So I called the City Clerk back, and told him I thought I had an answer. We just got a new microwave oven and there’s this great timer feature for it. Turns out to go up pretty high, and I set it for 305,056,800 seconds, which is about nine years and eight months and should give plenty of warning for checking that Lansing doesn’t accidentally let all its laws expire again. So I was feeling really good about that. But then last night we were making Morningstar-brand spicy red-bean vegetarian-hamburger patties and White Castle French Fries in the oven, and I needed to set the timer for ten minutes to turn them over, and re-set the microwave timer without even thinking. Woke up at like 4:30 am realizing what I had done. And I realized, like, we have power failures a couple times a year too. So I’m going to have to either check that we can get a really big egg timer at the store or maybe just call the Clerk back and say I was just wrong and can’t help.
Well, that’s embarrassing. The City Clerk came over and asked if I would come over sometime around October or November 2027 and remind him to check whether the city was about to lose all its laws again. Or any important subset of them. And, like, I want to help. I want to be a good member of the community. But I’m really most apt at doing stuff like mowing the lawn right before I’m out of town for a week, or telling the new neighbors what the recycling schedule is. Reminders to take care of a thing?
Well, all I could do is show him the side door, where we’ve had this bag of wrong-colored-markers we’ve been meaning to return to Michael’s since February of 2013. (Don’t worry about them accepting them. We kept the receipt and it’s somewhere near the dishwasher most likely. Yes, I don’t know why we bought the wrong-color markers. I think we misunderstood, and thought the Right-Color Marker sign was in the middle of the section rather than at the start as you walked down the aisle.) We figure a bag of something on the door we use to leave the house all the time will surely leave the house with us, and it doesn’t. He agreed, yeah, we’re probably not the best family to send a reminder. But he’s all embarrassed after last year’s incident and is just hoping if he asks, like, fifty people to remind him then someone will definitely make it.
Maybe I can set an automatic post to come up here in like October 2027 so I have that taking care of things.
PS: there were more plumbing problems and they have festered.
Imagine my surprise when I learned I had spent all winter living in a lawless wilderness. If it helps paint the picture, understand that I was reading the newspaper when I learned. I guess it’s a newspaper. It’s something called the Lansing City Community News, “an edition of the Lansing State Journal”. It’s tossed onto our lawn once a week no matter what. It’s great, since the four or sometimes six pages serve as protective wrapper of forty or more pages of advertisements for stuff we have never wanted or ever known anyone who wants. And they’re full of articles ripped from the Journal‘s web site, sometimes without cutting out text like “Story continues below video”. They take donations to cover printing costs.
So imagine me looking at that newspaper-themed product. Also imagine me smiling and laughing in that special way I have when I see something’s gone all higgledy-piggledy for some crazypants reason. Got it? So here’s the thing. According to the article, Lansing’s charter specifies that every ten years the City Council has to vote on whether to re-codify city ordinances, or to confirm that it means to let them lapse. And they confirmed the city ordinances in 2007. But 2017 rolled on through and nobody did anything about them, possibly because everyone was distracted by how the world was on fire and we were all thinking, for solace, of that time the whole Internet was mad because Apple bought everyone a U2 album. I mean, there were people raging about that for months. I swear that actually happened.
So the big effect of this whoopsie-doozie nonexistence of law between the 24th of November and either the 15th of February or the 26th of March is like 50 otherwise-criminal cases being dropped because it’s not sporting to charge someone with breaking a law that isn’t there. Community News listed among them:
- 2 cases of carrying a knife with a blade longer than three inches
- 2 cases of being loud or boisterous
- 1 case of disturbing the peace
- 1 littering case
That seems like a low number of littering cases. But it was winter so maybe a lot of the evidence was lost under snow. It also seems like a low number of disturbing-the-peace problems, but remember it was 2017. There was like fourteen minutes of peace the whole year. Good luck getting your disturbance in fast enough to notice. Hey, remember when the Internet was all cranky about this kiddie show starring a big huggy purple dinosaur who liked people? And stayed that way for years?
Also I had no idea that, apart from a maybe five-month window this past winter, they could write you up on a charge of boisterousity. What a thing to get on your rap sheet. “What did they get you on?” “Had a three-and-a-quarter-inch knife. You?” “Being boisterous. Yeah, but it’s fair enough. I was outside Fish Fry and Grill, dancing like nobody was watching. But they were watching. They’re always watching. Oh also I was waving people over to come hug me.” Discovering this makes me glad I can only with concentration and for brief seconds make myself look like I have any emotion other than “growing concern that the lower-than-expected cost for having the bathtub pipe drained means more significant plumbing problems are festering and this will cause me grief”. And yet apparently I could have gotten away with being merry all winter, had I but known.
If you weren’t already giggling over the city temporarily going all lawless, here’s some more fun. First, there’s not complete agreement about which laws exactly it was didn’t exist from November through a while. The city attorney says it’s just “regulatory” ordinances. A defense attorney who’s not explicitly credited with being the person who noticed this says it’s “all” ordinances. (“I think I can get you off this charge of three-and-a-quarter-inch-knife-having, but I gotta warn you, it’s going to sound like three-and-a-half-inches of crazy.”) Also the defense attorney argues that the lapsing of all law doesn’t count as a “true emergency” allowing the hasty reintroduction of law to the city in February, so that only the March reinstatement counts. Easy for him to say, and maybe necessary if he wants to give the fullest possible defense for his clients. But would he agree it wasn’t an emergency if there were four littering cases being thrown out? Hm?
The article says that it’s the job of the City Clerk to remind the City Council when it’s time to renew the existence of law in the city. When asked what happened, the Clerk took a deep breath, nodded sadly, and then ran down the corridor of City Hall to where that dragon is. He’s been there since, crying and occasionally sending out for Kewpie Burgers. I mean, you always hate to make a mistake at work that gets you embarrassed. The City Council’s thinking of ways to help prevent this happening again. One great idea is to have someone whose job it is to check every four years and see if the City Clerk’s remembered to check whether law’s about to expire. Sounds sensible to me, except then you’re going to need someone coming around every two years to check on the four-year checker, and you’re going to need someone whose job is to poke in once a year and as if the two-year checker-checker is all right or needs anything. Well, I’m sure they can work out something before they reach the point of having an infinite series of people who are just nagging each other to check on other people until tempers flare and we get that whole disturbed-peace thing again.
Also in the news: a downtown bike shop’s losing its parking lot, the side effect of (allegedly) an improperly recorded easement years ago. Oh, I bet the bike shop owner feels awful now he didn’t know he could have just poked into the deeds office anytime in December or January and written one in himself. Well. I’m thinking of all sorts of boisterous or littering things I mean to do in March of 2028, if I remember. See you then!
We regret the need to clarify things again. But we have to discontinue one of the rewards for long-time subscribers. Effective the 15th of June, more or less, patrons won’t be able to “spend a luxury weekend as a supply closet in City Hall”. The offer appears to have been a typo. No, we can’t figure out what we were trying to type in the first place either. It’s all a mystery and given all the other problems we have, what with the world and everything, it’s better to just drop the subject. People who’ve already got reservations for their weekends will be offered the option of converting to spending a luxury Thursday as a letter bin in the state capitol, explaining to the rest of the country what an “olive burger” is, or getting this hand-written coupon for 238 tickets good at some redemption counter, somewhere, that didn’t write out where it was exactly. We’ve got it narrowed down to amusement places in one of four states and can even tell you which states, if that would help. We apologize for any convenience.
I don’t even know if I believe the local alt-weekly’s latest report about how bad things have got with City Hall. But, if we take their “highly placed but unnamed source” — that’s got to be whoever it was was mayor of Lansing after David M C Hollister — at its word, then it turns out City Hall is not even any such thing. It’s actually three Town Halls standing on top of each other and wearing a construction tarp. I can hardly believe it either. You never think of stuff like that happening these days. Although if it did happen, it happened in the late 50s, when I’m not sure we had rules about building stuff to any particular code or guidelines or anything. Well, we’ll just see what appears in the corrections column. It will be an apology for the incorrect use of “it’s/its” in the official notices.
So it transpires that sometime last year the whole eastern wing of the sixth floor transcended ordinary existence and turned into beings of pure energy. Which sounds cool, sure. But then you try bringing any springs in and they suddenly compress as far as possible, soaking up all that potential energy? Hardly convenient. Or if you bring in that steel-balls-on-pendulums things that they put on the boss’s table in 1980s sitcoms, and the balls all fly up to the top of pendulum and wait? Yeah, that’s just inconvenient. And that’s before you even consider what happens when you take a mechanical watch in and let that soak up the potential energy that used to be the Office of Rental Inspections. I really hate to give up on a handsome enough building but I have to admit it’s sounding like City Hall just needs more work than we can expect to get out of it, at least not without a major source of energy and I just don’t see where … saaaaaaay! I have to go make some calls.
OK, I tried making calls. But you know that long spiral-cut rubber wire that connects the part of the phone you use to the part of the phone that falls off the table when you pick up the part of the phone you use? Yeah, that one. Well, it turned into this impossibly tight, energy-laden supercoil and that’s too hard for me to deal with. I’ll write them a letter, maybe. Meanwhile please everyone admire the correctness of my use of the word “transpire” to start this article. I’ll wait.
OK, so the news clarified matters some. It’s not technically a dragon that’s caught in that fifth-floor corridor. It’s instead some cuddly, well-meaning dragon-like creature who embodies the spirit of civic-mindedness or something like that. I’m having trouble following it exactly. Apparently it comes from this obscure series of children’s books from the early 60s that are all about kids who accidentally make things worse but then find out how they can make things better. It sounds a little twee, honestly, but I can’t argue with the sentiments and apparently its nose is this little valentine-heart shape, and I’m a sucker for cute soft 60s characters with that feature. Still looks like some kind of dragon is all.
So some more of the problems with Lansing City Hall have come to light. Apparently there’s a fairly important service hallway on the fifth floor that’s blocked by a dragon. Not a mean dragon, mind you. It’s actually pretty soft and cuddly by all descriptions. It’s just that since he settled in, he grew too large and now he can’t quite fit through the hallways and has been stuck in place a while. Says the last thing he remembers before getting stuck was reading the newspapers about the Penn Central bankruptcy. So it sounds like he’s a railroad fanatic or one of those people who would read even the boring articles in the newspaper. Fine enough. But he is blocking access to one of the larger supply closets as it is. I can’t imagine everyone else is waiting for those supplies since they’ve been blocked off like that since 1970. Still, think of the proceeds that could be raised from auctioning off genuine 1970-era NOS typewriter ribbons and manilla envelopes and stuff. I have to admit this whole replacing-City-Hall project is sounding more sensible.
Some more reports of problems at City Hall. So according to the local news today they’ve found a storage closet on the fourth floor that’s just chock full of German-speaking academic types saying “peculiar”. Nobody knows why there’s this collection. For my tastes, just the great way they pronounce that central syllable is justification enough. But I don’t see why the city needs so many of them. Or really any of them at all. You’d think it was something for the community college.
Also in a waiting room on the sixth floor the audio system is always playing Kid Creole and the Coconuts’s 1985 hit “Endicott”. Like, the song finishes and then it starts right back up. It’s a fun enough song, but this is a bit much, considering the room doesn’t have an audio system. The leading hypothesis is the room is haunted by a fan of New Wave/Disco music but who just isn’t that adventurous, or has maybe been locked out of their iTunes account. Part of renovations would include just signing the ghost up for a new account already, one they have a password manager for.
Lesser Pompous Lakes, All Residential Neighborhoods, 6:30 – 8:30 pm: All residents are requested to go to their windows and look up and down the block to identify the most petty things their neighbors are doing that still annoy them. Get some sheets of paper and write these things down, then wad the papers up around rubber erasers and after ten or fifteen minutes go out and throw these things at the relevant neighbors. Meanwhile in the confusion a small squad of pranksters from South Lesser Pompous Lakes will be able to sneak in to City Hall and leave the cow. No don’t write that part in the e-mail to the newspaper, Jeremy. No, it isn’t funny to pretend we’re going to tell them why we’re doing it, now delete it before you hit send