Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Nightmares of Engineering

We’ve sent man into space and even walked him on the moon. We have satellites that can beam images and words to anywhere in the world in mere seconds. We now have portable computers the size of manila envelopes that can do the work of computers whose wires and circuit boards once took up the space of a small house. We have the means to perform lifesaving operations that would have been truly impossible fifty years ago.

Yet, despite all our technological advances, we are still fully unable to create a manhole cover that can line up flush with the surface of the road. Maybe the reason for this is that it’s not mathematically possible. Maybe the cost to do so would be much too high for our already over burdened taxpayers. And then again, maybe, just maybe, there are much more pressing issues in the world that seek our more immediate attention; such as self venting beer cans which make it easier and quicker for guzzling beer, or lights and electrical appliances that can be turned on and off by the simple clap of one’s hands.

Whatever the reason, science and engineering have yet to come together to solve this serious dilemma that plagues the roadways and thoroughfares of America like a bad case of irritable bowl syndrome. I’m sure there isn’t a person reading this who hasn’t had the jaw-jarring experience of having their tires encounter such a well constructed manhole. They are, after all, everywhere; and even worse – they seem to be multiplying by the minute.

One might think, after encountering such an obstacle, that their vehicle had stumbled upon a naturally occurring obstruction such as a pothole…only to find another same head-rattling bump mere seconds down the road, too timely to be mere coincidence. So cleverly placed are these manhole covers that one would reason they’d been specifically engineered and strategically placed so as to take advantage of having the most tires possible running over them. Kudos to the engineers for accomplishing such a feat.

To me such errors seem as blatantly obvious as building a house and upon completion discovering that the front door opens up directly into the coat closet rather than the front entryway. Or building a bridge by starting each span on opposite sides of the river only to find that the two sides don’t meet up where they should in the middle. I must, however, be in the minority on this issue, because it clearly continues to remain a problem, even on newly completed roads and parking lots.

How is it possible that such an overwhelming majority of manholes can end up exactly 2 inches lower than, but never even with the pavement surface? I’ll never know. One would think the solution would be as simple as raising the level of the completed manhole by 2 inches and thereby conveniently matching it to the finished grade of the road’s surface. Then again, if it we’re truly that simple I’m certain it would’ve already been done. Which leads me to believe that my mind must be much too simple to understand the true mathematical limitations of such a feat, and it may just be best that I leave the matter in the hands of the experts. After all, if it were truly that simple, we’d all be engineers…wouldn’t we.


Lindsay said...

Ask Ausin...I'm sure he'll give you some mathmatical equation to explain this dilemma and why it can't be done. Beware, his explanation could be very boring..

Abbie said...

The last time I was in AK, I remember thinking how awful the manholes were on a newly finished road. Good luck swerving around them all!

Anonymous said...

MY thoughts...but I could be wrong. I think they origianlly start out level, but then when they re-tar the road, they can't just slurry over the man hole. Thus the road level increasingly rises while the manhole remains at it's origianl level.

gramyflys said...

Happy Birthday, Jared!!!
We love ya!

Life is just too funny to be taken so seriously