taxes be raised, in part "for the children." Little more then a week ago we paid a monstrous tax bill that is more then double what we paid 8 years ago, the ever-increasing tab is to "benefit the community."

Now that a natural disaster has struck the region there's a real need for this facility. The doors to this facility - tax payer owned and operated - is closed. Locked. As I wrote before, the lights and heat is on, the major roads are cleared. This facility is ready to be used immediately - but the doors are locked.

As a quick sidebar - I have heard through some of my neighbors that here are those people who have struggled to get out of their homes and dodge the falling branches, downed lines and ice while trying to get to the local facility believing there would be shelter, water and warm food waiting for them. Once arriving and seeing that it remained closed (with smoke billowing out of the chimney as an indication there was a furnace that was in operation inside) and no other cars in the parking lot, they drove away not knowing that at the edge of town the Recreation center was open as the "official" shelter. All the while the obvious facility in the center of town kept it's doors locked...

That facility - is The Local Elementary School.

 
   

 

   
 

Let's Get Started.

Monday night some of the local parents called me up and asked me if I would be willing to volunteer for a make-shift curriculum for those students in the area that can make it to the facility and who's parents have to go to work. Since the school is officially closed for the rest of this week and was supposed to re-open in the middle of this week, they thought that we could at least do something loosely structured to keep some of the area children occupied and retain some of the schedule they've grown accustomed to. I was all for it.

When I arrived Tuesday with my sons, the facility was open with some lights on and some kids ran out to great us. Once inside I saw some of the familiar faces of the staff. The school principal, two custodians and one of the cafeteria workers. I was told before taking off my coat and fedora that we weren't allowed to stay: the "Red Cross" was shutting us down.

My first reaction was to ask "who the hell is The Red Cross to tell us we can't meet here?"

The Rindge Memorial School - from what I was told and can remember, isn't designated an "certified shelter." Despite the fact that in an event of an emergency, that's the most logical place to go - the nearest public school or facility. I should also add quickly that the Town Hall has also been closed since the ice storm and there's no word when it will re-open. Same holds true for the Transfer Station for trash and recycling.

Since the school is "officially closed" and not a "certified shelter," we can't use the facility in any capacity. Period. The Insurance Company won't allow it, either.

To be honest, after talking to the principal, some of the staff who showed up looking to work through this crisis, and the support staff - who are all heroes in my book, I'm really not sure who is to really blame here. Is it The Red Cross who first said we couldn't use this building because the facility doesn't have a paper saying it's a "certified shelter," or is it the insurance companies who are tossing around the word "liability" like a child's game of 'Telephone?'

 
   

 

   
 

"Bureaucratic Fools"

I'll wrap up this narrative by telling you what I told the Superintendent James O'Neill when he called me after I left our business card at the office: someone must have a lot of balls to keep a facility closed in the time of crisis and legitimate need so soon after the local citizens paid their property taxes. Saying we can't use the school to keep kids learning and occupied during the day while their parents go off to work because of some perceived liability is just a chicken-shit cover-your-ass excuses.

"The Town", the nameless Insurance Company and The Red Cross has no problem with me taking out my chain saw, long handled clippers and crow-bar and risking my own life and safety while doing the job we hire and pay the public works department to do. I have no problem doing it myself since I'm a man. That's what men do, especially in a culture that teaches self-reliance and Yankee Ingenuity. Nobody in wing-tip shoes with an Italian Leather bound leather brief case was telling me NOT to do what I was doing while wandering up and down my 2-mile long road helping neighbors clear their driveways and removing heavy branches and whole trees blocking the road. Nobody was threatening to cancel my insurance while I was helping those in need. [Would you dare threaten someone who was operating a deadly power tool in the first place?]

 

But "The Town," The Red Cross and some corporate wag in Hartford Connecticut has some issue with us using a school for what it was built for - a place for children to go and continue to get some supervision, structure and learn something during the day while mom and dad go to work to earn a living and pay the taxes to keep this facility open in the first place. The parents that called me up to volunteer in creating a make-shift class in this time of crisis were trying to do something noble and good for the other parents who don't have any more options

 

James O'Neil isn't even the villain in all this, I'm sure he is just doing his job and his hands are tied. During our frank and honest discussion, it's pretty clear that this is not about what's doing what's right and providing a vital service, but playing it safe because of what MIGHT happen with out certified staff members on hand and the insurance company or some government agency telling him "you better not!" It's like getting flustered and nervous because some comet might crash into the earth in December 2012 when you have work to do and a life to enjoy in the here and now in December of 2008.

What does this say to our children? We tell them to step up and do the right thing and show some initiative and be resourceful... up to the point before an agency says you can't? "Whatever it takes our kids are worth it" is the school slogan or motto. The words "... as long as it's ok with the bureaucracies" should be added to that phrase. This is what living in a litigious society has cost us, we've allowed Red Tape to erode our ingenuity

As of this writing, that facility is still closed to those who really need it... the power is on as gas and water are running. It's ready to be used now by those who need somewhere to bring their children. But it remains "Closed" until the the fifth day of the new year: January 5th, 2009

 
   

 

 
 

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