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We'd better understand irate phone calls from constituents if they were complaining about this shining example of public investment. Photo: Aaron Hackney @ Aaron Keith Photography

Editor's note: The customer is always right. Right? After all, they pay your salary (as they don't hesitate to remind you). One Florida city's engineering & stormwater division receives thousands of calls each year, and every so often conversations like those below — shared by Construction Manager Donald Schrager — prove that fact is stranger than fiction when dealing with the public.








“Don, I'm transferring a call to you.”
“Who is it, Diane?”
“The [expletive] of Whittlesly Lane.”
“Dee, be nice!”
“I am! That's what she calls herself.”
“Don Schrager, can I help you?”
“This is the [expletive] of Whittlesly Lane.”
“What can I do for you, ma'am?”


“Don Schrager, how can I help you?”
“THEY RESURFACED MY ROAD THE OTHER DAY!”
“Yes, sir, they did. Is there a problem?”
“HELL YES, THERE'S A PROBLEM! THEY STRIPED THE ROAD TODAY!”
“Is there a problem with the striping?”
“When I come home now, I have to go to the intersection down the street and turn around to get into my driveway! They put a double yellow line down my street, moron!”
“Your road was striped correctly, sir. You do realize those lines are for moving traffic?”
“Well, I'm moving when I pull into my driveway, aren't I?”
“I understand that, and I assure you it's alright to cross them to get into your driveway.”
“If I get a ticket I'm sending it to you!”


“How can I help you?”
“You resurfaced my road today.”
“Was there a problem?”
“Why did they use such black stuff? The stuff they put down is darker than the old stuff.”
“The old ‘stuff' was bleached by the sun. Eventually the new ‘stuff' will bleach as well.”
“Well, that makes sense to me.”


“Customer service, how can I help you?”
“They're replacing a pipe under my road.”
“Yes, sir, they are.”
“They left a notice that I need to boil my water.”
“Yes, sir, as a precaution. The instructions are on the card.”
“Do I need to boil all of my water?”
“Any water you need to use.”
“What about the water in the toilet?”


“Don Schrager, how can I help you?”
“Your moron contractors finished regrading my swale yesterday!”
“Is there a problem sir?”
“They graded it so the water has to flow uphill to drain. Water doesn't flow uphill, you know.”
“The contractor surveys the work; I assure you it's not going uphill.”
“I looked at it myself and it goes uphill. I'm a retired engineer and I can tell.”
“Is it still raining at your house?”
“Yes.”
“Can you see the direction the water is flowing?”
“It's running down toward the ditch.”


“Customer Service, how can I help you?”
“They're replacing a pipe under my road.”
“Yes, sir, they are.”
“They left a tag on my door that they needed to turn off my water at 9 a.m.”
“That's correct, sir.”
“It's almost 9:30 and I still have water.”
“Hold on and let me see what I can do.” Customer service representative grabs a cup of coffee and calls the inspector to verify that the water is off. “Thank you for holding, sir. Can you go check your water now?”
“It's off. Wow, you're good!”


Of course, the humor isn't limited to telephone interaction with residents. The following exchange took place during a home visit:
“City services, anyone home?”
“In the garage. Come on in.”
Upon entering, the inspector is greeted by an elderly overweight man who's completely naked.
“Sir, you need to put some clothes on.”
“One second.” The gentleman rummages through a pile of dirty clothes and finds a pair of underwear. “Is that better?”
“Sir, I'll come back when it's a better time for you.”
“What's your problem?”