Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Do you like tunnels? I love tunnels. It’s one of those irrational things, like fear of snakes, although if you ask me a fear of snakes is very rational. I admit that’s an unfair characterization of snakes and maybe even people who like them, but I just don’t care.

But anyway, tunnels. I love ’em. I’ve love them since I was young enough to remember things. I love going through tunnels on the highway, I love biking through old railway tunnels, I even love walking through storm drains that are filled with dank ankle-deep water and probably slugs and other slippery nasty things. I don’t care. Tunnels are way cool.

There is this one tunnel that I don’t love, though, and never have. One in particular. In fact, I absolutely despise it.

When I worked as a supervisor at an unnamed overseas location, I was responsible not only for all the work the people on my crew did, but I was also supposed to look after the building and grounds where they worked. Whenever we had an earthquake, I was supposed to run around afterwards and make sure the building wasn’t going to fall down on our heads. When a passing snowstorm took a great big dump on us, I had to rally the troops to dig out the parking lot so the commanding officer could park his car in the morning. And when it rained a lot, I had to make sure the tunnel wasn’t flooded.

There was a half-mile-long tunnel full of very important stuff I could tell you about if I wanted to make sure you and I both went to jail for a long, long time. Just kidding. It was full of electrical stuff. That’s why we didn’t want it to flood. Lots of typhoons blew through that part of the world, and all that rain did flood the tunnel from time to time, but it never happened on my watch. I still had to check, though.

The trouble with this tunnel was that it was very well lit. You wouldn’t think that would be a problem in a tunnel, but it was in this tunnel. A string of electric lights ran right down the middle of the ceiling, which was only about seven feet from the floor, and because the ceiling was so close to the floor, each light was surrounded by a metal cage. I don’t know what kind of metal it was. Drop-forged steel would be my guess, or something absolutely immovable. I know that it was absolutely immovable because I banged my head against several of them and they didn’t budge the slightest fraction of an inch. My head absorbed every iota of energy from the impact every time.

The only way I can describe it was like whacking my head against a granite wall, although I’ve never actually whacked my head against a granite wall. I just couldn’t come up with a better way of trying to get you to imagine how much godawful pain it caused. You may think you can imagine what that was like, but unless you’ve done it or something just like it, you don’t know jack. The first time I did it, I was blind for several seconds. The world around me was a big red blur of pain. I staggered back from the light fixture, bouncing off the walls a little bit while the guy who was down there with me laughed at what looked to him like a very humorous predicament. Because nothing’s funnier than watching someone bashing his brains out against steel light fixtures.

The second time I did it, I scrunched down on the floor in a ball with my head between my knees and my eyes clenched shut thinking, I can’t believe I did that AGAIN!

But the third time, ah, the third time … that was truly something remarkable, because the third time I was walking very slowly through the tunnel, reminding myself at half-second intervals to look for the light ahead of me and the light behind me. I must’ve looked like I was batshit crazy, swiveling my head back and forth constantly as we walked along. And then somebody asked me a question and I turned to answer and lost track of where I was, until I turned around to look for the next light and PRANG! I found it with my forehead. Man, that sucked.

After the third time I never went down into the tunnel. It was pretty cool to walk all the way from one end to the other for a while, but I just wouldn’t do it after that third time. Instead, when it rained and I had to find out if the tunnel was flooded, I got a bunch of my minions together and sent them down into the tunnel with instructions to report back to me if it was flooded. And when they got back I usually asked if any of them ran into the lights. They never did. It only happened to me. Dammit.

Prang Your Head | 11:07 pm CST
Category: story time
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