Here is a cute little fable. Once a citizen tried to layer “exuberance” about a new recreation field by suggesting while it was good, it had serious flaws. For instance, she felt that the fields and scheduling were over developed for the parking facility. Each time her 5 year old got out of the car and moved to the field, she was afraid the child could be run over at any time. The “public lot” has no marks, no traffic pattern; it is chaos. People were parking in the street, on the grass, there were way too many cars for the lot.

She also mentioned that perhaps the entrance to a 5 year old playing field, next to bleachers, was not the best place for the township to be parking the wood chipper. “Oddly, my 5-year-old perceives this machinery as a play thing, since it is parked where she goes to play. Couldn’t we park the wood chipper in a municipal equipment garage?” 

Grufff grunting and various put downs were uttered. It was suggested that I was a bad mother for letting my child play on a wood chipper.

I moved on to my next item on my list of questions and left my comments about the wood chipper behind.

But interestingly the wood chipper came up again two months later when the Township Committee members were discussing the insurance carrier’s evaluation of the township complex and what should be considered dangerous and a liability. They were making recommendations to the township for “improving” their safety and risk. Guess what item got the most disparaging remarks? The wood chipper!

Now I felt some personal satisfaction from this assessment about how dangerous and old this piece of equipment was. But guess what happens next? After reading the insurance inspector’s description a certain elected official offers to give my 5-year-old child the wood chipper for our yard so that she could play on it whenever she wanted, and in turn relieve the township of their dangerous risk.

When this was said, I turned to the person sitting next to me at the meeting and muttered “I think that is the nicest thing that elected official has said to me all year.” My next thought was this is a very very disturbing thought for an elected official to have regarding my child. In fact, I read it as almost pathological monomaniacal response: intent concentration on, or exaggerated enthusiasm, for a single subject or idea. Here is my thinking diagram made visible; 

  • Faulty old wood chipper becomes relational to citizen who criticized its placement at a recreation field.
  • The negative assessment of our collectively owned wood chipper is not discussed in terms of the township’s responsibility, their need to deal, but this old wood chipper is positioned as an offering- a generous gift- for the 5-year-old child of a citizen who criticizes local government choices.
  • This elected official joking that he wants to give my daughter a wood chipper in turn says that he want to give my family something that is a big risk- that is dangerous- to play with.
  • He giggles after saying this idea on the public record. He is amused by this idea.

The moral of this fable/bulleted list? “Don’t utter concern about safety before the insurance company, because if you do, the danger will become all yours.”

I must end this story by saying that the next day we met up with said elected official in the county library where he was picking something up for his wife. I put down my suitcase full of books to introduce the elected official to my 5-year-old. “Honey- this is the man who wants to give you an old dangerous wood chipper.” He got a weird smile and said ” Don’t you think that is a good idea little girl?”

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