Of Migraines and Manholes

English: A commonly found NYC sewer manhole co...In my life, I have had many headaches.  Not all of them have been the migraine of lore.  In fact, as I get older, I get fewer and fewer of them.  But when I get them now, they tend to be more severe than before.  At the moment, I am trying to get over one.  It’s been with me for almost two days now.  Yesterday it subsided and I thought I was going to be in the clear.  Last night, it started to gnaw at me around the edges.  Today, I have been trying to go to work.  But each time I try, I start to feel the symptoms escalate.  I am afraid that it will be a rerun of two days ago–drive twenty miles to my job site, only to have to suffer through a twenty mile drive home with a full-blown migraine.

Especially when I have a migraine, I begin to focus on just how much noise we put up with in this modern world.  Most of it comes from the road.  Some of the worst offenders are, Harleys, crappy little cars with bad mufflers, large diesel trucks, 2000 watt rolling boom boxes, souped up pickups, and … manhole covers.

[A gap of four hours in here, as I once again was driven to bed]

Perhaps it is the fact that I have, like my father, superhuman hearing.  (He was a migraine sufferer as well.)  Or maybe it has something to do with the way that my brain is wired.  But certain noises make me want to vomit, even when I’m not having a migraine.  I’m assuming that this is not the case for most people, or we would actually have a multitude of noise ordinances–or at least we would be enforcing the ones we now have.  Most of the noises that drive me nuts are of the motor variety, or the driving low frequencies of distorting bass guitars and certain repetitive bass beats.   Over the last few days, I have also been accosted by the motor of the truck-mounted carpet cleaner, a species whose long, hose-like appendage makes its annual pilgrimage to our locale just before the collegium studentis novae move in for the start of the school year.  Fortunately, I was spared the throaty hum of the John Deere lawnmower that usually attacks about now.

In the country, the pitches and timbres of nature seems to be of a totally different nature.  Yes, there are birds of every sort, some rather shriekish by nature.  Some of the big cranes can even cause quite a startle if you are caught off guard by their cries.  Yet , for the most part, these noises never make me want to hurl or even annoy like the noises in town.  Perhaps this is why people in towns prefer to live in dwellings of brick and cement, which do not allow the penetration of most of the cacophony.  Perhaps, too, this is the lure of the high rise apartment, which enables one to rise above the din.  But this is not the lot of many of us who must live in old, poorly sealed homes with rattly windows.  Perhaps this also explains the real reason I’m so adamantly installing a basement with well-insulated cement walls to replace the crawl space under my house.  The idea of a cement ceiling has even crossed my mind.

Intersecting with this diatribe about nauseating noise is the entire ridiculousness of manholes and their covers.  Almost everyone is familiar with manholes.  You usually find them in the middle of intersections.  Usually they are placed right in the center of the square, where they are hardly ever touched by passing cars.  But not in my town.  Here, it’s as if they have been purposely placed so that you can’t avoid driving on them.  I have actually tried to avoid them all, and I can do it and stay in the lane with great difficulty.   Unfortunately, this causes my driving to look as if I had the three martini lunch with a few chasers.

But why, or why do I not want to drive over the manholes?  Even though I have a car with a perfectly good suspension, the fact is that I still feel the bumps every time I drive over one.  Once in awhile, this wouldn’t bother me, but it gets a little old when I can’t drive a mile without hitting 30 manholes!   Has anyone ever stopped to analyze the extra wear and tear to tires and suspension from having to drive over all those iron rings in the roads?  What about the fatigue to the road itself and to the manholes?  It seems like every new road I’ve seen built is being torn up in a matter of a few years to fix a broken manhole.  Give it a few more years and every manhole cover is ringed with fresh asphalt.

But the most truly annoying thing to me is the noise.  I don’t know if manhole covers are all warped in casting,  become bent in use, or if they are suppose to be placed a certain direction and get turned for some reason.  The result is a sound not unlike the sound of stamping heavy gauge steel in a punch press.  If you have even worked in a plant that does this, you know that the noise is so hard on hearing that the operators are required to wear noise-canceling headphone or earplugs.  But, on my street, where there are three or four of these covers half a block from my house on the main drag, I have never seen any OSHA people knocking on doors to warn us about the danger of all this noise.

Over the years, I have learned to block out a lot of noise most of the time.  But, there are some times, such as when I’m trying to concentrate on writing a blog or reading a very technical book, the the noise is almost enough to make me want to get out the bazooka and take out the offending items.  Of course, I am stopped by the fact that blowing cars up on city streets is against some city code or other.  Plus, I don’t have a bazooka.  Also, mortar rounds are expensive, and the pot holes they make only cause more noise when the unsuspecting motorists crash into them.  And then there would be the added noise of the road crews and steam rollers that would have to rumble in and fix the potholes.

Well, there isn’t much I can do, so I have to just put up with all the rude, obnoxious noises.  When it gets really bad, I can just leave my house and drive somewhere else.  Except when I have a migraine.  Migraine symptoms vary a little from person to person and from event to event.  Many people see spots, and I have sometimes but not always.  Many times, the world seems to take on a surreal aura at first, and then sound and light of any kind become excruciatingly annoying.  Yup, I’m there.  My headaches aren’t usually absolutely debilitating as they are for some.  But I get the vertigo and nausea that makes it impossible to even stand.    I feel week all over.  Sometimes, my body temperature drops and I get convulsions.

For people who have never had migraines, it’s really hard to understand why I can’t just take a couple of pain pills and keep going.  The answer is that the headache pain is just the tip of the iceberg.  I would like nothing better than to get up and go to work.  Sometimes I have tried, and it doesn’t end well.  I really don’t want a lot of sympathy for my problem.  After all, for me the occurrence now is only a couple times a year.   It’s just that, when I do have one, I’d like a little peace and quiet, thank you!  It’s on those days that I kick myself for being so selfish.  I wish I had taken the time to identify the cars that can’t be bothered to put on new mufflers and then organized a black ops team to go in at night and install new mufflers while the offending drivers are sleeping.   I should have also developed the covert operation to line all the manholes with rubber rings to keep the covers quiet.  I should have sent out notices of the impending migraine two weeks in advance to all the garbage truck and semi drivers.  I should have done the covert ops again with the 2000 watt boom box cars, in which I install a magnetic trip that kills the power to the trunk and also installed the corresponding strip in the streets around my house.

Well, that takes care of everyone except the Harley riders.  I know that they are the epitome of the American dream, right?  Excuse me, but I didn’t realize that the American dream included deafening your fellow citizens.  I didn’t know the American dream meant the right to startle the pants off pedestrians and bicyclists.  I didn’t know the American dream was to ensure that no one can sleep in.  And I didn’t know that the American dream was to be about as selfish and uncaring towards your fellow citizens as you want.  I’m all for having freedom, but I’m also in favor of civility.  But I’m not going to start proposing legislation to ban Harleys.   First, I want to address those stinking manholes!

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Filed under On Family, Health, Environment and Ethics

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