Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sidewalks, Pupils, Lasers, Canadians

The walk to work has been extremely treacherous lately. After several thaw/freeze/slush/freeze cycles, the sidewalks have become encased in thick ice, especially those which had not previously been well-shoveled. Some property owners have done an admirable job of attacking the snow and ice, but many have not bothered, and those stretches are like inclined skating rinks. The streets, in contrast, have been well-cleared, salted, and sanded, and are all down to dry asphalt. I suppose it is no surprise, in our automobile-centric society, that every city plows the streets but leaves the sidewalks to fend for themselves. During one shuffle to the office, though, I wondered what it would cost the city to clear the sidewalks as well as the roads. With a traffic lane being maybe 10ft wide and a pedestrian "lane" being perhaps 2.5ft, I figured it would add about 25% to the municipal snow-removal budget. Obviously this would be unthinkable, so I quickly abandoned the idea as patently un-American pinko nonsense.

Over the weekend I headed to Vermont. I spent the night Sunday with friends J. & Z. The River Doctors and some other friends came up the mountain for dinner; yet another ice storm rolled through, turning the long, steep driveway to icy Teflon. The lowlanders were trapped on the hill late into the night until a heroic sand-truck guy made it up close to midnight. The next day J., Z. and I travelled to Montreal for LASIK (J., who has 20/15 vision, was our "designated driver".) We had a routine worked out for the border crossing. When the Canadian agent asked, "What is the purpose of your visit to Canada?", Z. was to shout "I'm here to get healthcare!"; I was to shout, "I'm here for political asylum!"; and J. was to shout "I'm here for Club Super-Sexe!" But as it happened they didn't really ask, so we didn't tell them. Still, I had hopes of finding someplace to drop off my asylum application during the visit.

As it turned out, I did not have the laser surgery. The docs at Laservue were astounded with my super-human pupil size, which (combined with my significantly poor vision) is a notable risk for having night-vision problems after the surgery. They were sufficiently impressed with my pupil diameter (8.5mm) that they asked if I was a methamphetamine user (uh, no...) They were willing to go ahead with the procedure, but they used words like "50/50 chance of..." and "You are a sitting duck for..." So I decided to do more research and/or wait a while for age-related pupillary constriction to set in. Meanwhile Z., who has little 5.5mm pupils, did have the surgery (which I watched, and found fascinating). She is ecstatic with the results.

The difference between 5.5mm and 8.5mm doesn't sound like much, but I got to thinking about the difference in actual circular surface area. Since area = pi x radius squared, in dark conditions the light-admitting holes in my eyes cover about 57sq.mm, while Z.'s cover only 24sq. mm. In other words my eyes let in over twice as much light as hers. This might explain why she's always complained a bit about her night vision, while I've never wanted a night-light and always have trouble sleeping in rooms that weren't completely dark.

Anyway, back at the hotel in Montreal, we watched the local news. There was a breaking story from the nearby town of Huntingdon which was having a budget problem and, as a cost-cutting measure, had introduced a new "do-it-yourself sidewalk shoveling plan". This was considered a major break from usual procedures. People had written letters of complaint to the major. The mayor responded with a letter labeling the complainers "crybabies" and suggesting they should move to Mexico temporarily, which caused further outrage. The news crew interviewed several furious citizens, filmed impotently hacking at sidewalk ice with various improvised implements. There was a general sense that the new policy was endangering children, the elderly, and was patently un-Canadian. At the conclusion of the story, the news anchor reassured the viewing public that NO such policy was under consideration in the metropolis of Montreal, were the city would continue clearing the sidewalks as usual.

So, yet another thing that seems better north of the border. Though I have to remark, the sidewalks in Montreal were not in such great shape, either.

4 Comments:

Blogger Johanna said...

Note that, on this side of the border, Montreal is held up as the poster child of effective snow clearing. Unlike, say, Toronto, where it's primarily residents' responsibility (however, according to the Globe and Mail, there are as many sidewalk snowplow drivers as the other kind in the city. But it's not like there anywhere near caught up to plowing streets for cars either. We neglect cars and pedestrians in equal amounts.)

2/20/08, 2:54 PM  
Blogger Claire Colvin said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2/20/08, 3:30 PM  
Blogger Claire Colvin said...

Ok here's the same comment edited so it actually makes sense:

Sorry to hear that the surgery was a no-go. You gotta wonder, what would have happened if you'd said "yes" to the meth question? Would they have told you to come back later? (Do the pupil-dilating effects of meth wear off over time? I have no idea).

I think the best way to counter the unattended sidewalk issue is to move out west. All the snow stays up on the mountains, ready for you any time you want it -- on call as it were -- and pleasantly off roads and sidewalks the rest of the time. A very civilized way to live. Plus, if you head west and north of the 49th, Canadians and folk music abound and the sailing is pretty good, most of the year.

2/20/08, 3:32 PM  
Blogger NeoNurseChic said...

Hmm Sorry to hear about the Lasik. I actually have the same problem of abnormally large pupils, mixed with poor vision, and light colored eyes - all of which used to be exclusion criteria for lasix. Oddly enough, as I've been talking about it with people who have gotten it, they seemed to think the technology had progressed past those hurdles. Apparently not, according to your post here! I've always wondered if my large pupils are the reason I have so much photosensitivity with my migraines. I can't go outside, even on a cloudy day, without sunglasses.

Careful on those sidewalks!! I remember when living in State College, I'd be walking to the ice rink, carrying my skates in a bag, and feeling like I needed my skates more to get TO the ice rank rather than once I was there. Craziness...

Take care,
Carrie :)

2/21/08, 2:34 PM  

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