Tuesday, October 14, 2014


     There'd been times when I'd felt irked by the box and wished someone would do something about it. Then I remembered my dad once calling to complain of coconuts at the local municipal golf course being a hazard should one fall and maim or kill a golfer. By the following week muddy tire tracks lined the gold course fairways but the trees were stripped bare of coconuts.
     Following his example, earlier this year, I make a call to Honolulu's local land-line telephone company about one of those unsightly utility boxes beside the road. It's approx. 4' x 3' x 2 1/2'—the size of a mini-refrigerator—and has for years been either toppled over on its side or standing on rusted-out footings which are so eaten through they aren't bolted down to their concrete base—it's impossible to secure them they're so bad. The two access holes in the concrete base are empty, lacking wire leads. The cabinet itself is gutted—I recall its door once being open. There's a nearby park, and an elementary school just down the street, so some kid—groups are always passing by—is bound to climb on top and get hurt when it falls. 
     The phone company person says, I'll send the info. to repair technicians to take care of.  You may or may not hear back from them.
     Since the box isn't labeled, I then call Hawaiian Electric Company the same day and the representative says, We'll check it out but I doubt its ours. The next day the company calls and says it's Verizon's trunk box—a former land line company I know to be defunct, though they still provide wireless service.
     A month and a half later, the box is still there unchanged so I call the city's General Complaints hotline. We'll follow-up on it and get get back to you, I'm told. But they never do. 
     During the following two months, I see the box first graffitied, then spot-painted over, so, getting exasperated, I call the police. We'll have someone go out and take a look and notify the proper party about it, I'm told. 
     A month-and-a-half later, the box is now dented-in and newly defaced by fresh graffiti that depicts a face of a dead drunk person with X's for eyes.  I speak to the pastor of the tiny church that stands across an unpaved parking lot behind it.  Quiet but dignified, the man receives me warmly, even though I'm in the midst of a three-and-a-half mile run, and says he too wants it taken away and thinks it's been there twenty years. At my gentle suggestion that maybe they'll listen to him more than me, he says he'll call the telephone company.
     The following day, I call our local state government representative and leave a message on the answering machine requesting assistance. 
     The day after, I call Verizon. It's not ours; wireless doesn't use street-side trunk boxes, I'm told. 
     Ten days later I again call the local telephone company and this time leave a message with the trouble rep. requesting assistance while mentioning my earlier attempt with them to get rid of it. 
     Two-and-a-half months pass, during which time whenever I see the box during a run, I think of the useless inaction of everyone I've spoken to and sometimes imagine sledge hammering the box into rubble, hack sawing it into strips, or (most sensibly) asking permission to haul it away, but I always stop short as these are just idle dreams, and instead I pray and wait. Then, one day, the box is gone!—one of our neighborhood's last glaring blights. My run feels so light after that, I can already taste the once-in-every-three-weeks drink I'll consume with dinner.
     It takes a month, but finally during a run I see the church's pastor.  He's walking in the parking lot, turning the corner of the sanctuary out of sight, so I call his name and jog over, smile, and wave as I stand off to one side before his car, engine now running. He opens the door, steps out, and we exchange pleasantries. I express gratitude about the box's removal and he says he's happy too. 
     “Did you call anyone about it?” I ask. 
     “Yes, the telephone company,” he says.
     “Good. Thank you,” I say all smiles. “I call”—here I gesture—“and nothing happens. You call”—another gesture—“and they take it away.” We exchange further pleasantries before parting.
     Though I believe what I tell him, I nevertheless later tell my family what happened to teach them the power of acting, following up, and trying again and again to get what you really want. Though it may not have been me, my efforts certainly couldn't have hurt. And it feels good to think that at least I tried.

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