In a public relations coup, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (Metro) gave a certificate of appreciation to a man who voluntarily planted flowers in flower boxes that the agency had been neglecting for years at the Dupont Circle MetroRail station. I’m sorry, did I say “certificate of appreciation”? I meant a letter threatening him with “arrest, fines and imprisonment” if he planted any more flowers or tended any of the more than 1,000 flowers he has already planted.
Henry Docter, who styles himself the “Phantom Planter,” says he has planted flowers in public spaces on four continents. Usually, he tries to remain anonymous, but in this case he feared Metro would mistake his flowers for weeds and poison them. So he wrote a letter telling Metro about the flowers and offered to weed, water, and tend them.
Metro says it is merely worried about liability, but Docter says he is willing to sign a waiver. Embarrassed officials say they probably should have left “the word ‘imprisonment’” out of their letter, but that still leaves “arrest and fines.”
“In retrospect, it was a mistake to ask for permission,” says Docter now, adding that he has previously planted flowers at that location and Metro never noticed.
In other news, the NSA has announced that it is monitoring Docter’s telecommunications and the Obama administration is ready to call in a drone strike if he is discovered to be planting any more flowers on public property.