In September of 1991, six months before the Tower epic began, my residence on Jasmine Road suffered a terrible sewage backup. For two days the formidable Bradley Plumbing Company chased the problem and finally found it in the sewer lateral on the opposite side of Jasmine. The stoppage occurred in that part of the line that was installed by the subdivision developer, per city standards, long before I bought my property. The city sewer at that point was 12-feet deep under the street asphalt, and the repair was a massive undertaking. Two automobiles could easily fit into the huge hole necessary to reach the problem.
My prissy across-the-street neighbor was horrified over the hole and the mountain of excavation mud piled up in the street in front of her immaculate brick-paved front walk. We were concerned over her reaction and she soon caught sight of me peering into the chasm. “What are you doing to my beautiful yard!” she exclaimed in a rage. “Inez,” I explained, “your tree roots grew into the city sewer lateral and the Water Works wants to blame it on you. I’m trying to stop them.” Inez flew back into her house and was no further problem.
But in fact, I was furious with the City Water Works. The problem was caused by cheap pipe and poor installation, all done in the public street under City jurisdiction long before I bought my lot. Faced with the mammoth expenditure, I rushed downtown to confront the Chief Engineer of the Water and Sewer Board. I demanded that his department at least share in the cost because “the City part of the line caused the problem, not my part.” He only smiled and declined my request with the advice “That’s just how it goes sometimes.”
Twelve months later, in September of 1992, when the Tower design had been published, this same chief engineer came by the PH&J office and excitedly reported that the Tower mass would block the line-of-sight radio signals which are used by the Water and Sewer Department to control well pumps and sewage lift stations all over the city. He wanted us to relocate the structure, but failing that, insisted that the RSA bear the cost of revamping their radio control system.
Yours truly was oh so sympathetic, but I could not resist reminding him of the huge sewer hole on Jasmine Road a year earlier. I smiled and suggested, “That’s just how it goes sometimes.”
-Charles Humphries (“Peril and Intrigue Within Architecture”)