The Wall, The Law, and Who’s In Charge

So there was this fellow who was a sergeant and a drill instructor in the army of these United States.  He retired on years of service and moved from the base to a nearby city.  A year later he returns to base for his annual physical.  The doctor asks him how he likes living in the city.  The retired sergeant says, “All those people and nobody in charge.”

            Today I had two meetings, one with the in-charge guys and the other with nobody in charge.  The difference was noteworthy.

            On April 23 I posted the first of a two-parter entitled, “The Institute, The Wall, and My Home” ( in which I outlined the problem:  Upstate Medical University, in the interest of building an addition to the Institute of Human Performance, went to the City of Syracuse and got a permit to shut down three-fifths of the street.  Consequently, me and my 179 elderly and handicapped neighbors who live across the street and ride short buses are having a problem:  the buses don’t have room to make the turn from our driveway onto the street.

            So I worked with the Office of the Mayor of the City of Syracuse and last week we had a meeting with Jim French, who signed the permit; Dana, the McCarthy Manor manager; Dave, the McCarthy Manor superintendant, and Bob, a vice president from neighboring Crouse Hospital.  Centro was supposed to send a short bus for demonstration purposes but, true to form, failed to do so.

            So we all walked up the hill, down the hill, and stood by the driveway looking at the situation.  Jim concluded that there was, indeed, a problem and that he’d work on it with the construction site boss.  We tossed around some possible solutions, not including my idea that Jim should have to pay to have the entire wall moved because he’d signed the permit without asking the neighbors if there would be a problem.

            So today there was another meeting, scheduled for 8:55 a.m. when the shoppers’ bus is supposed to pull in to pick up folks on Crouse Ave.  What I learn on the elevator on the way down is that the bus pickup point has been moved from Crouse to Madison.  Who the heck made that decision, and why wasn’t anybody notified?  Only the regular riders seem to know of the change.

            So I wheel out to Crouse and find four men wearing hardhats and reflective vests standing in the driveway.  Two of them are from the construction company and two of them are from Upstate Medical University.  They have titles of manager/director/supervisor of planning/performance/construction.  The head guy from Upstate thinks he’s in charge; I think the head guy from construction is the one who’s actually going to get the job done.

            So we look at things, talk about things, then they ask a question about snow removal to which I don’t know the answer, so we troop inside to the manager’s office.  Then the manager calls the superintendent, and now we’ve got everybody on board whom we need in order to come up with a solution.  We talk some, then somebody—I think the junior achiever from Upstate—starts making suggestions about changing the inside corner where the buses are turning.  I had only looked at it from the point of moving the wall, so this was an interesting idea.

            So we all trooped outside again to eyeball the situation.  After the head Upstate guy left, we put our heads together and came up with a solution:  now, move the wall six inches in, pull the sign on the opposite curb, pull the curb, and ramp the street up to the sidewalk.  This will give bus drivers almost another two feet to make the turn.  In November, before snow accumulation becomes a major problem and after they’re done with the main crane, move the wall another two and a half feet in toward the construction site so the shoppers bus can come back to the front door.  In a couple years when they have finished building the addition, the construction company will restore our corner curb to its previous condition.

            Somebody from construction will contact Jim for a permit—Jim has made it very clear that he owns the street—and then the situation will be taken care of within two weeks.  Come winter, we probably will need to have further conversations with the city about snow plowing and removal.

            The whole meeting took half an hour and everybody seemed to go away happy—except, of course, for the Upstate guy who left early before we achieved this state of sublime bliss.

            So then I wheel down Genesee Street to the Elder Law Fair at that tall, round structure that began life around 1965 as a Holiday Inn.  It now changes hands about every five years and is currently the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

            The mailing I received about the fair did not exactly specify where it was, so I wheeled into the hotel.  Reasonable, huh?  Well, it finally turned out that the fair was being held in the conference center around back, which is a separate building.  So I wheel around back and can’t get in because there’s no electric or human door opener.  This is not a good sign and, speaking of signs, there are none.

            I finally get inside and discover an assortment of tables.  There is no sign that says “REGISTRATION.”  There is a two-person table that is staffed by one person who seems a little uncertain about her duties, and totally oblivious to the line that is backing up while she meets the undefined needs of one person.  I finally get through registration, move ahead about fifteen feet and come to another table, staffed by two people.  I ask if they are registration, too.  They say they sure are.  Nobody waiting at the first desk can see that this desk is available for business and it, too, has no sign.  (To be continued)

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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