Mark Washburn

Water leaks, stalled towers – and now eels

A plague of unpleasantness has been unleashed upon us. And in stout Charlotte spirit, we need to find a way to ignore it.

Or at least put the best face on it. That's why I'm here – professional image control.

We'll get to the eels in a moment.

Let us agree this Emerald City of the Piedmont didn't get built without the occasional hitch. What's important is we've kept up appearances.

So here's how we explain this to outsiders.

Our water system is as secure as can be. People who think pipes are bursting all over are mistaken. As a New South colossus with an eye toward tourism, we are pioneers in the installation of what we call “serendipitous geysers.”

If one of these attractions should erupt in your lane while showing relatives around, just smile and say calmly, “That's why they call us the Yellowstone of the East.” Then floor it.

Uptown is not on the brink of a construction crisis. Yes, a few marquee projects are stalled over financing, squabbles between contractors and the pythonic constriction of the economy.

But these things happen all the time. In referring to the current developments, avoid the phrase “gone bust.” Instead, the principals are merely enjoying a “credit holiday.”

Likewise, our key industry of banking is fine. It's just going through a bit of a tumble while it sheds unneeded workers to make up for a few – and stress the word few – colossal, boneheaded moves at the top. This process is a mere “asset adjustment.”

We are not in the midst of a years-long drought. We are simply managing a periodic groundwater drawdown. Tell your friends we need to scrub the aquifers.

Our housing market looks fabulous. There are houses everywhere. Those who beg to differ are probably in the wee tiny minority of people who are trying desperately to sell theirs. New kitchen cabinets would probably save the day.

Now, about the eels.

See, eels used to inhabit the mighty Catawba, but the march of progress muscled them out when all the dams got built and they just couldn't get around. So the feds and power companies are going to make eel lanes and lug them around the dams with other fish and pop them back in the river. That's official. A federal eel agency is apparently involved.

This poses image problems.

Because most outsiders have no idea where Charlotte is, they may assume we lie hard on the banks of a migratory tract of writhing sea serpents. I have it on good authority that eels aren't desirous of human companionship like, say, puppies or mosquitoes, but a YouTube video of just one eel loose in a motel pool in Charlotte could ruin us all.

Here's our story. There is no impending eel crisis. Quite the opposite.

You see, the eels are only passing through – on their way to Raleigh.