There is a deep, wide pothole at the end of our driveway. It is a swath where the gutter has somehow widened into a crevasse, a minor canyon across which you must drive to enter or exit. If you cross too quickly or too recklessly, you will be rewarded with a violent jolt and the sound of your car's chassis meeting the pavement in an unpleasant fashion.
Naturally, this enormous pothole does not drain all that well. When water runs down the block, it tends to collect in the ditch rather than continue on to the storm drain, and once it's in the ditch, it tends to stay there until it evaporates, which is never. So in a way, it's like having lakefront property.
There is also a Mongolian family in our building. They don't talk much when we see them. It is hard to tell how much English they know. Here is what we do know about them: They have a couple of young children, the husband drives around a big workman's equipment truck like contractors and gardeners use, and he refused to lend us his big ladder when the air conditioner installers forgot theirs last summer, forcing us to reschedule our air conditioner installation. That was annoying, but I can't really blame him. Nobody likes to lend things, and why should he trust a couple of A/C installers who can't even remember to bring their own ladder?
The other thing that we know about them is that they give us funny looks. Stephanie says that they are often shooting her suspicious, oddly accusatory glares for no reason.
A few nights ago, as I was walking from my car to our building, I found the Mongolian husband standing at the foot of the driveway, inexplicably patting down dirt into the massive puddle with a shovel. I smiled at him and nodded hello, as one does to greet a neighbor one recognizes but does not actually know. He returned my smile with a cold what-are-you-looking-at? stare.
The shovel and the dirt seemed a little weird, but I tried to ignore it. I am not sure what result he was hoping for, but here is the one that he got: Mud.
I don't know, maybe he thought that the dirt would cushion the bump for any cars that had to cross the gap. Maybe he thought the dirt would fill in the gap so that the water could flow onward freely, or soak up the water and make it magically disappear. Surely he did not intend to create a mud pit that would cake mud onto the tires of every car that parks behind our building, creating heavy mud tire tracks all they way up the driveway and criss-crossing the entire parking area. That couldn't have been what he wanted, could it?
Nevertheless, that is what we have now. A huge, huge muddy mess. Someone will have to seriously hose down the whole driveway and parking area, and even that will be pointless unless someone cleans up the mud in the pit. As I've mentioned before, there is no drainage, which means that the only way for the mud to go away is for somebody to actually go back with a shovel and physically remove it. We may be stuck with the mud for a while, since it's hard to imagine somebody actually doing that. Of course, it's also hard to imagine someone filling a huge puddle with mud, and someone did that, so what do I know?
Our landlord swung by yesterday on an unrelated matter. Dismayed, she asked what on earth had happened to the driveway.
"I don't know," I said, not wanting to be a tattletale (but secretly totally wanting to be a tattletale). "It looks like somebody filled the puddle with dirt. I don't know why they would do that. But someone must have put it there, because where else would all that dirt come from, right?"
"Who would do that?" she said.
"I don't know," I replied.