IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Fell Into a Manhole

It took three people to lift the cover and two to help me up. My right leg was covered with some unidentifiable sludge. My left leg was sort of numb.
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Sue-Beth Zitner
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It took three people to lift the cover and two to help me up. My right leg was covered with some unidentifiable sludge. My left leg was sort of numb.

It was a rainy, dark night in South Florida. That's all you need to know about the weather. My husband and I were going out to dinner with friends to a restaurant that their daughter had a small ownership in.

Since there was extremely limited parking in the area, we were told to go to the back of the restaurant and park there; even though it said "No Parking," we were told that actually meant "Parking for Family of the Owners."

We had picked up our new car only the day before. We pulled into the parking spot our friends had said was just fine to park in, and we pulled off our seat belts and proceeded to exit the vehicle. Little did I know that it was the beginning of a story that makes people laugh, but it was also a time of pain and grief. 

I opened the front passenger door and stepped away from the door to close it. Normal behavior, right? The next thing I remember is my husband calling my name. I could answer, but I was in a very strange position. My right leg was immersed in what could be described as slime, and my left leg was what could be described as immobile.

It turned out that my right leg was in a manhole and my left was wedged between the ground and the manhole cover itself.

What to do? For me, not much. My husband was still calling my name because he could not see me from the driver's side of the car. My friend was in panic mode; she saw me on the wet ground and tried to help, but there was no way that was possible on her own.

It took three people to lift the manhole cover and two to help me up. My right leg was covered with some unidentifiable sludge. My left leg was sort of numb.

[Photo by Olivier Finlay Beaton/Creative Commons]

[Photo by Olivier Finlay Beaton/Creative Commons]

Once I was up on my feet again, I became quite the trooper. I didn't want to spoil the evening for anyone, so we took the rear entrance to the restaurant, stopping in the restroom and washing off the slimy right leg and shoe. More than once, my husband and friends asked if I wanted to just go home, but no, I would soldier on. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Luckily, the restaurant had seating bordering the outside open seating, because we eventually realized there was an unpleasant odor emanating from my clothing. We were quick to eat and exit.

By this time, we had found out that the restaurant had a problem with one of their restrooms and their plumber, who was delayed, had suggested they partially open the manhole cover outside to help the odor dissipate. Of course no one thought to put a cone or any other type of warning up.

As we approached the car, I could see the pained expression on my husband's face. 

"Don't you think you should take off your pants?" He said. The car was new, after all, and I smelled like sewage.

"Okay, I can do that." I proceeded to take off my shoes and jeans, and the pain began. My left foot began to swell on the ride home, and by the time we parked in our garage I was sure I had broken my foot. I could put no weight on it, so a trip to the ER was necessary. (Turns out it was not broken — lots of soft tissue damage, etc.)

I wore a "stylish" boot similar to this one after the accident. (This is a few years later. Plantar fasciitis. I have bad foot luck.)

I wore a "stylish" boot similar to this one after the accident. (This is a few years later. Plantar fasciitis. I have bad foot luck.)

Physical pain is one thing, emotional another. During this time I was overseeing my mother's care. She was suffering from dementia and had been hospitalized with a broken hip. Every day, I had been there at lunchtime to make sure she would eat. During the time of my injury, I missed two lunches. She never ate again.

You know that moment you have when you're in between being awake and sleeping, when you feel that you're stepping off into the unknown and your body kind of freaks out just a little? In reality, when you fall, not caused by a trip, but some bottomless unknown pit, it is quite frightening. To this day, when I step off a curb or something similar, I check numerous times.