Save our Economy: Surrender the Sidewalk Chalk!


Article Courtesy of The Loudoun Times Mirror

By Vineeta Ribeiro
Posted on July 12, 2008 


Ben Bernanke, move over.  The Chairman of the Federal Reserve System may think he knows the answers to our country’s economic woes: soaring gas and food prices, wilting consumer confidence, the housing market doing a belly-flop, and the credit crunch.  Need I say more? 

Dr. Bernanke may think he is qualified to run the financial helm of the nation, with his bachelor’s degree from Harvard (graduating summa cum laude, no less), a Ph.D. from MIT, and as a former professor at Princeton, but someone in our own locale has understood things much better.  Someone here is going to “do us proud.” 

My Homeowner’s Association, or at least its Board, has solved the mystery to the housing debacle.  You and I, like many other simpletons, may have swallowed the story about easy credit and investors snatching up houses like Kmart blue-light specials as being the key factors in the housing bubble.  Remember when it was enough to let the bank officer know that, although you had no income or assets of your own, your uncle’s neighbor was currently dating a girl whose father owned a prosperous business?  On that basis alone, you could secure an interest-only, variable-rate, whopper of a loan.  

Okay, that may have created the bubble.  But what pointy object can be blamed for bursting it?  Get the presidential candidates out here and call a press conference.  Oh, yeah, and don’t forget to call in Dr. Bernanke himself.  The real culprit is...ready? ... Sidewalk Chalk. 

Last month, we received a “Safety Message” from the Board of Directors of our subdivision showing typical, blonde-haired suburban children playing in their lawns, of the chemically treated, verdant green variety.  The point was that children should not play in the streets – they should stick to their own yards, because wouldn’t it be tragic for a child to be mowed over by a gas-guzzling SUV? 

At the end of the notice, there was more: “Don’t let children use chalk on the street or on driveways.  It’s unsightly and lowers property values.”  Printed in red, it was unclear whether that was just friendly advice or an edict.  Wow, I thought, when I read this.  Has anyone else noticed the negative correlation between the sales volume of sidewalk chalk and houses in our area?  Why are we paying these people in Washington, DC, so much when mere laypeople here have figured out the problem? 

There was more at the end telling us, “Please do not discard, save this as a reminder!”  If you knew the mountains of paper, receipts, instruction manuals, and children’s schoolwork that fills our home, you would know that I need little encouragement to save anything.  But since I’ve already gotten in trouble with our Association on several occasions, I am afraid to disobey anything else they tell me.   

The first time, we got a violation notice because my daughter had not picked up after her pooch.  Right on target, there!  I agree completely.  I have seen dogs the size of small ponies being walked in the neighborhood, and nary a bag or other collection tool in sight.  Run DNA tests on the poop, determine the dog and owner, and then plaster the porch with the pet’s forgotten deposits.  The second time, it was because our trashcan was visible on a non-trash collection day.  I’m glad we are paying people to patrol the streets and photograph evidence of this sort of negligence.  (We were allowed to make our trashcan face the neighbor’s house instead of the street.  Our neighbors haven’t given us a citation yet.)  The third time, we got a notice for having sagging support stakes on those two standard saplings that everybody’s yard has.  I would like to tell the Association that my husband and I are in our fifties and forties, respectively.  If support stakes are all that’s drooping, they should be sending us cards of congratulations, not violations.  The last notice targeting us personally was for lack of yard maintenance.  Do these people have any idea how tough it is to goad your kids into mowing the lawn?  At least that’s one way to keep them off the streets. 

Our homeowner’s quarterly newsletter then arrived correcting which Virginia Statute (not Town Ordinance) should have been cited in keeping the children off the streets.  Some homeowners had apparently told the Board they had had trouble in seeing kids with the afternoon sun in their eyes.  (Let’s don’t blame just the sun.  Other common culprits that can reduce visibility, from which I do not claim to be exempt: sleep deprivation, a Tall Latte, the cell phone keypad, or even the occasional touchup tube of lipstick.) 

The US Government has been wasting time giving us money that it does not actually have.  Instead of giving us economic stimulus payments that people might squander on sidewalk chalk and other destructive items, it should be paying people to scour the land, ridding it of sidewalk chalk and its resultant detrimental decorations. 

Our police department may think they are busy now.  Wait till they get around to truly important business like patrolling our streets for young, chalk-wielding hooligans.  I can imagine it now: “Get up off the sidewalk, young man.  Put your hands up, and lay down your chalk!  Put it down slowly and be careful you do not leave a mark.”   

A good way to find these young rapscallions would be to equip all of our patrol cars with seismographs that monitor quivering home prices instead of tremors from the earth.  That would be a better use of funds.  After all, these are not just the concerns of a self-obsessed subdivision in small town America, this issue affects the very stability of our country.  Patriots should be willing to sacrifice a little, and little people should be willing to sacrifice the most. 

Obviously, I have not been as active in our homeowner’s association as I should be, but I plan to get involved soon, because I can foresee some astounding achievements on the part of our HOA.  For example, has anyone checked whether sidewalk chalk is edible?  And also, is it possible that there is a huge carbon release when sidewalk chalk is used?  Because if so, we could get people to start eating sidewalk chalk, thereby solving world hunger, while simultaneously preventing its carbon-emitting use, thereby solving global warming.  Then, property values could go back up to their previously unaffordable, unsustainable, yet extremely desirable values.  Won’t everybody be happy then?