Stay with me here as I give some quick back story. (And kids, if you are reading this I absolutely want you to know that you should not smoke cigarettes.) I have been taking care of my 85-year old dad for the past year. A year in which he has had almost a half dozen strokes, TIA’s, and seizures. Every time he has an episode, like the “Eveready Bunny,” he keeps cheating death and fully recovers in a few days. I think that hehas more than nine lives. However, much to the consternation of his doctor, Dad still drinks and smokes occasionally.
I had just sent Dad’s doc some pictures of Dad on the beach at sunset. He looked good and I thought his doctor would enjoy seeing how well he was doing. I did not realize that Dad was holding a cigarette at the very bottom of the photo. Well, his doctor called me and read me the riot act. I was having this rather heated conversation as I pulled up to Dave’s Collier County truck. The conversation lasted a good five or ten minutes. I had double-parked right on the street blocking Dave’s truck. Finally, after being chastised over and over again by Dad’s doc, I hung up my cell phone not in a very good mood. I got out of the car and motioned for Dave to lower his window. Cautiously he did. I don’t know if it was the dour expression on my face, or the fact that I had been blocking Dave’s truck while involved in this quite heated discussion with the doc, that made Dave a little wary of me. I certainly didn’t blame him. “You are not in any trouble,” I said to Dave. At once Dave was visibly relieved to see I was not going to complain. I told him of my conversation and he laughed.
I began asking him questions. He was so nice he followed me back to my house so I could interview him. He showed me the blueprints for the project. He explained that Phase 1 would be completed by January 2011. He explained how the entire main was being replaced by12-inch PVC, and the finger streets with 6-inch PVC. An elaborate GPS system was being installed on all valves and fittings. Currently, with the existing system, if there is a problem the whole island has to be shut down. When the new system is complete problems can be located within a foot. Collier County had purchased the pipe directly, saving the county about 25 percent. A quarter of a million dollars savings on this project was really quite impressive. The existing 12 fire hydrants are being replaced by 24 hydrants. This would then allow the Fire Department adequate resources to protect the Isles. Dave went on to explain the care and detail of this project. If grass had to be replaced after laying some new pipe, the county had every type of grass to replace it that would match perfectly. I was amazed at the special care and personal extra efforts the county was using. If, for example, there was a big palm tree, instead of merely cutting down the tree, the pipe would be redirected to go around the tree to maintain the beauty of the Island. Coming from Chicago, I thought that their care and efforts at not being disruptive were quite unique. In Chicago, if a new water main was going in, every tree would simply be cut down. Dave told me I was welcome to meet Fred Sexton, the senior field inspector for Collier County at their weekly meeting tomorrow.
I attended and learned more. For example, all new pipes had to be flushed and chlorinated, and a one hundred and fifty pound two-hour pressure test conducted. All old pipe had to be grouted and filledwith cement to avoid possible accidents. An average of three hundred feet per day of new pipe was being laid by eight workers working ten-hour shifts. Most remarkable though, was the underlying mantra that this project was not to disrupt the island and to be done in a seamless and subtle way to assuage any concerns of the residents. (Fridays are spent cleaning up and taking away the trash.) Great meeting. I learned a lot. I was still feeling a bit upset by wondering whether was I being a good son by allowing my dad to have his occasional cigarette. As I was leaving the meeting, Fred, Dave and Diana collectively all said, “Hey Mike, one more thing.” “What?” I asked. “Tell Dad that he is 85 years old and if he wants to smoke, let him smoke.” I laughed and smiled. “Thanks,” I said feeling better. What is so amazing about the Isles of Capri is that people are just so nice, and truly understand that the subtle nuances of being happy, kind and courteous are what life is really all about. Speaking of nice, I would be remiss if I did not mention my neighbor Jim Hughes. He is one of the best resources on the Island. When I told him that I was doing a story about the new water system he said, “I will pick you up in two minutes.” He drove me around the Island and let me watch as he photographed the progress the crew had made today. He is a fascinating resident of Isles of Capri, like most people who live here. I was enthralled listening to him recall his meetings with Doc Loach’s wife. To really understand the new water system go to Jim’s site: www.newwaterservice.blogspot.com.