Its been quite some time since I had business at city hall. Code and building permit stuff. It seems bureaucracy has tightened its hold even more in my absence. I brought a check in to pay for a demolition permit, but was unable to get one right away. One person had to consult with another, and that person had to consult with another person…until I was talking with several, and had shake hands with more. It’s just a small house we have already started tearing down. I’ve done it before, so I know safety precautions. That wasn’t a top priority for them, however. They wanted to know where we were taking it and what percentage would go where. So I did a fast assessment. How much percentage would a roof be? Or walls? Salvage? Would it all stay in the city or go into the county? Please give the name and address of where it would be burned…and the county has rules that one must followed… (I’m wondering how they can inspect something that is burned.)
My biggest concern (unspoken, of course) is how I’m going to get those wonderfully aged 1 x 12 boards off the exterior wall without the roof collapsing. We intend to use them on another project where we want the rustic look. Actually, another big concern is how to remain silent until they tell me what I can and can’t do. If I declare a method or plan contrary to code, I will be obliged to fulfill another requirement. Quite a dance… As one inspector in the past put it, “We’re not here to tell you what to do; we are here for you to tell us what you are going to do.”
All this put me to thinking about humanity’s need for rules. We’ve been doing it for centuries. Society must protect and improve on itself until freedom is almost gone. At one time it was okay to do what was right in one’s own eyes. Of course, that allowed for lawlessness from the bullies and the hard-heads. The Pharisees tied up so many practices with “proper” rules that everyone was in bondage to the rules themselves. Then came Jesus and grace. We don’t have to obey all the rules to be acceptable. Freedom is wonderful even where standards of righteousness are still in place for our benefit.
City Hall has a few redeeming qualities. An inspector who helped me navigate those pesky questions, gave me a little room not to run from that place in a panic, and gave the nod for the (anal) permit giver to take my money and give me the permit. I think Jesus might just approve of that man. I did.