The Mother-in Law and the Friendly Neighbor
By Mike Kirby
Sunday, Oct. 28 was one of those autumn days you’d like to seize ahold of and bottle. Golden leaves and a warm sun. My wife and I took a walk up to the top of Round Hill Road, over to Paradise Pond, and back home to Summer Street.
When I opened the back door to my house I see that the clock on the stove is off. Uh, oh, says I. Down in the cellar the lights were out too. I went outside and looked towards King Street and the traffic lights were out. All the power was out in our neighborhood and downtown for a little more than two hours. The next day a small note in the Gazette reported that a homeowner on Edwards Square had cut down a tree, causing the outage.
The other day I was having coffee at Jakes, and Danny, the owner, decided to vent. He had to close his restaurant on a peak day and was out about $7, 500. A lot of other restaurants in town had to close too. Who was it that cut the tree down, he wondered. And why should such a seemingly small event plunge the town into darkness? And then he wondered why he was paying $300 a year to the Chamber of Commerce when they didn’t do anything about things like this.
And then I started wondering too. I noticed there were very few details in the Gazette, like the name of the homeowner on Edwards Square.
So the answers were as follows.
A. The tree was on the property of radio reporter Kelsey Flynn. The guy who cut down the tree was named Sean, who is her neighbor. I talked to Kelsey at radio station WHMP during her working day, and she admitted that this particular catastrophe was caused by her mother-in-law, who that particular Sunday morning decided to deal with a long standing problem with a dead pine tree in the back yard, adjoining the railroad tracks. Kelsey was not home at the time. Her mother-in-law had called the railroad about a year ago and the railroad said they would be out to deal with the situation, but of course didn’t. So a neighbor Sean (she didn’t know his last name) volunteered to cut the tree down. And he did, and he did it very nicely, felling it right across a brace of high tension lines, causing universal darkness and gnashing of teeth. National Grid has been back to clean up the mess, but one branch remained on the track when I got there. yesterday. And there was a sign on the pole too, warning of the danger. Sean, however, evidently didn’t read the sign
B. The lines, half-hidden in the trees, weren’t just any electrical lines, but a 12,800 volt high-tension line located a short distance from the Northampton substation. As the patient spokesman for National Grid, explained to me, an event like a limb coming down on the wires triggers an electronic scream of distress to the system, which then shuts breakers down to isolate the problem and keep the greater system operating. The closer to the substation the problem, the higher the voltage, the greater the chance that fate, in the person of the home handyman, can cause havoc over a wide area. After looking over the situation, I added a question of my own. Why were these highly essential lines half-hidden in the line of trees adjoining the railroad tracks?
C. Although I hate this particular railroad, they are not responsible for this situation. National Grid is, having an easement that gives them the right and responsibility to trim these trees that interfere with their wires. And maybe the city should talk to them about relocating this line. But a dead tree on your property? There are tree surgeons in the telephone book that the mother-in-law should have called.
D. And how about the Chamber? Its executive director was charming, as she always is, and gave me the number of their key account executive at National Grid who was enormously helpful to them and would no doubt help me too, but didn’t. As soon as she found out she was talking to a reporter, she screamed and went for her Rolodex to send me to the slightly irritable pubic relations person in Boxsboro. That’s it. P.S. Just kidding about the screaming.
downstreet.net©2001. All rights reserved.