Florida is in a terrible drought right now. We are facing the tightest watering restrictions we've ever faced because our sources have literally dried up.
The Tampa Bay Area is scrimping and saving all the water it can, hoping desperately to hold off until the rains come once more. This is a doubtful hope, as we've been in a drought for three years now, and we're terribly overdeveloped with a relatively poor infrastructure.
As a native, I hate to see this happening, but politicians and businessmen allowed their greed to exceed their judgement. And why shouldn't they? It's human nature to get what you want; the hell with everyone else. That is why government is supposed to be in place to check human nature. But government only works when it's also incorruptible.
Currently we have many abandoned homes in our neighborhoods. These are homes that have become neglected, run-down, with lawns that are dry and crispy from the lack of rain and no one to water them weekly.
The home behind me was once the most beautiful home in the neighborhood: It was a lovely oasis, tucked away from prying eyes, with a vast backyard of lush, green grass, rimmed with tropical landscaping and citrus trees. The tree in front of the house was majestic, and shaded a large part of this pristine home.
I recently checked on the home, which has been vandalized by local teens who've been holding parties there. Last Thanksgiving, they even dug a firepit in the middle of the formerly lush lawn, which is now nothing but brown straw. Alarmed neighbors called the police, as one spark could have brought down the entire neighborhood.
Windows are now broken, the roof has been compromised, the carpeting spongy and moist. The tree in the front yard has split in half, and is now laying on the white tiled roof.
The swimming pool had become a pond for a while, with murky depths that could conceal anything from a corpse to the Ebola virus. It was full of mosquito larvae and tadpoles - a sign that life hadn't entirely left the premises.
Due to the health hazard and my repeated calls to the city about it, the pool was finally drained and covered by some unknown group (possibly the bank that the property must have reverted to).
Other than this one concession, no one cares any more. The best property in the neighborhood is a virtually worthless tinderbox, waiting to go up in flames.
Down the street, some homes have become rental properties. A rental property usually means a different type of resident: Someone who doesn't care about the property or being part of the community. There is little to no obligation or responsibility.
Mexicans have moved into these homes, because (at least in this area) Mexicans don't mind cramming a couple families into one home and sharing the expenses. And because they have little-to-no regard for the people that they live amongst, they have contributed color to the neighborhood.
We now have thumping stereos from souped up cars travelling regularly through the neighborhood. We've had spectacular, noisy, screaming fights taking place at 7 AM on a Saturday morning: Our Mexican alarm clocks.
And yesterday, they decided to fire off illegal fireworks. Near the tinderbox.
We called the police.
They didn't bother to come.
Eventually, the Mexicans grew tired of all the pyrotechnics and, alarmed by seeing many of us watching them (and on our phones), they slunk off into their respective homes.
As I turned to go into my home, I saw that my next door neighbor, Mr. Clean, was running his sprinklers full-blast on a non-watering day. His lawn got some of the water; our street got the rest. You'd think if you were bent on doing something illegal, you'd at least want to get the full benefit of it.
I was pretty angry about this. I have tons of beautiful landscaping that I'm babying along because I'm playing by the rules. We are in the most severe drought that we've ever seen in Florida, and I'm a native suffering because so many people have moved down here that we may never see 'normal' water usage again.
So I called the hotline to report Mr. Clean's pirating. Do you see a theme here? Yup: I'm a tattletale.
The hotline's mailbox was full.
I called again, this time hanging on to the line so that an operator had to take my call.
"Oh, just leave it in the voicemail box," she said dismissively. I told her that the mailbox was full. "Well, we aren't equipped to take complaints," she said. "You'll just hafta call back durin' business hours. We don't send inspectors out at night, anyways."
"You don't?" I asked incredulously. "The news is full of reports of your inspectors catching homeowners watering illegally at night!"
"I dunno what ta tell ya," she said, bored already with our conversation. So, I shot off an email to Pinellas County Utilities. Who knows if they're any more interested than she is? I guess the disinformation was just a fluff piece to scare us into conforming: The tiger has no bite.
Who really cares about Florida's environment?