Cedars in the Parking Lot

Nate Newman arrived early on the first day at his new job in Austin. He drove into the parking lot which flanked six recently-constructed new buildings interconnected by covered walkways and looked for his assigned building. The rows of cars were separated by continuous beds of trees which Nate saw as attractive rows, almost walls, of Christmas trees. When he located his destination, he parked and got out of his car, stretched and paused to take stock of his surroundings. That is when he noticed that the trees were not Christmas trees but cedars – Austin’s scourge.

Nate was a procrastinator and now wondered if he was doing the right thing in starting to work for a company which must be crazy. Yes crazy, he thought, nuts or plain stupid to plant this invasive tree. He thought back to numerous articles urging responsible Austin landowners to cull cedars where possible citing it as an alien predator, which sucks moisture from desirable indigenous trees, like oaks and pecans. What worried him even more was the thought that he would have to park among these monsters in the cedar fever season. Annually, in late December and early January, when the cedars were covered with pollen and release their loads into the air with dramatic puffs, he succumbed to congestion, headaches, sneezing and hot flushes and was so miserable that he always had to have his doctor give him a series of curative shots. He wondered how he was going to cope with a parking lot immersed in the source of his annual affliction. He almost got back in his car and drove off.

Inside the building Nate’s new boss, Wallace Walker, greeted him warmly and undertook to give him an office tour. He apologetically pointed to boxes strewn everywhere and explained that they were in the process of moving into this just completed building. He guided Nate to his assigned office and then, as they ambled toward the coffee station they paused at a perimeter window to gaze outside. The view reminded Nate of his concern about the cedar trees. He looked at Wallace and asked,

“Isn’t it odd to have a parking lot planted with cedar trees?” he paused to assess Wallace’s reaction and continued “that lot is going to be lethal for a cedar fever sufferer like me!” Wallace’s reply was instant,

“Don’t worry it is going to be changed!”

“That’s a relief!”

“I’d better explain so that you don’t worry. We instructed our Houston based architect to retain an award-winning, Californian landscape designer. His signature is dramatic plant groupings, and his design concept for the parking area was that we should have walls of living green dividing it into ‘rooms’. It wasn’t until the trees were planted that we realized that they were cedars!”

“That must have been quite an awakening” said Nate.

“Yep. You could say that. Guess that’s what you get with designers from out-of-town. Of course, we have instructed them that it is an unacceptable design error and must to be changed. They balked at first but have agreed to remove all sources of ceder pollen allergens from our site.” Wallace paused and looked around then he lowered his voice into a confidential whisper, “It will probably cost them $70,000; but then we can’t and won’t have cedar fever trees where people park!”

Just then they saw a young woman wearing a bright-red tea-shirt with the words ‘MISS CHEAP’ in bold white letters across her chest. She was weaving in and out among the trees. Wallace noticed Nate’s stare and gave an explanation,

“That’s our architect’s project manager!” he chuckled, “It is part of the same story associated with our famous Californian landscape designer. Before the cedar tree fiasco, he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, give us a landscape design in budget. Our senior management called for a meeting at our New York headquarters to discuss the problem. At the meeting the young lady you see out there, repeated her plea for a less costly landscape design.” For a moment both Wallace and Nate stood gazing out. Then Wallace continued his narrative,

“Upper management agreed with her as the landscape budget was set at $1 million while the cost estimate for the Californian’s design was over $2 million. Our company has also has an in-house architectural design manager who feebly attempted to support the expensive design concept. Suddenly, our Californian stood and walked to the floor-to-ceiling glass window. For a few seconds, he stared out onto New York, and then he turned to face the meeting, stamped his foot like a petulant child, and shouted,

‘I quit! I can’t go on. I’m stuck between Miss Cheap, and Mr. Good!’

“It was memorable moment. Ever since that meeting our architect has gone by Miss Cheap and our design manager by Mr. Good.”

After his tour, Nate spent the morning getting settled in his new office. At lunch-time, he slipped out to his car and was surprised to see Miss Cheap weaving in and out between the trees near his car. She was an attractive woman and looked friendly. She smiled at Nate. He stepped over to face her,

“Good morning, or is it afternoon already?” he began. Then, encouraged by her friendly smile and responsive greeting he continued, “You’ve been out among these cedars all morning. I’m curious to know what you are doing especially as Wallace Walker, my boss, tells me that they are all going to be replaced? Cedar fever and all…….”

Miss Cheap paused and smiled.

“Yes, I agree, we can’t have cedar fever allergens in the parking lot. But it is not that simple. You see the Austin cedars are not cedars.”

“Not cedars? But, but cedar fever is very real.”

“Oh yes, I know, cedar fever is real. The culprit is actually a juniper, Juniperus Ashei whose pollen has a biochemical coat which irritates the nostrils. These trees are Juniperus Virginiana whose pollen is larger than that of Ashei and generally not allergenic. However, in a population already sensitized by Ashei the Virginiana pollen can aggravate symptoms.”

“So, they are going to be replaced?”

“Well, yes, and no; you see the Juniperus Virginiana has dioecious reproduction.”

“Err, yes? dioecious reproduction?”

“Yes, that’s the botanist’s way of saying that the Juniperus has both male and female trees. Only the male trees produce pollen. I’ve spent the morning tagging the males for replacement with more females. Thereby we retain the design concept and save half the cost of replacement, some $35,000.”

“So, Miss Cheap, that sounds reasonable, but how do you know which are which? They all look the same to me.”

“Simple, the females have berries on them!”

9 thoughts on “Cedars in the Parking Lot

  1. Pertinent to me as I am ‘eccentric’ enough to believe in trees as sentient life forms. I still have traumas remembering a time when I had to fell a cedar that was getting too tall for my front garden: I hated doing it and I’ve never ceased to blame myself since.

    • Yours was, no doubt, a real cedar not a deviant Austin juniper! Your ‘eccentricity’ may account for the beautiful way that you describe landscapes in your magical writings.

  2. Now that brings back memories of the worst allergy attack I’ve ever had in good old Washington state after trimming trees for my daughter who lived there at the time. I needed Miss Cheap to isolate those males then. where was she? lol

    • I wonder what the Washington culprit was…..Miss Cheap was probably too cheap to get to Washington although rumor has it that she once made it to Seattle.

  3. I simply love that last line – “Simple, the females have berries on them!” – gave me a smile. And not a naughty one, I hasten to add 🙂

    You managed to cleverly weave in some highly technical stuff in there. It’s all German to me, Or, was that French?

    A simple but good read. Thank you, Jane, for sharing.

    • I suspect that the technical stuff may have its most appeal to Austin dwellers who annually deal with ”cedar fever’ and generally ‘hate’ this weed-like ‘tree’.
      As always thank you for your visit and comment!

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