The Manhole

the infamous manhole: It has been well over twenty years since I have seen this, it has been changed to be safer, thank goodness!


This is a story I told my students at the beginning of each year when we did “icebreakers” to make everyone comfortable with each other in preparation for a year of French study.

Once upon a time I was going to the dentist.

I was with my wife and my infant son, who was in the back of the car in his baby seat.

I parked the car, went around the back and opened up the door to remove my son from his seat.  I leaned over, undid him from his seat, grabbed him, and as I did so I stepped on a manhole cover.  In doing so, not being a huge cover, it flipped in its surroundings, akin to a coin flipping.  My left leg slipped in the hole as I held my son and in the hole it went!  A bit of a shocking experience, even more so when you think my infant son could have slipped down that hole. 

After recovering from the initial shock, I went into the dental office with my wife, a bit freaked by the strange occurrence.  After pulling my leg out of the manhole, I saw that the cover was supposed to be secured to the surround by metal clamps, which were missing.  I was able to walk, but my upper left leg, close to the hip hurt a lot.  Upon signing in for our appointment, and talking to the receptionist, I went into the washroom to see what sort of damage I had received from the “accident.”  My leg was bruised and swelling so I managed to have my dental appointment and we decided to go the emergency room and make sure I had no major damage.

It turns out that I had major abrasion, needed to keep it iced and also to stay off of the leg for at least a day.  I was informed that had I been older that I would have most assuredly broken my leg and/or hip by the incident.

Considering that this was negligence on the part of the community I had the accident in, I submitted my bill for the emergency room and a letter of explanation to the Village of Kenilworth.  I received a curt response saying that it was not their issue and they were not going to pay for the care I had received.  Talking to a friend who was a lawyer, I was told that had I been older and, in fact, broken something that I could have sued.  Luckily, young guy that I was, that was not the case.

I have often said that everything that happens, even when bad, can have some good in it.  Every year, when I told this story, my students looked at me as if I were making it up.  I told the story to put my students at ease.  I gave it as an example of what I expected from them as they introduced themselves to each other and told of the strangest thing that ever happened to them.  Their looks were priceless…


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