Look out for flying manhole covers!

Saturday, last weekend. I was meeting a friend for dinner on Sullivan Street, in Greenwich Village. She was running late, so I walked in the rain and browsed several shops in the area. After stepping out of a poster store, I walked along Bleecker, back toward Sullivan.

I heard a loud popping sound and looked ahead of me to see a manhole cover lift up a few inches. White steam whooshed out from the manhole, and the cover then settled back into place. A group of people standing nearby started at the sound and then laughed and gaped when they realized what had happened.

I kept walking. I was right next to the manhole when I heard an even louder bang coming from its direction. I turned to see the cover lift up again, this time a few feet into the air. Black smoke and flames poured out from under the cover before it settled back into place with a loud clank.

“Shit!” I yelled, running from the area. I watched several other people also yell and run away. A police car had just driven past and the cops must have heard and seen (in their mirrors, I presume) all this, because the car stopped. After a couple minutes, the policemen stepped into the street and cleared foot traffic away from those sidewalks.

A few minutes later, a fire truck and more cops showed up. They blocked off both Bleecker and Sullivan as they investigated. I watched for a couple minutes but I didn’t want to be around if the damn thing exploded again, so I walked up Sullivan to West Third to await my friend.

After we finished eating, we walked back to Bleecker, but the streets were open again as if nothing had happened.

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