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Grand Rapids, MI

​Hi.  I'm Mike Dokter.  I've ridden the coat tails of others.  I hang out with people who are much more talented and much smarter than I am.  I consistently work to learn as much as I can from these people so I can help others along their journey as well.  

How My Feelings of Rage Subsided to Feelings of Disconnect

What I think...

How My Feelings of Rage Subsided to Feelings of Disconnect

Mike Dokter

Have you ever received a letter from your municipality’s engineering department? Me either…until today.  In fact, I had no idea the fancy engineers of Grand Rapids even cared I existed.  That is, until there was an official engineering complaint about me.  Yeah, I know.  I’m clearly a problem for civil engineers everywhere.


Apparently one of my neighbors takes issue with the way I shovel my sidewalk.  And, apparently, there’s a complaint line for that kind of stuff.  I have to admit, I was a bit taken aback when I received this letter as I have lived in my house for 9 years and have not ever received an official letter of discontent from the city in which I reside. 


My initial reaction was to completely fly off the facetious handle and staple a variety of finely tuned messages to the trees in my front yard along the sidewalk directed at my unsatisfied neighbor and the civil engineer who now has to come by my house tomorrow to make sure I know how to shovel.  My second reaction was to take to everyone’s favorite medium for discontent, Facebook, and publically call out the ridiculousness of this situation.  Thankfully, I have a better half that is much smarter and better looking than I, and advised against these things.


Outside of my blatant frustration with being “tattled on”, I started thinking about how this situation may have worked out differently.


My guess is, after the ice storm a week or so ago, someone attempted to walk on the sidewalk in front of my house and possibly slipped or had to walk through the snow/slush/ice buildup that had occurred.  The offended party then must have decided to call the CITY OF GRAND RAPIDS where we all pay taxes and file an official complaint.  This used up valuable resources from Reception to Civil Engineer Snow Removal Babysitter.  I receive the letter.  I get fussy.  This is the basic course of events to my knowledge.


My question is, why wouldn’t this individual knock on my door so we could talk face to face about the situation?  If that happened, the offended party could have possibly seen that I have been sick with a respiratory infection since before the first of the year.  A respiratory infection, that makes me feel like an 85-year-old man with emphysema.  One that doesn’t allow me to chip away at the 3 inches of ice built up on my sidewalk underneath the mammoth ice chunks the city’s plow threw on top.  Also, it was going to be 45 degrees in 3 days and the ice was going to melt (which it did).  And I did shovel the ice chunks and loose snow out of the way within a day or two ensuring that the ice remaining had ample chance to melt in the weather to come. They may also have realized, through social conversation, (yes, I know this is a really, really old school thing that only exists in certain parts of the world anymore) that I have been their neighbor for 9 years and there have never been any issues with either my yard or my sidewalk.  In fact, I’m the neighbor who routinely snow blows the sidewalk of the ENTIRE STREET when the situation arises, as well as the neighbor who took care of the yard of the foreclosed house next to mine when the bank forgot about it last summer and the yard became overgrown.  Oh, and I always shoveled their sidewalk and made sure it was clear the winter before that when the bank also forgot to visit.  Not to mention the thousands of dollars I've invested in making my yard actually look like a yard instead of a pine tree infested desert so their property value could go up.


These are things that this neighbor does not know about me because they chose to call Big Brother before they chose to attempt communication with the guy who doesn’t plan on moving any time soon.


I’m sure my facetiousness still shows through as my rage has only 95% subsided.  But let’s think about the bigger issue here.  What have I done to become so unapproachable that the individuals who live within 100 yards of me cannot come to my door and attempt to resolve a conflict?  Why have we become so disconnected with each other that we have to go 10 miles away to have someone else resolve a conflict we around the corner?


I don’t know the answers to these questions and I may never know what I did to make myself as unapproachable as this neighbor assumes I am.  What I do know is that it saddens me that they feel this way.  It saddens me that as a society, we feel so disconnected from each other that our first reaction is always defensive.  It saddens me that my first reaction was blind rage toward both my unknown neighbor and the City of Grand Rapids for even entertaining the complaint. 


So, Mr. or Ms. Unsatisfied: please forgive me.  My sidewalk is shoveled and will continue to be shoveled/snow blown for the duration of the winter.  If you could, in the future, please contact me directly about matters such as this, it would be much appreciated.