My wife, normally a calm and sociable person, dove behind the couch. “It’s Fiona!” she hissed, “get down!”
Fiona is our township’s most fervent crusader and notorious busybody. Apparently people do things like that when she comes around.
“Too late,” I said, “she spotted us.”
Within minutes, Fiona had us both backed against our kitchen wall. waving a petition under our noses.
My wife didn’t ask what it was about. She snatched the petition out of Fiona’s hand; scribbled across it and hustled her out the door. A moment later, the Prius whirled onto the gravel and kicked up dust toward the neighbors.
“What was that about?” I asked.
“The litter along Drunk Creek Road” my wife said.
“And Fiona wants to put a stop to it.”
Admitted, our little trail across the prairie is a mess. The kids use it for cruising on weekend evenings and who can blame them? It is the only stretch of gravel in the county that boasts both a curve AND a hill. Everything else runs straight and level between flat fields of corn and beans. Therefore Drunk Creek Road is not only considered exceptionally scenic but extraordinarily romantic – and who can object to romance? Certainly not I But like Fiona, I object to the rooster-tail of aluminum cans that accompanies our youth on their romantic outings.
“So what does she propose?” I asked.
“She wants the township to put up a NO LITTERING sign.”
“That’ll solve the problem,” I said with absolute confidence.
“And she demands that the sheriff enforce it.”
Groan… It’s the problem I have with people like Fiona, they confuse the talent to spot a problem with the wisdom to spot the solution.
“I’m glad I didn’t sign it,” I said.
“No you’re not,” my wife said.
“Because I signed it for you.”
My wife looked at me like I was the world’s biggest idiot. “Everybody signs Fiona’s petitions and everyone knows that everyone does, so no one takes her petitions seriously.”
“I don’t work that way,” I told her. So I got on the phone to Gil, our township board chairman and explained about the petition.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said, “everybody signs Fiona’s petitions and everyone knows that everyone does, so no one takes her petitions seriously.”
“Oh..” I said.
We chatted a while. Gil knows I worked for the Minneapolis Police [not as a cop] and he was as wary as I was about using the police to solve public nuisance problems.
“So how did you guys handle these situations,” he asked.
“Well,” I said, “one time we weaponized opera.”
“We received a lot of complaints from shopkeepers about skate-boarders. Normally, they are good kids but their antics scare the older shoppers away. So we looked around for a passive solution and found that piping classical music into the area acted like a bug repellent on the skateboarders. The kids hated it, the older shoppers loved it, problem solved. A decade later we used opera to clear out the warehouse district after bar closing. We blasted Wagner’s Ring Cycle from sound trucks. Something there is about young people that does not appreciate Wagner…”
“Social engineering, huh?,” said Gil, “Geez, you just gave me a great idea.”
A month later, a crew planted a post at the curve on Drunk Creek Road. They then attached a 4′ by 4′ metal sign to the post. Centered on the sign was a red target on a white background.
Within a week, a pile of cans and bottles materialized at the base of the sign as kids roaring by, leaned out their windows to take careful aim at the big red bulls-eye that rose like the morning sun over the only hill on Drunk Creek Road.