As I was getting ready for work the other morning, I heard the buzz of a chain saw and the rattle of a wood chipper, familiar sounds these days after the heavy snows and pounding rains of the past six weeks. There is a lot of cleanup going on.
Now that the snow has melted, we have been surveying the damage to the massive junipers that provide a natural privacy fence on the border of our corner property. These shrubs are our green guardians, shielding us from prying eyes and providing a cool haven to birds and bunnies and the occasional fox. We have invested a fair amount of money over the years to ensure their survival. But the storm had snapped some of the bigger branches, causing them to collapse over the curb. I was planning on calling the tree guy that morning to come and prune them back.
Wondering who was having a tree cut down, I packed up my lunch and picked up the car keys. The chain saw sounded really loud from the back of the house. Was it my neighbor down the hill? Leaving my keys on the table, I opened the deck door to the backyard.
A white town truck was parked at the curb. The chain saw buzzed again. As I watched, half a juniper crashed into the street. The buzz and grind I had been hearing for the past 15 minutes were my own junipers being ground up into mulch.
I would not have wanted to be the guy with the chain saw. Here he was, just doing his job in a nice, quiet neighborhood when he was suddenly faced with a furious tree-hugging/she-bear blasting through the hedge and yelling, “STOP! STOP! STOP!”
“I’m sorry, m’aam,” the man with the chain saw exclaimed. “I’m just following my orders. It’s my job. We were told the snow plow couldn’t get next to the curb on this property and to cut these back!”
“But you’re not just trimming branches,” I cried. “With the way you’re doing this, you’re killing my junipers!”
Another man walked around the truck with his cell phone. “Our supervisor is on his way,” he said.
“Good,” I answered and stood waiting with them in the rain, ready to throw myself in front of what was left of the junipers should they even think about turning that chain saw on again.
The supervisor arrived, also all apologies but they had to do it. By law, any overhanging branches that interferes with plows or parking had to be cut back.
“I understand, “ I said. “In fact, I was going to call the tree guy today to come and take care of this.” I waved to the rest of the junipers awaiting their fate. “But you are doing more than just clearing the curb. YOU’RE KILLING OUR ENTIRE SHRUB LINE!”
“I’m sorry,” he repeated. “I really am. But it’s our job.”
“IT’S YOUR JOB EVEN IF IT KILLS THE TREE?”
He shrugged and looked at the mangled junipers, then into our yard, which is easy to do now.
“Listen,” I said, “I can see they have to be trimmed back. I would be glad to cooperate. BUT WHAT ABOUT A TELEPHONE CALL TO THE HOMEOWNER WHOSE PROPERTY IS ABOUT TO BE DESTROYED? What about a reverse 911 call to an area that is scheduled to be worked on? What about a message on the town’s website?”
“I agree with you, m’aam (he was saying all the right things to the crazy lady). “But ‘they’ don’t want to tell anyone ahead of time. I don’t know why.”
He looked at his men. “Put the chain saw away,” he instructed, “and do the rest of these,” he pointed to the leafy crowns of the trembling junipers, “with the hedge clippers. Don’t go too far back, just up to here.” He pointed to the curb.
“Is that okay?” he asked me.
I nodded. All I kept thinking was: What would have happened to the rest of the rest of the junipers had I not been there to stop the carnage?
There is a better way. It’s called communication. It starts at home.