Tuesday, January 31, 2023 Jan 31, 2023
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First Person: Water Vigilante

Dallas’ favorite pop psychologist has won millions of fans with his Tuesday appearances at the right hand of Oprah. But now that Dr. Phil has his own daytime television show, will those fans still listen when he "tells it like it is"?
By Heather Havrilesky |


The perp turned out to be none other than the city of Dallas itself. In front of a Public Works and Transportation building, water dribbled out of the grass and down Canton Street. And directly across the street stood a billboard with a public service ad for the Water Utilities department. It read, “Have Your Sprinkler Heads Examined.” This calls for more than one exclamation point: !!!


The rest of my ride-along was illuminating, if not as irony filled. I learned that Patricia is really a kindhearted woman with a nearly impossible job to do. She is responsible for policing roughly 192 square miles, and the day we went out, we spotted a violation in some neighborhoods every few hundred feet.

More importantly, though, I learned that I am a snitch. A tattletale. A stoolie. I am way beyond concerned, citizen-wise. I delight in bringing scofflaws to justice. Since riding with Patricia, I have called in more than one potential violation (note to Post Properties management: that was me). I’m fueled by an odd vigilantism, like Chuck Bronson in Death Wish 4, who, when a friend’s daughter dies of an overdose, has no choice but to go to war on drug dealers. Except my friend’s daughter hasn’t died of an overdose, and I’m only going to war with those drug dealers who cause or permit the irrigation or watering of any lawn between 10 am and 6 pm. But my point is, I’m filled with a white-hot, burning rage that can only be quenched by a well-aimed, well-maintained sprinkler head.

When Patricia and I stopped at one house that had been running its sprinklers throughout the afternoon, using upwards of 65,000 gallons of water a day, and when she only wrote the groundskeeper a warning, I wanted to scream, “Bring him down! Issue him a fine of not less than $250 but no more than $2,000! And do it slowly, so I can watch the expression on his face.”

But I didn’t. My focus remains on the “code” part of “code enforcement.” But I have Patricia’s cell phone number, and I know where you water wasters live.