We have a service at City Hall called Greenville Cares. I know this because a member of our homeowners’ board brought it to my attention a few days ago, suggesting that I contact them about one of my pet peeves – old gum and other grime in the stairwells of the public parking garage.
She said that Greenville Cares acts as a kind of clearing house for all the other departments, and that if enough of us call, sheer weight of numbers might nudge them off the dime.
So, bright and early the next morning, I put on my newest second-hand shirt, printed out the photos I’d taken to Parking Services three months earlier, and walked over to City Hall, whistling a happy tune. The receptionist asked if she could help me and I asked for Greenville Cares.
“What do you need?” she said.
Fair enough, I thought. Feels a little “none may pass,” but fair enough. She’s part gatekeeper, part welcoming committee, and for all I know, every third person who walks in here tries to order a bacon-cheeseburger with fries.
“It’s about the parking garage attached to my building,” I said. “Maintenance and repair.”
“You’ll have to talk to Parking Services about that,” she said. “Do you know where they are?” (They’re about a half mile away.)
I told her I’d been to Parking Services back in June, but that no action had been taken. It was my understanding that Greenville Cares might act as an intermediary somehow, I said, bring official pressure to bear.
“We can’t bring any pressure to bear on Parking Services,” she said. “If you’ve already asked them once, you need to ask them again.”
By this time, two other people had queued up behind me, so I offered to let them go ahead while I regrouped. I was being deflected, and none too cordially, and I felt not one step closer to my objective. Surely somebody in a department called Greenville Cares would throw me a bone. Take my name, something, if only to shut me up.
When it was my turn again, I tried a more conciliatory approach.
“I think I might have gotten on your nerves just now and that wasn’t my intention. My name is Tim,” I said, and held out my hand.
Mississippi one. Mississippi two.
“Oh,” I said. “You don’t shake hands.” My hopes for a positive outcome were evaporating. She wobbled her head noncommittally and indicated the bottle of hand sanitizer on the counter in front of me, which I took to mean that either she’d just sanitized her hands and didn’t want to dirty them by touching mine, or that anyone wanting to touch hers was expected to first sanitize their own.
Either way, it seemed too strange a ritual to parse on the fly, so I pressed on, explaining that I’d obviously been misinformed by the person who’d sent me there, and apologizing, but asking if she’d please just let me through to see someone in Greenville Cares.
“That’s me,” she said. “I’m Greenville Cares.”
To which must be added the following sound effect:
Yes, dear reader, the same woman who’d declined to shake my hand, who’d declined even to take my information, who’d waited until the very end of our conversation to reveal that she was the person I’d been looking for all along, that woman was herself none other than …
Back home, I logged onto the City’s website hoping to figure out where I’d gone wrong, but the mystery only deepened, because here, submitted for your sober amusement, is the official description of Greenville Cares:
All service requests are assigned an ID number, routed to the appropriate departments and tracked through the City’s work management system. Some of the more common requests that Greenville Cares receives relate to issues such as street and sidewalk repairs; trash and recycling pickup; graffiti, speeding and streetlight outages.
Or in certain cases, not.