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Last week, the Domino’s Pizza chain urged furloughed federal employees to pick up their phones to express their outrage—and order a pizza. Offering workers a dollar discount on its ham and cheese pizza, the civic-minded Domino’s invited nonessential staffers to photocopy any of their bills that need paying, affix a nasty note, and have them sent in a big pile “to the offices of Bill “Big Cheese’ Clinton and Newt “Big Ham’ Gingrich,” according to a press release. The accompanying notes have been unhappy but predictable: “Here—pay my bill”; “I have a mortgage…. Stop acting like children.” As of last Thursday, only 100 unpaid vacationers had participated in the “Eat My Bills” promotion, but Frank Meeks, owner of the Washington-area Domino’s stores, was impressed with the turnout. But he’s more impressed with the bills generated on Capitol Hill—pizza bills, that is. Because some congressional cafeterias were closed during the shutdown, Meeks claims that pizza delivery to the White House and Capitol multiplied tenfold after the start of the budget crisis.
The city’s budget crisis continues to wreak havoc across Washington: AIDS patients fear losing crucial health services. Homeless people shiver above subway grates. Firefighters limp along in ailing ladder trucks to extinguish blazes and save lives. And the tree-lined streets of Chevy Chase may be somewhat less shady when this tragedy finally ends. The Chevy Chase Citizens Association (CCCA) posted an urgent letter last week to D.C. financial control board Executive Director John W. Hill Jr. alerting him to their tree trouble. “There is a desperate need for adequate funding for city tree services which have been neglected badly because of inadequate funds,” wrote CCCA President Evelyn Wrin. Without adequate funding—about $900,000 —all those willow oaks, northern reds, and maples won’t be trimmed, creating ghastly overgrowth, Wrin says, and dead-tree and stump removal may virtually stop unless the board approves an arboreal line-item in the budget. “There has to be the recognition that trees are more than just pretty,” says Wrin.
You Know You’re in a Company Town When…
Last week’s government shutdown no doubt caused federal workers a degree of insecurity. But on Monday, the Washington Post compared furloughed workers’ angst to the trauma suffered by former Iraqi hostages. The absurd comparison wasn’t just a joke to lead the story, but a full-throated exploration of the similarities. “Reports say ex-hostages experience withdrawal, disorientation, confusion, guilt and depression,” wrote reporters Anna Borgman and Yolanda Woodlee, adding, “They also can be quite angry if they were abandoned during their difficulties, according to the British Medical Journal.” Mind you, federal workers will receive full pay for their unexpected four-day vacation. Yet the Post speculated that the workers questioned their very “survival” during the ordeal. Perhaps they missed the nightly TV-news reports about the hordes of federal workers swarming the pre-Thanksgiving sales at Tysons Corner during their brief hiatus. Either that, or the reporters believe updating résumés and watching daytime television have risen to a higher form of torture.