Come September !

AUTUMN IN NEW YORK: I just moved to New York City (Manhattan’s Upper East side) a week back, so the posts will be slow to come till I get settled and can surface from the dozens of boxes that still have to be sorted out. As I feel my nose around and hear about the construction business in the city and leaf through this wonderful little gem of a graphic book ‘The Building of Manhattan” (http://www.amazon.com/Building-Manhattan-Donald-Mackay/dp/0060916036) by the incredibly detailed  Canadian-American  illustrator Donald Mackay (click on the name to learn more), the following joke that had been doing its rounds for a while comes to mind, as any architect and engineer knows, if the client is  a hypothetical ‘God’:

If  Noah had lived in the United States today the story may have gone something like this: And the Lord spoke to Noah and said, “In one year, I am going to make it rain and cover the whole earth with water until all flesh is destroyed. But I want you to save the righteous people and two of every kind of living thing on earth. Therefore, I am commanding you to build an Ark.”

In a flash of lightning, God delivered the specifications for an Ark. In fear and trembling, Noah took the plans and agreed to build the ark. “Remember,” said the Lord, “you must complete the Ark and bring everything aboard in one year.”

Exactly one year later, fierce storm clouds covered the earth and all the seas of the earth went into a tumult. The Lord saw that Noah was sitting in his front yard weeping. “Noah!” He shouted. “Where is the Ark?”

“Lord, please forgive me,” cried Noah. “I did my best, but there were big problems. First, I had to get a permit for construction, and your plans did not meet the building codes. I had to hire an architecture firm and redraw the plans. Then I got into a fight with OSHA over whether or not the Ark needed a sprinkler system and approved floatation devices. Then, my neighbor objected, claiming I was violating zoning ordinances by building the Ark in my front yard, so I had to get a variance from the city planning commission. Then, I had problems getting enough wood for the Ark, because there was a ban on cutting trees to protect the Spotted Owl. I finally convinced the U.S. Forest Service that I really needed the wood to save the owls. However, the Fish and Wildlife Service won’t let me take the 2 owls. The carpenters formed a union and went on strike. I had to negotiate a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board before anyone would pick up a saw or hammer. Now, I have 16 carpenters on the Ark, but still no owls. When I started rounding up the other animals, an animal rights group sued me. They objected to me taking only two of each kind aboard. This suit is pending. Meanwhile, the EPA notified me that I could not complete the Ark without filing an environmental impact statement on your proposed flood. They didn’t take very kindly to the idea that they had no jurisdiction over the conduct of ‘God’. Then, the Army Corps of Engineers demanded a map of the proposed flood plain. I sent them a globe. Right now, I am trying to resolve a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that I am practicing discrimination by not taking atheists aboard. The IRS has seized my assets, claiming that I’m building the Ark in preparation to flee the country to avoid paying taxes. I just got a notice from the state that I owe them some kind of user tax and failed to register the Ark as a ‘recreational water craft’. And finally, the ACLU got the courts to issue an injunction against further construction of the Ark, saying that since God is flooding the earth, it’s a religious event, and, therefore unconstitutional. I really don’t think I can finish the Ark for another eight or ten years!!” Noah wailed.

The sky began to clear, the sun began to shine, and the seas began to calm. A rainbow arched across the sky. Noah looked up at the Lord bewildered. “You mean you’re not going to destroy the earth, Lord?” “No,” He said sadly. “I don’t have to. Beauracracy already has.”

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The Flatiron Building, Manhattan, from MacKay’s illustrated book. Had today’s zoning and other beauracratic laws been followed this building could never have been built.

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