Lester L. Weil

         Dedicated to Builders Everywhere

Sam left the Planning Department meeting with mixed emotions. His plan to split his ten acre parcel into two prime building lots for upscale houses was finally approved. Three years ago when his uncle left him the property and he decided to do this, he had no idea the circus it would become, the hoop after hoop he would be made to jump through. Tonight was the final hoop.

“The county needs a new culvert put in across the road leading to the new County Administration Complex. And since your lot split would increase run off, we would like you to include that culvert in your proposal,” the Chairman said at the beginning of the hearing.

It did Sam no good to point out that the culvert in question was at a higher elevation, so any run off would be in the other direction, and that actually there would be no increased run-off because all the rain falling on the two lots would still go to the existing pond on the property, just as it currently does. And Sam was smart enough not to point out that the culvert the 'planning board' wanted would greatly enhance the value of the chairman's property, which just happened to be at that point on the road.

But in the end, Sam had agreed to the extortion, decided to pay to ransom his project and just get on with it. For now he would just have to 'eat' the forty percent extra his project now cost—and figure just how much of that cost could be added to the price of the houses and passed on to the buyers.

* * *

This was Sam's fourth trip back to the County Building Department. Three times before his plans had been rejected, the department wanting more engineering data or redrawing of plans to reflect minute details—details that the carpenters who would actually build the house would never bother to look at because they were standard practice.

“Well, Sam, it looks like everything is all set this time…except…this new regulation that  just came through. It seems that recent studies have shown that the air quality in new houses is unhealthy because they are too airtight. So we are now requiring an air exchanger to bring fresh air into the house. You could possibly incorporate this into your heating system. I don't have an approved list yet, but you can submit your choice and we'll have our engineers take a look at it.”

Sam looked at the man. By all accounts he was probably a decent enough fellow. The kind of guy that you could have a beer with and watch a ball game at the local bar. Probably had a couple kids…and a dog—a golden retriever perhaps. But behind this counter…

“So let me get this straight,” Sam began. “For years you have been adding regulation upon regulation: tighter, more efficient weather stripping; expanding foam to seal all holes drilled through plates for the electrical wiring; special gaskets around outlets; et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. All this to keep any air from the outside getting into the house. Now you want to require an air exchanger—to bring in that air you have been trying to keep out—an air exchanger to counteract the result of your regulations.”


“So, rather than a new regulation that requires the builder to spend more money to rectify the problem that your regulations caused, doesn't it make more sense—isn't it more logical to just remove the regulations that have caused this new problem in the first place?”

“Yes, that certainly would be the most logical and would make more sense.”

“So you are going to get rid of the old regulations then?”

“Well, of course not, silly.”

“If I was responsible for a problem, you'd expect me—require me—to take care of it. Right?”

“Well, of course.”

Sam could begin to hear faint giggles from one of the secretaries.

“So you have created a problem. And you are now are adding another regulation to supposedly correct that problem… Which may or may not correct the problem… And which past experience tells us will probably just create another problem… And rather than just do the simple thing and remove the original cause, you want to just keep adding more and more regulations.”

“Sounds about right.” Both secretaries and now giggling openly.

“This makes no sense. Why would you do something that makes absolutely no sense?”

“Because…” the man turned to the others in the office and conducted them in unison: “We're the government.” And the giggles grew louder; chuckles grew into laughter.

Sam turned and walked away as what were now gales of laughter followed him. He looked over his shoulder. One of the men was actually rolling on the floor laughing.

        Lester L. Weil is an ex-professional bassoonist, ex-professor, ex-custom furniture builder, ex-house builder. He is retired in Arizona near the Mexico border.

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