Vigilante Roofers

Customer Andy drove up to his house and saw blazing light coming off the roofs of his two bay windows. "I thought maybe the house was on fire," he told me.

But it wasn't fire. It was just a blinding reflection of sunlight off his brand-new, bright and shiny copper roofs, one on each bay. Problem was, Andy didn't order any copper roofs. He didn't want 'em and didn't need 'em. Like any good American, he didn't appreciate coming home and finding his house messed with.

Andy lives out in a neighborhood, where as soon as you drive in, there's a sign that says something like, "Welcome, and Enjoy Our Neighborhood."

I bring this up because it tells you a lot about the folks who made the sign decisions in his subdivision. To put it kindly, they were not think-ahead people. You see, customer Andy lives on a street that has the same name as other streets in the subdivision. I won't give the exact names of the streets, but the street sign reads, "STATE ST." This is just one cul-de-sac away from "STATE CT." And, don't you know, these two are linked by "STATE DR."

I don't know about y'all, but I would hate to open up an artery with my hedge clippers, then have to sit there spurting blood all across the lawn while an ambulance driver tries to sort out all these State Courts, State Streets, and State Drives.

I once asked a developer how he decided on street names. He told me something like, "Well, when we bought those woods, we saw a bunch of deer down in the valley. So I named it Deer Valley." OK, that's reasonable. But does that mean every street in the subdivision has to be named Deer Valley something?

Developers, listen to me. I'll give you a sample theme: Ark Estates. Name the streets Aardvark, Beaver, Cheetah, right on through to Zooplankton. You work just like Noah, no species duplications. OK?

City-planners, here's what you do: Tell the developers that the first six letters can't be the same in any two street signs. No more Maple Street, Court, Circle, or Drive. If developers can only come up with one name, make 'em name the streets back wards, like Court Maple, Circle Maple, Drive Maple. Get that repetitive crap to the end of the sign, because nobody reads that far anyway.

Now, back to customer Andy's sad but funny tale. Clever sleuth that he is, Andy drove over to State Court, picked the house that's at about the same point as his in its respective cul-de-sac, and knocked on the door.

"Beg pardon," he said, "But are you good folks missing any copper roofs?"

"How'd you know?" his neighbor said. "The roofers were supposed to come today, but they never showed."

"Well," Andy replied, "They showed at my house. I've got your two copper roofs."

After talking to the neighbors, Andy was able to track down the guilty roofing company. After talking to them for a few minutes, he traced his vigilante roofing job to another problem that's as common around here as bad street naming: Nobody wrote anything down.

As I understand it, there was no written contract, no written directions, and no paperwork left behind when the roofing job was finished. The roofers just knew they were supposed to go to a street and put roofs on a house at the end of the cul-de-sac. They did that, and they knocked off for the day.

I think, when all the dust settles, both Andy and his neighbor will end up with perfectly good copper roofs. They'll be happy, unlike the poor contractor who has to eat two roofs and feel the wrath of an unwilling customer.

But this little roof foul-up is part of a bigger problem, the kind of thing that could cause a surgeon to cut out the good kidney and leave the bad one in.

People need to be clear, so clear that even a fume-huffing painter's helper couldn't get confused.