Coordination Is a Beautiful Thing . . .


. . . if and when it exists!

Street Activity

Lurching into its third month, the Ingraham Street construction in Hyattsville continues.

Having put in spanking-new sewer-feeder pipes, which required tearing up the street that had been newly paved two years ago, the WSSC’s contractors are hard at work today. They’ve replaced a lot of the concrete curbing that had been damaged in the last two months. They’re replacing driveway aprons that were messed up (including ours). They plan, by the end of the week, to have a newly paved street for us, curb to curb, as they put it.

Isn’t that nice? I think so.

New Apron 1

What strikes me as bizarre is that the following week, the Washington Gas contractors plan to tear up a chunk of the brand-new street to replace the gas lines damaged last month; these lines serve the house next door and one across the street.

Honest to God. Tearing up a week-old street.

Hyattsville’s mayor, Marc Tartaro, who is a hard-working and intelligent person, responded to some of us in an email that the city has little control over what the public utilities do to our streets. Marc promised to try to get the utilities to coordinate their efforts to avoid having to patch a brand-new road surface, but I got the sense that he may not be able to do it.

Hyattsville Communications Director Abby Sandel with Mayor Marc Tartaro. Photo by Chris Suspect.

City Communications Director Abby Sandel, Mayor Marc Tartaro. Photo: Chris Suspect.

Sometimes you just have to laugh because crying does no good. Updates to follow!


This is good news!

Getting To The Gas

It appears to me that our mayor, Marc Tartaro, has managed to do what I frankly thought was impossible: The contractors are digging on the street this morning, which implies to me that the gas main is being repaired before the street will be totally repaved!

So, our snazzy new street might stay snazzy looking for a while.

Thanks to Marc, his staff, Washington Gas, WSSC and all the contractors! Good work!


As impossible as this is to believe, today’s giant hole in the street is being dug by the WSSC contractors exactly where the Washington Gas folks need their hole to be dug, but the gas line isn’t being replaced today. This particular hole is to repair a sewage line not the gas line.

So, I spoke too soon! The new street will be torn up according to the original schedule, one week after being totally repaved.

Bureaurocracy wins! How could I have doubted it?!?!?


Son of It’s a Gas Gas Gas


Yesterday afternoon, we began smelling gas out front and it seemed to be coming from in front of the house next door, where we had had a major gas leak a couple of weeks ago. Some of the smell also seemed to be coming from the driveways between our houses; there’s a small iron access cover there that may allow gas to escape.

Washington Gas came out in the middle of Hurricane Sandy and determined there was a leak, coming out of the ground itself and from under that cover, but that it wasn’t dangerous because of the wind. They promised to be out today to fix it.

As good as their word, the Washington Gas crew is out front with a big digging machine on a flatbed truck and they’re hard at work to solve the problem.

What it appears to me is that the rain caused the temporary asphalt patch put in by the WSSC sewer-line replacement crew to sag, which may have popped the repaired gas line. So that means the Washington Gas folks will have to dig up the street yet again to put that pesky line in place.

This entire sewer-repair effort has been fraught with interest, as my Granny used to say.

I sure don’t envy those Washington Gas staff’s job today; it’s a cold, wet miserable day to have to dig up a street in search of a gas leak. I’m sure these folks have places they’d rather be, homes or family that may be feeling the aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy, and there’s surely an element of risk in such an undertaking. And, let’s face it; they’re really having to fix a problem someone else created for them.

Yet they are efficient, cheerful, informative and dedicated. Thanks, Washington Gas! Anyone who helps keep my family, neighbors and me from being blown to atoms has my unstinting support and admiration!!!

It’s a Gas Gas Gas!


I’m so proud of my Boston terrier, Murphy. He is truly a wonder dog.

Aaron and Murphy during our excitement.

I was taking a nap this afternoon about 3pm, and, as is the norm, Murphy was sleeping at the foot of my bed. My son, Aaron, who has a cold, was also asleep. Patty was at work.

Suddenly Murphy jumps on my head and starts barking incessantly. He’s never done that before. So I get up, get dressed, opened the bedroom door and was overpowered by the smell of gas. I ran downstairs, thinking that perhaps Aaron had somehow started a fire in the kitchen and the smell was even worse there.

Then it dawned on me: The street repair folks out front must have broken a gas line. I ran out on the front porch and the smell of gas was overwhelming and you could hear it hissing loudly. The crew, except for one staunch fellow and one staunch woman, had hauled ass down the street a ways.

My neighbor next door, Karl, who works nights, walked onto his front porch with a cup of coffee and an unlit cigarette in his mouth. I yelled, “Hey, Karl; I wouldn’t light that if I were you!”

Neighbors Karl and Bill; we’re cracking jokes once safely down the street.

I got Aaron up and leashed Murphy and, joined by Karl, we all went down to the corner; on the way, we saw Buddy, another neighbor, poke his head out of his front door and told him to get out of his house. By now the smell was super strong.

I called 911 and the Hyattville Fire Department showed up very quickly. The Washington Gas folks weren’t as prompt, but they showed up after about 40 minutes and sent a crew down to the hole in the street where gas had been spraying out all this time.

Hyattsville Fire Department pros suit up before walking to the gas leak.

Washington Gas trucks arrive.

Brave young men.

After about 40 more minutes, the gas line was capped and the Washington Gas techs gave us the all clear. One of their techs, a really nice man, brought a sniffer wand into my house to make sure it had aired out after I had turned on all the ceiling fans and opened the windows.

From my front porch.

So all’s well that ends well. My only concern, and I expressed this pointedly to the WSSC contractor’s supervisor, the fire department folks and the folks from Washington Gas, is that somebody should have alerted the residents of the street that there was a problem and that they should (a) not turn on any flame and (b) vacate their homes until everything was safe again and (c) the contractor should have called 911.

And I am so proud of Murphy for knowing something was amiss and waking me up!!!

That white PVC pipe down in the hole is what broke.

Words to live by . . .

7pm Update:

Still at it!

The contractors are still hard at work; now they’re filling the hole where the gas line broke. I guess they’ve got a few more hours of work ahead of them.

I love the colors in this iPhone photo. On your left, about a third of the way from the bottom of the pic, is our friend, Little Blue Thing. That’s his headlight shining.

Buddy, one of our neighbors, walked over to Jefferson Street when the gas was escaping and he said the smell of gas was very evident at that point, well over a block from where it was whooshing out of its pipe. So we were lucky that all turned out well. Karl and the folks across the street, Colleen and Mar, still don’t have their gas restored, but everyone is hard at work trying to restore the service.

Morning After Update:

As the above photo indicates, this morning the contractors have marked the gas lines a lot more obviously than they had previously done. Before, there were just thin yellow lines of paint to show where the high-pressure gas lines were; now there’s big white lettering, too. The importance of good, clear graphics!

The Washington Gas guys told me that those gas lines have a pressure of 50psi, which doesn’t sound like much but can produce a huge volume of gas in the air when the pipe is ruptured, as our event yesterday afternoon proved.

“I Have Got to Get Me One of These!”


You already know what Will Smith movie the header quote came from, so I won’t bother telling you.

The WSSC is tearing up our street again, and the letter they sent to us all promised that, during this project, we’d see “interesting machines.” Patty thought that was a strange thing for them to say, but it has proved to be true.

My neighbors and I– at least the male neighbors– have fallen in love with this little blue thing. We all want one.

It’s about half the size of a car, articulated in the middle, and is radio controlled. When it’s powered up, the round light in front flashes orange and it begins to shudder, like a puppy held tight on a leash:

It isn’t speedy, but it is determined as it moves down the road. It’s shape gives it an R2-D2 quality.

Here it is relentlessly proceeding to the actual holes in the street down our hill:

Here’s the fellow controlling it with a black box about the size of a Lipton’s tea-bag package. He stands pretty far away from this unit, so I couldn’t get them both in the same photo. The controller’s skill is high; we watched him parallel park the thing and it was most impressive.

The technical name for this device, based upon the knobby wide metal wheels, is, I believe, a “smusher.”

Here we see Little Blue Thing parked alongside its bigger brother, Somewhat Larger Blue Thing. Go ahead; call them The Blues Brothers.

As happens occasionally even in human families, the smaller brother is the cuter one. The larger one is not unattractive, but its need to have a steering wheel, driver’s seat and roll bar get in the way of its smooth lines. It looks purposeful but not cute.

In addition, the bulging hood on Somewhat Larger Blue Thing, combined with the row of vents at the sides of the hood, give this fellow a more aggressive look. It’s like what happened to the Ford Mustang after it had been out a couple of years.


Our hero, LBT (Little Blue Thing) gets a chance to show its stuff as it takes on the challenge of smushing down the red-clay dirt at the bottom of a deep trench. Notice how the crew lowers LBT down into the trench using some large machine:

Once in the trench, you can sense the LBT’s enthusiasm as it trembles in anticipation before the control-person sends it into action. Clearly in its element, LBT blithely rolls back and forth, smushing with abandon. Even the jaded construction crew smiles with joy and– yes– pride as they watch LBT’s antics:


The crew working on this sewer project are splendid; they get in early, work steadily all day and clean up before they leave in the evening; not only sweeping the street but washing down where they’ve worked.

And I can’t say “these guys” are excellent; there are women among the crew. They dress the same as the men, including the green safety vests, so it isn’t immediately obvious that they’re female.

Some of our neighbors were initially rather upset that this work wasn’t done a couple of years ago when our street was totally replaced, but the super job that the WSSC contractors are doing has put most of that feeling to rest. After the crew leaves each day, many of us are outside marveling at the way they’ve approached their task.

So it’s become sort of a social thing but then again this is a close-knit community.

Be Careful, John!!!

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The gentleman across the street from us is a great guy and, as you will see, a brave one as well. He’s probably in his 70s, but he thinks nothing of putting a ladder on the second-story roof overhang of his house to do some repair or maintenance on the third story or even, as seen here this morning, the roof above the third story.

I have a fear of heights and it frankly gives me the willies to see John doing that! I salute his courage as I cringe at the thought of what could happen to him if all did not go as he had planned.

John’s house is the former home of T. Howard Duckett, who was one of the founders of the Washington (DC) Suburban Sanitary Commission, which handles the water and sewerage for much of the DC area. It’s a lovely house sitting in the middle of six city lots.

Duckett, who evidently was a very good business person, put up the five Sears kit homes across the street from his house as rental properties in the mid-1920s. My house is the middle one of the five.

On the next street south of us is the old and vacant original WSSC building. After the WSSC moved to new quarters, the city gained ownership of the property and has struggled for years with what to do with the huge building. From time to time, we hear it will soon be a retirement home or an arts center or a school but what it has been for the nine years I’ve lived here is a big vacant building.

So political inertia is a powerful force and so, Neighbor John, is gravity. May it always remain your friend as you perform these home-repair duties.