Sunday, June 19, 2011

For more information on this title click on book cover at right of this blog. Thanks.

Sewer Covers

Today’s question is: Can a sewer cover be made to fall through the hole that it was designed to cover?

We were playing stickball up the old Howard Playstead when our sponge rubber ball got away from us. It rolled down the Birchwood Rd. hill or went over the Howard Corner wall and right into the sewer on Lawrence St.

Losing rubber balls of one type or another down a corner sewer was a common childhood experience in Lawrence and I imagine in any inner city. The balls were not all that expensive as I remember, but none of us ever had a dime between ten of us. Even if we all chipped in and came up with the required amount then we would have the problem of whom the ball actually belonged to once the game was concluded. But in truth the option of buying a new ball was rarely even considered.

We all gathered around the sewer and contemplated.

The ball was right there. We could see it bobbing up and down. Could we get it with a stick or maybe two sticks? What about a tree branch? How about a coat hanger with a loop in the bottom tied to the end of a stick? How about a stick with a Dixie Cup tacked to the end of it? This was a job for Plastic Man.

What if we lifted the sewer cover off the hole and then had the one of us with the longest arms reach down into the sewer and grab up our ball? Good idea.

The sewer cover was heavier than we thought. It took four of us gripping the sewer cover through the square holes to get it up and carry it off to the side. But then we realized that our sewer with no cover was right on the corner of busy Lawrence St. and Birchwood Rd. If a car was coming up Lawrence St. heading to Broadway and it wanted to turn on Birchwood, its front tire could go right into the hole. Oh man, it could get destroyed.

Some of us would have to direct traffic around the sewer hole while the rest of us rescued our ball.

Well … not so simple! Even Dolan who was all arms couldn’t reach it – even with one of us sitting on his calves while two of us each grabbed onto a foot and sneaker. There was only one way. We would have to dip Dolan down into the sewer, head first, while two of us held him by the legs.

Dolan opposed this idea. “What if you guys drop me?” he argued.

“Why would we drop you?” we countered.

“Because two of you ain’t strong enough.”

“Okay, what if we put two guys on each leg?”

“And what if you guys decide to drop me just for the fun of it?” Everybody laughed. “Yeah, see?”

“No we won’t let you go. We need the ball. It would be stupid for us to let you go.”

Dolan was not thoroughly convinced but he agreed. He laid down on the ground and scootched himself forward over the sewer hole as far as he could. Two of us on each side grabbed a leg and upsy-daizy went Dolan. We lowered him down into the sewer, head first.

It was a bit hairy there for a moment or two as proper positioning got a little cramped and guys started stumbling over one another’s feet. Then Dolan, feeling the stumbling, began screaming and cursing up at us. Unfortunately this started me laughing. As the laughing spread, Dolan began screaming louder and louder. But in-between the sputtering we got him down low enough into the sewer that he was able to latch a mitt onto our ball. There were several other balls down there and one of the guys suggested to Dolan that while he was down there why didn’t he toss the one he had in his hand up and out of the sewer and then start gathering up some of the others.

Dolan’s response to this suggestion was not nice – very, very gutterish. A kind of sewer talk, you might say. This caused a resumption in the sputtering amongst the holding crew. Dolan demanded to be fished back up immediately.

We began stumbling away from the sewer in a direction to Dolan’s advantage. When we finally dropped Dolan on the asphalt we all dropped to the ground laughing.

Okay, the operation was a success now all that was necessary was to get the cover back onto the sewer hole.

We took our positions around the sewer cover and dead-lifted the monster. We clumsily side-stepped, our way back to the sewer. We had four of us holding the sewer cover about 3 feet above the sewer hole. It was heavy and we were all straining. “Let’s just drop it,” someone suggested. “Then we can straighten it up.”
It was agreed that on the count of three we would all let go of the sewer cover and jump backwards getting our toes out of the way. We didn’t want any smushed toes.
“Okay … one … two … three … drop it!”

The drop went perfect and none of us got our toes smushed but to our total amazement the sewer cover dropped somewhat tilted and instead of landing a little off center, the damn thing went right through the hole and splashed down into the sewer.

For some reason our first reaction when any catastrophe struck, was to run. Somebody screamed “Oh shit!” and we all took off running. We didn’t get further than the next corner when someone yelled, “We can’t run away. What if a car goes into the sewer hole and then crashes and kills everybody?” We all spun around and ran back to the sewer hole. We positioned ourselves around the sewer and then sent Jack Greco, who lived nearby, to call the cops.

Calling the cops was not something that occurred to us on a regular basis. It fact, it almost never occurred to us. But on this occasion, it somehow came right to mind.
When the cops got there we told them that when we arrived at the corner to play a little stickball we noticed to our horror and shock that the sewer had no cover. So, good citizens that we were, we immediately stationed ourselves around the sewer and had somebody call the cops.

The cops looked at us very suspiciously but called the city department nevertheless. The city department came out with warning sawhorses with reflectors and placed them around the sewer. Both the cops and the city workers complimented us on our community spirit. One of the cops kept smirking at us as we all gleamed and glowed and took our bows. It was like he knew but for some reason wasn’t going to rat on us. We all played it for all that it was worth. We were the little Howard Playground heroes.

But after the cops and everybody else left we all breathed a sigh of relief and slapped each other on the back. We agreed unanimously that removing the sewer cover was stupid. We tried to recall which one of us decided that we should all return to the scene of the crime and then have Grecs go back home and call the cops. Dolan said that it was his idea but that didn’t … float. We all quickly agreed that a good idea from Dolan would be without sufficient precedent.

It is rather amazing in retrospect to reflect on how stupid can turn into genius with the casual flip of a sewer cover.

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