I was born in 1956, and have lived in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area all my life. About twenty years ago, I began noticing a disturbing trend. The services we used to take for granted, that reflected our status as one of the wealthiest areas in the richest country on earth, have changed dramatically for the worst.
When I was a kid, in the 1960s, it never occurred to me that we might lose power for any extended period of time. That only happened during thunderstorms, and it was kind of exciting to light candles and play Monopoly or Scrabble for a few hours. The idea that the electricity would go out during a snowstorm would have been incomprehensible. Ice never worried us, and never caused any power outages, even though all the power lines were above ground back then. My much older sisters-who grew up in the 1940s-have told me things were much the same in that era.
Now, before any of the way too frequent “big” storm watches, snow, ice or otherwise, the mainstream media dutifully passes on the statements from local utility companies, that we must expect massive power outages, possibly lasting for days. With our advances in technology, and the fact many power lines now are below ground, how can we possibly accept a much lower quality of service than we were receiving as long as seventy years ago? A few years ago, during that violent thunderstorm that was subsequently termed a “derecho” (a word I’d never heard before), we lost power for four days. All our power lines are underground. This was a completely ridiculous, inexcusable situation, but I appear to be the only one complaining, or even noticing.
Even more inexplicable is the present tendency of large trees to come crashing down, on power wires or too often into homes, during thunderstorms, or even snow falls. I lived, until the age of nineteen, in a house that had 250 acres of thick woods behind it. There were numerous tall trees in our backyard. Never once, during those nineteen years, did I witness a single tree going down, due to lightning, heavy ice or snow, or wind. Was my experience out of the norm; just a fluky anomaly? Are modern day trees wimpier than they used to be? What is going on?
Then you have the snow removal services. In our area, this is VDOT (Virginia Department of Transportation). I have been ranting and raving about their woeful “performance” for years, but when I was young, and even well into the 1980s, someone cleared the streets much more quickly, thoroughly and efficiently. I’ve grown exasperated watching VDOT plow trucks sitting on the side of the road- often in groups of six or more-while motorists try to cope with that particular un-plowed road. And I’d be a millionaire if I had a dime for every time I’ve seen one of these vehicles driving along with their plows proudly up in the air, plowing nothing. Often these same non-plowing plow trucks are going well below the speed limit, so they are backing traffic up.
I’ve called VDOT, and sent them emails, but they don’t respond. Clearly, it is either their policy to tell their drivers to spend more time with their plows up, instead of actually plowing, or these drivers are sociopaths that enjoy irritating and inconveniencing the public. Either way, we’re not getting First World service any more, from the state agency our tax dollars finance for the purpose of clearing the roads in inclement weather, or the public utility companies we pay ever increasing rates to. And then there are the median strips, and other common areas that local governments are responsible for maintaining. They simply aren’t mowing the grass in those areas, or clearing out the weeds and brush, at anywhere near the level they used to. Thus, we are starting to take on the look of a Third World nation.
As is the case with all our tax dollars, we are paying more and more for less and less. We have more money than any country in the world; there is no excuse for this kind of woeful waste of resources. The question is; why do we accept this reduction of services? I understand that our power grids are pitifully out of date and in dire need of upgrading (and, of course, why weren’t they upgraded long ago?), but even so, we have a right to expect much, much better.