Need a ticket fixed or corpse removed? No problem
I thought you’d like to know about some new city services and regulations, all of which will surely be boons to the citizens of Philadelphia.
•First is the city’s new non-emergency 311 call center. Operators in suits and ties are standing by at attention 24 hours a day to handle your every request, and their goal is to answer all calls by the 23rd ring.
Officials say it has improved customer service and increased worker efficiency and accountability to a level unimaginable only a year ago.
How it works is that now, instead of bothering your local political hack when you need, say, a ticket fixed or a dead body removed from your living room, you just call 311 and speak to a “transaction facilitator” who then types your request directly into a personalized data file, and transmits it digitally into deep space, thus successfully “completing” the “transaction.”
In addition, you are given a tracking number which you can write down and look at as often as you like. You may speak it, sing it, show it to your friends, but it will be your number alone, and will never be assigned to anyone else, unless you die or turn Communist. Also, in an effort to keep the lines open, all incoming calls are automatically monitored and analyzed to identify those people who are calling in too often, and their phones are electronically disintegrated by a signal from the main computer.
“It’s a very efficient, money-saving system,” said a nameless, faceless bureaucrat, citing that the city also saved money by purchasing all the system’s software online from Crazy Waldo’s Discount Electronics Emporium. “We’re still ramping up,” said the official, “and although we may never work out ALL of the bugs, a new ‘211’ line is being put into operation which will efficiently handle complaints about the 311 line, and it will be ‘manned’ (or maybe womanned) entirely by robots, which should be an improvement.”
•Boon # 2: As bicycle ridership on city streets increases to ridiculous proportions, Philadelphia has instituted measures that would set tougher standards for all cyclists and make traveling safer for everyone.
Henceforth, bikers will be required to provide proof of consciousness, and possess at least some awareness of the world outside of themselves. According to a high-ranking functionary, these qualifications are even stricter than those currently required to pilot an oil tanker.
In addition, steep fines will be imposed for bike riding while wearing a blindfold, shooting heroin, carrying an unsheathed Samurai sword or, of course, talking on a cell phone or rotary phone.
Bikers will also be required to travel only between the hours of 1 and 6 A.M. and will not be allowed to wear Spandex in non-biking situations.
And in addition to the many miles of bicycle lanes throughout the city already, street crews will soon be creating specialized lanes for tricycles, horses, camels, pigeons, skateboards, pogo sticks and Oscar Mayer Weiner cars. Unfortunately, this will necessitate the removal of all sidewalks, and walking will thus be prohibited, except indoors.
•The final boon is the “Philly Fall Leaf Drive.” Even though the city can’t afford to send the mechanical leaf gathering vehicles around anymore, they have made it easy for residents to collect and prepare fallen leaves to be picked up by the regular trash trucks.
First, you need to buy special leaf-collection bags, available at a fairly reasonable price from any mulch-distribution center in the greater tri-state area.
Next, pick up all of the leaves from your lawn, sort them out according to color, and tie them up with number 9 twine into packets of 1,000. Then place all red leaves in brown bags and brown leaves in red bags, and leave them on the curb to the right of your regular trash, but not within 10 feet of your recyclable trash.
The leaves will be taken to the processing center and turned into mulch, which you can buy at a fairly reasonable price to spread on your lawn as fertilizer. The city will use whatever mulch is left over to cover “vacant lots, crack houses, dead bodies and a multitude of other sins,” according to Operations Director Leaf Ericson.
Mr. Ericson also noted that folks are free to paste fallen leaves back onto trees if they wish, or, if they prefer to eat them, the city has a pamphlet entitled “1,000 Yummy Leaf Recipes” available at the Food Distribution Center for a fairly reasonable price.
If you have questions about any of these marvelous new services, just call 311, but first make sure you know the difference between a boon and a boondoggle. Or you can send me an email, of course, and I will deliver it by hand to the proper city official along with a million or so leaves from my back yard.