By Dan Haley
The Oak Park village board is on to me. Or maybe they are on to us. That would be all of us who use the annual fall leaf collection — the only free service remaining in Oak Park — to dispose of, oh, so many things.
Sure I pile vast quantities of leaves from my urban forest into the gutter. Spent Saturday doing just that. But then I add the cut-back hostas, the turning-into-mush impatiens, and there might be a little dog poop, so don't go jumping into my pile, kids. This year, to aid in composting, I tossed in a few gamey pork chops from the fridge. And certainly I add every branch that has fallen on my property since the last storm.
Those branches are what, it seemed, caught the eye of the public works staff. They have figured out that after our endless rounds of windstorms the past couple of years, when the village has generously sent around the chipper trucks to clear the wreckage, that half of the fallen branches have dead leaves affixed thereto. In other words, those of us who trim our bushes, cut back trees or otherwise work like foresters every weekend have been stockpiling the detritus and hauling it to the parkway anytime the wind blows.
Now the village is eyeing, what else, a fee that they will quietly append to our water and sewer bill each month. So we'll pay an extra couple of bucks a month and five times a year we'll legally be allowed to haul out redwoods and maples.
Personally because the Village of Oak Park is driving me out of my friggin' mind, I prefer to sneak the odd water heater into the leaf pile just because retribution can be cathartic.
You see, village government is coming after me because I have some chipped paint on my front stairs. I got the not-friendly notice from the faceless bureaucrats a few weeks ago. Now I've got another, which I haven't yet calmed down enough to open, but I can read Legal Action through the envelope.
Three years ago, just before the world ended, we scrounged up $37,000 to fix up the exterior of our lovely home. Rebuilt parts of both porches, new gutters, a few new windows, painted the place, re-roofed and re-sided the garage, new doors and window on the garage. The whole shebang. Did not get a letter from the village thanking me for investing in the neighborhood even though we'd tipped them off that something pretty special was happening over at 327 S. Humphrey when we paid for all the permits.
Then this summer some of the paint chipped off the front steps. I noticed. I was annoyed the paint job hadn't lasted longer. I planned to touch up the stairs this fall. Then I got the village's snoopy, obnoxious letter. Maybe it's childish, but it got my back up. Our house looks great. The front yard garden is lovely. We work and we work at it.
So now I am reduced to putting potato peelings in with my fallen leaves.
And don't get me started about the $50 ticket I got on my new car late one evening last week when it was parked in front of my house. My sin? I hadn't high-tailed it to village hall to transfer my vehicle sticker fast enough. This wasn't an additional car. It was a replacement for the 10-year-old PT Cruiser that blew up. And that Cruiser had a paid-in-full village sticker on the windshield. I've got half a year left!
What's going into the leaf pile next?
I'm thinking. I'm thinking.