Coronavirus Is No Match For America's Narcs

Even a pandemic won't stop the deranged world of suburbia.

I live in a suburban city north of Austin called Round Rock, which, yes, is named after a big round rock in the ground. (If I can recall the lore without googling it, the rock, in the middle of a river, was a marker for cattle drivers. If you couldn’t see the rock, the water was too high to cross.)

I actually grew up in Round Rock and lived in Austin for college, and then for a few years after. But as in other cities, the rent in Austin is too damn high. So after many years of paying too much to live in small, run-down spaces, I moved out. I now live in Round Rock, in a house, with several roommates, most of them animals.

Round Rock is home to Dell Computers and the donuts they show on the Travel Channel. But I know that to the untrained mind, “Round Rock” sounds like Grand Prairie or White Settlement or Gun Barrel City — other cities in Texas that I’m sure are more than what their names imply, but sound country to anyone else. Perhaps this is my own bias against the South and all things folksy and hometown, but I know that in some ways, I’m right. Every July 4, Round Rock hosts an official celebration at Old Settlers Park (OK, I’m hearing it now) that involves a reenactment of an 1878 gun battle between the Texas Rangers and a train robber. The robber died, which I guess is a long way of saying we celebrate Independence Day with an annual reenactment of a man’s murder.

That’s all to give you context to the following situation: last Friday, one of my roommates, my cousin, came home to find THIS notice posted to our door.

I’ve gotten complaints from our homeowner’s association before, for leaving the garbage totes at the top of the driveway for too long, or for (falsely, might I add) having indistinguishable house numbers. But this wasn’t a letter from the HOA. It was a “Round Rock Code Enforcement.” The half-sheet of card stock had been taped to the door (perhaps the code enforcer didn’t want to touch the door handle). “Dear Resident,” it opened pithily. I read on.

At the top of a list of possible codes to be enforced, the code enforcer had checked “Tall Grass or Weeds.” Their suggestion? That I “Mow Tall Grass and Weeds on entire premises.” I had until May 1. I looked down to the bottom of the notice and saw the names of what I presumed to be four police officers, one of them circled as the person who slapped the notice on our door (which I have cropped out, because legal reasons). OFFICERS. You have got be fucking kidding me! What the fuck are cops doing issuing notices about my grass being too fucking high! What the fuck was a cop doing driving through my neighborhood in search of code violations in the middle of a pandemic? Aren’t there like, people he could go deliver masks to, or something?

So I got mad. And then I did a google. The person who left a notice on my door about my grass being too high wasn’t a cop, but a “Code Enforcement Officer,” which, according to my understanding of the Wikipedia article I read, is like a baby cop, or someone with a toy sheriff’s deputy badge. Fire marshals and health safety inspectors are code enforcement officers, as are the four people in charge of following through with reported code enforcement violations in Round Rock, including my grass being high.

I did more googling and saw that a failure to “Mow Tall Grass and Weeds on entire premises” would result in the city hiring a contractor to do it for me, and then charging me for it. I rent my house, but we’re in charge of the lawn, so I suppose that fee would fall to us too. So, perhaps I will mow my lawn before May 1. But I still have many questions!! Why the hell are code enforcers called “officers” and especially why the hell are they just listed as “Ofc. Whoever” on the notice? Is this some strong-arm tactic to get people to think that cops are behind this threat? Because if so, it worked on me, for a moment!

And, even if they’re not real cops, don’t code enforcers have anything better to do right now than to tell people to mow their lawns? The city certainly has bigger problems during a major health crisis than residential tall grass, especially with our big smart man governor opening up the state this Friday. Hell, a nursing home in downtown Round Rock just reported an outbreak of just under 50 cases of the virus! Yet in the middle of a global pandemic, the deranged world of suburbia spins madly on. Not even that will stop these assholes from threatening to mow people’s lawns for them.

I called the “officer” who issued the notice and, despite my suspicions, it was not the HOA who reported me. This guy apparently just patrols my area, and my lawn was looking a little high, so he issued me the notice!! I didn’t yell at him, or ask him why the city is sending code enforcers out, because he is not the direct enemy here. He then told me that the charge for the city mowing my lawn would be, lol, $300, and then told me, during a back-and-forth about how often I cut the grass, that mowing once a week is recommended, but once every two weeks was fine for “ladies,” or something, lmfao. Sure thing, man.

Alas, I have no choice but to fight fire with suburban fire, and file a complaint with the city for continuing to send people out to do their bullshit code enforcements. Which I will wait to do once it’s reasonable to participate in this suburban drama, after the city’s done responding to that nursing home outbreak, and the outbreak after that, and the outbreak after that…

Photo via Boston Public Library/Flickr