Scared of spiders, snakes, mice? My lip curls in disdain. I love the little darlings. Being shut in, wide open spaces, flying – you name it, nothing bothers me.
Show me an underpass and I go weak at the knees and hyperventilate. Family are exasperated, friends laugh. I consider mine is a very reasonable reaction. I am not and never have been a mole so why should scuttling round subterranean passages be regarded as normal by a sunloving surface-dwelling creature like me?
To tell the truth I’m not even very keen on the Underground or long train or road tunnels but I’m carried through them so I don’t have to take the initiative, and in any case my immediate environment is well lit. I once looked along a canal tunnel that was so small the bargees had to lie on their backs and ‘walk’ along the ceiling to get through. Scary! But I wasn’t expected to go through it.
Underpasses are different. Quite often they are the only way you’ll get to the other side of the road without waiting until the wee small hours of the morning. I admit, I’m phobic about them.
Have you ever been lost in an underpass? Not the small ones where you hold your breath and walk quickly because they smell disgusting. I referring to the complex multi-entrance variety encountered in large town centres. Secretly I suspect they are alien wormholes to parallel universes from which some people never emerge.
The approach is quite innocuous, just the normal ramp angled downwards. You are quite relaxed, possibly humming a happy little tune, after all, you don’t have to play chicken with the traffic. Then you reach the central reservation – (pit would be a better description) - usually open to the sky but too deep to allow even a glimpse of the surroundings up above. There will be at least three exits, none of which seems to be in quite the right place.
Is it beyond the capabilities of modern technology to signpost the various tunnels so at least we could tell which road we were aiming for?
This is the point at which I begin to crack. Scuttling back to where I started I count the number of possible destinations apart from the one I want. Back down in the pit it transpires that there are either not enough or too many exits so you still can’t work it out.
Thoroughly disorientated, there is the onset of panic.
I take the one that looks right. Murphy’s Law decrees it isn’t. It never is. What is more, when I emerge nothing looks remotely like it did from the other side. Am I too far left? Or right? Still on the same planet? Go back down and try again. Better still, go back to where I started. But I’m no longer sure where that is because as no entrance is exactly opposite any other there is always an element of doubt. Did I start off with first or second right – or was it left? Whichever tunnel I try ends in absolutely alien territory. I am now running round like a demented mole. I suspect that I’m caught in a time warp, possibly tripping between parallel universes. When I finally reach and recognise (because I’m sure I must have been there several times already) my point of origin I make tracks for home. Wherever it was I was going, I no longer wish to be. I’ve even forgotten where it was and why I wanted I wanted to be there.
I have now devised a foolproof way of dealing with the situation. I am shortly aiming to try out. It goes like this.
Before descending into the pit I firmly fix in my minds eye one outstanding feature at the place at the place I’m about to leave and another feature at the place I’m aiming for. Once I’m in the pit I take the first tunnel on the right. If my landmark isn’t there I come back down and take the first on the right again. By continuing to explore that way I will arrive at the correct exit. It might take a bit longer to do it that way, but at least I should get there in time. And if it’s disappeared in the meantime or I don’t like any of the options at least I will be sure to get back to square one eventually. The chances are I’ll still be more or less sane. The secret is never to actually step out of the underpass until you are sure you are in the right place. If you do you might find your suspicions about wormholes and parallel universes were correct and will never again find your correct time and place.
© Copyright Percydale Press 2006