Once, a water main broke in our neighborhood. This made us feel like we lived in Nevada near the Sky Geyser: water spewing up five feet high, 24-7. It was all well and good until our basements started to flood. I called the water authority and got nowhere.
Then I called my neighbor, Jay. Civil rights activists and grassroots consortia have nothing on Jay. He got us all together, crammed us into his kitchen and he laid out the plan: Jay got me to research the water company phone numbers, the name of who is in charge, and the name of that person’s boss. Jay called out instructions while I passed out pieces of paper with this information.
Jay explained our plan: make phone calls, over and over, until the water company came and fixed it. We all called all those numbers, over and over, every day. We called like we were trying to win a radio contest. I called, Ali called. Ada called. Jay called. Jay’s wife Olga called. Jay’s three sons called.
We gave the numbers to whoever else we knew in the neighborhood. Jay has rallied us all together using this technique during other times when other service providers need a helpful…nudge. Marcel was not involved in this particular campaign because this was before we all knew him. But Marcel was quite involved when we…motivated…the city of Irvington to clean up an abandoned home where so much illegal dumping was happening it caused the place to actually stink up the neighborhood. But that was about seven years after the water main incident.
In the end, we got satisfaction. Ali flagged me down as I zipped around the corner in my beloved gray Hyundai. I pulled over and met him in one of his yards, under one of his pear trees.
“The water company boss called me,” Ali grinned. “The guy said they will send someone today as long as we all stop calling his boss!”