Sunday, May 3, 2015

...and through the wire

What a fucking ordeal this turned out to be.

My wife regularly parks her car in our driveway and I have claimed the spot in front of my house as mine. I remove my trash cans in the specified amount of time after collection. I shovel the snow off my sidewalk within the specified period after the last flake has fallen. I pay a lot of property taxes. So, I feel I am entitled to the small pleasure of having a space for my car on the street. One that is convenient to my house. I will openly admit that I am pretty protective of that space.

Since I take the train to work, my car sits in front of my house at least five days a week. Sometimes, my wife and I will go out in her car, so I don't even move it on weekends. When I do make a quick trip to the dry cleaners on a Saturday morning, nothing pisses me off more than when I return to find someone has taken my spot, especially if they have recklessly left their vehicle illegally close to the apron of my driveway. I have actually kept tabs on a car parked in "my spot" with periodic surveillance out my front window. As soon as the car pulls away, I run out to my car (parked up the street) and re-park in my rightful space.

A month or so ago, when the weather started getting nicer, I noticed some stains scattered across the sidewalk in front of my house. Upon closer inspection, I found large, oily streaks — long vertical drips, if you will — running the length of my car. My roof, windshield, hood and entire passenger's side were covered with this sticky, greasy, mystery substance. After a little procrastination, I took my car to a car wash, but ended up cleaning that crap off the car myself.  I looked around. There are no tree branches within striking distance of my car. I was baffled by a possible source. I did notice a cable or wire or something (I'm not an electrical contractor, so what do I know?) suspended from a utility line above my car and, obviously, stretching the entire length of my street. However, this particular cable was severed right above my car. Putting two and two together, it seemed that something was leaking from this cable and it was landing on my car. I decided to give the power company a call.

"Danger! Danger! High voltage!"
Coincidentally, we were having some work done in our basement (A pipe had broken inside a wall. Here's how that ended.) and the contractor smelled gas. In the Philadelphia suburbs, the gas and electricity are supplied and serviced by the same utility company. So, a call was made and when the gas worker came to check out the smell, my wife pointed out the cut cable, the stained sidewalk and the new drips on my car. He filled out a report and, later that day, several trucks were lining the street. Hard-hatted guys with strange equipment and clipboards were marching around, looking skyward, taking readings and calling headquarters. A cigar-chomping supervisor explained that someone had taken (read: stolen) the cable housing, as the removal was not authorized by the power company. He said that the material has a high lead content and it is valuable to thieves. The housing, which is now obsolete and no longer in service, was filled with mineral oil to keep the cable lubricated. When it was cut, and the weather got warmer, the oil leaked out all over the sidewalk and my car. He was, however, puzzled by the undetected theft, considering the height and awkward placement of the "spoils."

The workers paraded around my street for hours. About ten o'clock at night, a service truck was spanning my driveway and a worker was hoisted up in a cherry-picker. Armed with — what I can only assume was — heavy-duty, industrial-quality electrical tape, the worker bound each open end of the cut cable, taking extra care to secure a tight barrier of tape around any opening. When he was finished, the cable was twisted, but it would (hopefully) not leak anymore. My car was moved to the foot of my driveway to allow the trucks and workers access to the wires and their task at hand. I had full intention of moving my car back into "my spot" the next morning before I headed down to the train station.

"Not my car!"
Wouldn't you know it! Someone was parked in my goddamn parking space!


  1. Never heard of such a thing, but at least it explains what happened to your car. Glad you got everything fixed.

    1. It might be a Philadelphia suburb thing. We are unique that way.