When last we visited Ann and Phil Truluck, they were mired in red tape, waiting for an act of Congress to bring them their mail.
Today, they're still waiting for Congress, but they're getting their mail anyway. The bureaucracy came to them.
"It was kind of like Divne Intervention, considering the way things usually work in Washington," mused Phil Truluck, executive vice president of the Heritage Foundation.
After a story appeared in The Washington Post documenting the Trulucks' 11-month entanglement with government-style efficiency, U.S. Postmaster General William F. Bolger "decided to give it my personal attention."
Truluck recalls the startling chain of events:
"We had gone to Beech Mountain in North Carolina and had some people house sitting for us.First, Nadine Winter (their Ward 6 City Council member) called, but (the house sitters) didn't think it was worth bothering us about. Then several historians and Channel 4 called, but they didn't think that was important enough to bother us about either.
"But then Mr. Bolger called. Our house sitters called us right away."
The following Monday, Truluck called Bolger back. "He had our file out when I called.He was most gracious. He said he'd read our story in The Post and that the whole thing was ridiculous, that he would cut through the red tape."
The Trulucks began wading through the swamplands of District bureaucracy last January, a month before they moved into a renovated warehouse facing an alley between 11th and 12th streets NE and Constitution Avenue and East Capitol Street on Capitol Hill. The construction had gone smoothly enough, and the 1 1/2-story, turn-of-the-century horse barn they bought for $30,000 was transformed into a modern, three-story home worth upwards of $200,000.
But because their house faced an alley and had no access to a proper street, the Trulucks had no address. With no address, the Postal Service refused to deliver their mail.
So the Trulucks had to name their alley. They hired a consultant, and on Jan. 17, a proposed bill to name the alley Walter Houp Court was sent to City Council member Winter. Meanwhile, the Trulucks' mail was being sent to his office.
Once in Winter's hands, the bill was assigned to a part-time student employe. In June, it was forwarded to the council. In August, the council adjourned for its month-long summer vacation.
The bill passed council on Nov. 12, and Mayor Marion Barry signed it 10 days later. It will become law if Congress does not object within 30 working days. But with Congress on the brink of adjournment, it could very well have been March before the Trulucks got their mail at home, since the 30-day waiting period starts anew when the 97th Congress convenes next month.
Things seemed hopeless, Phil Truluck was saying.
But then it happened. The bureaucracy took the initiative.
"After reading about the problem," Bolger says, he figures "that as long as these people were going to get the service when Congress acted, why should he wait for it . . . If I see something like this happening, I sure do like to take a personal interest."
By the end of the week, the Trulucks had some delivery. They still don't have an address, but at least they have their mail, delivered "to the rear of 1110 E. Capitol St."
"At this point," said Truluck, "we'll take what we can get."