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August 11, 2000: don't let this happen to you


Sometimes I wish I had a digital camera I carried around all the time.

Last Sunday night I saw: a car, surrounded by police cars, with two tow trucks, one in front, one in behind, being hooked up. A car, looking basically undamaged. A car, looking, at first, as if it had a flat front left tire.

Very flat.

So flat, it was down to the axle.

On further observation, it was clear that the tire was down in a hole. This was in the middle of Somerville Avenue, a frequently travelled major two-lane road. At first I thought maybe the wheel was down in a manhole.

I was walking to the store at the time. On the way back, the car was gone, so I could get a good look at the hole. The car had come to stop with the wheel as far forward and to its left as possible, so the hole had been blocked. It was not, in fact, a manhole. It was just a gaping hole in the asphalt, about two tire diameters long, about two tire widths wide.

Since this was not a place where cars could easily have been doing jumps or popping up on two wheels, I have to assume the car had been driving along minding its own business, when suddenly a chunk of the road collapsed out from under it, and the car slammed to a halt. (I'm not clear why the car's momentum wouldn't have pushed it right out of the hole as it formed...)

The next day, there were workmen at the site, and it was now a nearly car-sized hole--presumably because they needed to do that to fix it, not because a car had come along in the interim and taken things further.

On the walk to the T station I used to take daily on the way to work, there's a stretch where you're walking on a sidewalk with Somerville Avenue on one side, and the commuter rail line on the other, 15 or 25 feet below, with a tall fence between you and the trains. I had noticed while walking along there that at one spot there was a 6"-wide hole in the asphalt, and looking through it, you could see down an awfully long way--down to the level of the commuter rail. I always wondered about that--not clear on what exactly was supporting the asphalt. But, hey, I figured the odds of the asphalt collapsing were pretty low.

Now I'm glad I don't walk that way to work anymore.

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