Monday, March 8, 2021

Remnant: "Do what you have to do"

Jim Cooper was on his third cup of coffee for the morning. He was a bit short of sleep. He was not a fanatic about coffee. As long as it was fresh and hot and caffeinated, he would drink it. In a pinch, as long as it was caffeinated.

He was striding around the work-site inspecting the Jack-in-the-box. That is how he thought of the staged material awaiting the pumping out of the can. As he exuded boundless energy, moving about like a victorious general on a battlefield, he was bellowing into his phone.

More than one of his coworkers was tempted to remind him that the entire purpose of having a phone was so you didn’t have to yell loudly enough for people six miles away could hear you.

“I don’t give a flying-fuck if the people in the mayor’s office can’t find her” Jim said. “We NEED 2600 feet of Jersey barrier and 17,000 square feet of 20’ pre-stressed slabs. Northern Pipe has them and they will deliver. I don’t give a good-God-damned what they are charging. They know if they screw us they will go out of business.”

Jim felt a vigorous tapping on his shoulder as if somebody were attempting to get his attention. He swivveled and there was nobody there. Then, looking down, he saw Her Honor, herself.

Jim was represented by a union. Jim was retiring in exactly 12 days and 22 hours. “What the fuck do you want?” he barked out.

Amy Kapczynski-DeFlave, the 56th mayor of Deliotte was notably short, both of stature and temper. She spoke with the bi-coastal tones of Southern California and Yale, in contrast to Jim’s hillbilly tones from the hills in the southeastern part of the state.

“Where are those lines running to?” she asked, pointing at the 4" hoses running from the can to the storm drain.

Jim looked her up, then down, taking her measure. “I believe we are pumping the waste-water into the storm drains.”

“And where do they drain?” she asked, imperiously.

“You know as well as I do that every storm drain in this county drains to Lake Erie” Jim said. 

Kapczynski-DeFlave was not in the habit of asking questions she did not already know the answer to.

“And is that compliant with EPA regulations?” she demanded.

Jim did not bother to answer. He started walking around and telling guys to shut-down and head back to the shop. They wordlessly turned off diesel engines and started unhooking flex-pipe, draining and stacking the sections. This was not the first time they had ever dealt with a micro-manager.

Mayor Kapczynski-DeFlave was hard pressed to catch up with Cooper.

“What are you DOING?” she demanded.

“You just told me process is more important than results” Jim said. “I don’t have a problem with that, although all of the voters in those million dollar McMansion might disagree when their finished basement fills with sewage.”

“We are heading back to the barn and are gunna drink coffee until we get a detailed plan signed off by the City Engineer. Then we are gunna have meetings until everybody understands it. We gunna wait until every piece of equipment and every part we need is inventoried. We are gunna count them twice, just to be sure. And then we are gunna fix one can” Jim said.

Amy looked Jim up-and-down, taking his measure. She didn’t see a millimeter of give or fear in him. Retiring in 12 days and 22 hours can do that in the most timid of men and Jim had never been accused of being timid.

Amy had painted herself into a corner. Twice a year she had to sign off a document that verified that, to the best of her knowledge, the City of Deliotte was in full compliance with every regulation issued by the Environmental Protection Agency. If she did not sign off that document, all Federally backstopped loans to the City would be yanked and unsecured loans would have to be obtained from “the market”.

There was little stomach in “the market” to issue unsecured loans to legacy cities and interest rates would increase by roughly 2.5% which does not sound like much but essentially increased the interest payment to the entire tax revenue of the city.

“Pull the end of that pipe out of the storm drain” Mayor Kapczynski-DeFlave commanded.

It was done. She verified that no sewage was being pumped into the storm drain out of the end of the pipe.

Then she looked Jim in the eye and said “Do what you have to do and do NOT tell me the details” 

"Yeah, that is what I figgured" Jim said, voice dripping with sarcasm. "That is why I didn't call you to start with."

Pulling out her phone, Kapczynski-DeFlave called her administrative assistant “You are getting calls from the waste-water department. Approve everything until you hit $2 million.”

Her waste-water plant serviced approximately 400,000 souls in parts of four counties. Her memory informed her that there were approximately 40 “cans”. At $5 a nose and $50k a can, she had a gut feel that Jim would cut through the shit and get the job done.

She just could not afford to know HOW he got it done.


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