And the Moral of the Story Is . . .
Over the years, the contents of the file cabinet in my little office have expanded. It was raining yesterday, so I began doing some weeding out and, in not more than ten minutes, had tossed a half dozen old files. Then, quite by accident, I came across my “WEIRD FILE”, a souvenir of my days as head of the Office of Information and Complaint for the City of Honolulu. It contains a collection of hand-written notes and official memos, reminders of some of the strange incidents that occurred in that office during the nine years I was in that job.
Most of the “complaints” that came into the office were really just requests for some kind of city service: someone wanting us to remove a junk car that had been abandoned in front of their property … a street light shining into a bedroom window … trash containers that the refuse crews had failed to pick up on their regular rounds. True, some of the inquiries were a little … well, weird … like the guy who wanted a list of all the public men’s rooms on the island.
But there were also real issues to sort out. In fact, the complaint I remember most occurred when the driver of one of our city buses got into a verbal altercation with a passenger and threw him off the bus … literally head over heels down the steps and into the gutter. Furthermore, it was an unequal match. The bus driver was a great big burly guy; the would-be passenger was an elderly Chinese man who, by the way, was legally blind, and was on his way to a doctor’s office for treatment of a bad back! Obviously, this was a serious lawsuit just waiting to happen.
Somehow the old man had found his way to City Hall where he was directed to my office. He told me his story and I immediately called the head of the bus company. We knew from the location of the incident which route it was and a witness had given the old man the number of the bus. While he waited in my office, sipping a cup of tea, a supervisor from the bus company and a relief driver caught up with the bus, removed the driver and suspended him on the spot.
In the meantime, I told the gentleman that one of my staff people would drive him to his doctor’s appointment and that of course the city would take care of any injuries he might have from the fall. The old man dismissed that idea with a wave, saying he was all right and that he was happy with the way we had dealt with the problem. But, he said, he did have one request: When he tumbled off the bus, he had landed on his white cane, which snapped in two. Would it be possible for the city to provide him with a new cane?
One of the people in the office drove him to a nearby medical supply place and the old man picked out a brand new cane. The incident ended up costing the City & County of Honolulu the grand total of $9.89 … plus tax.