First of all, what I as a kid referred to as a “steam roller” is obviously not run by steam any more (and probably wasn’t then). They’re now called just “rollers” and the ones being used in our street are smaller than the huge ones putting down interstate highways. (See #4, the combination roller, on this page.)
The second thing I learned is that the “HMA” these machines operate on are NOT “Health Management Associates” or “Health Management Administrators,” although after everything that COVID has put them through, I don’t doubt that those HMAs feel like they’ve been run over with a roller. No, in this case “HMA” means “Hot Mix Asphalt.”
Finally, you might have noticed that one page refers to “Vibratory Compaction Rollers.” It’s the “vibratory” part that sent me down this particular rabbit hole.
You see, during this whole re-paving process (which, as I said last night, isn’t over and will start over again first thing Monday morning) there has been a significant amount of noise. Noise-cancelling headphones help, but even they have met their match with the grinders, sweepers, dump trucks, pavers, rollers, asphalt spreaders, and so on. But the rollers have by far been the worse. When you get a couple of these right out in front of your house, maybe 30 or 40 feet from the house, the whole house starts to vibrate and bounce from the noise.
But I realized that it wasn’t just the noise. There were moments that got MUCH louder, accompanied by vibrations that had stuff on my desk bouncing around and pictures on the wall threatening to come down. But it wasn’t random. A little bit of observation made it clear that it was occurring when the rollers were rolling forward. It didn’t take too much of a leap of logic to figure out they were the cause and that they were probably doing it to more efficiently and thoroughly compact the newly laid layer of asphalt. And the results of the rabbit hole dive proved that guess to be correct.
On the other hand, before I figured it out… Well, let’s just remind everyone that I’ve lived out here in SoCal for over 47 years, including a VERY close encounter with the Northridge Earthquake back in 1994, so when everything vibrates and starts bouncing and getting very loud, my first instinct is to “desk dive,” assuming that it’s an earthquake. The repeated and rhythmic nature of the vibration events gave it away quickly – but the brain stem knows what the brain stem knows, and the PTSD memories come back quickly.
Monday we do it again!