otwo Attempts: Tunnels

 
 

We’ve all heard about them, but few have visited them… otwo takes a trip into UCD’s underground tunnels

On any given night of the week, you can guarantee that any student has several off-the-cuff ideas for what to do with their evening. Some play X-box. Some go drinking. Some even curl up and have a good cry over that disgusting online video they said they’d never watch. But some… some grab a torch and a photographer – plus anyone else who’s up for it – and venture down a dark and dank hole in the middle of an arbitrary collection of greenery and shrubs.

For this fortnight’s Attempts, otwo set the challenge of burrowing into the elusive UCD tunnel system. Once listed in the ‘fantastic’ Fresher’s Guide as one of the Things To Do Before You Leave College, these passages produce a certain level of intrigue among students who haven’t crawled in to dig the flamboyant decor.

I’d like to say we found a once-thought-extinct race of crab people down there. I’d also like to say we found an underground bazaar full of exotic trinkets and effervescent incense. Hell, I’d even like to say we found some unknown, kinky UCD society that has become involved in an unexplainable fusion of sado-masochism and high-end biological terrorism. Alas, these imagined instances were not to be. No. These are memories that I will tell to my grandchildren, to make Grandpa seem like he was hip once upon a never.

Unfortunately the tunnels themselves were stunningly average. However, the preceding  moments were composed solely of those memories that get exaggerated and perused upon over several pints. We were somewhere around the edge of the Clonskeagh entrance when the fear began to take hold. Surrounding my stationary car, the four of us considered our options for an entrance and the subsequent getaway. Hearts thumping and stomachs in our mouths, we marched down the main concourse with utter confidence. Wait – that’s a lie too. We jibber-jabbered at each other like it was a banter contest. Our nerves were on the edge of a Himalayan cliff, been poked at by a hyperactive child. As we got to the entrance in question certain high-viz wearing trolls became apparent in our peripheral vision. They were right in front of us.

Our Ocean’s Eleven instincts kicked in and the split-screen montage began. We cleverly took shelter from the rain under a nearby awning, acting suavely as we lit cigarettes and exchanged war stories about our previous espionage jobs. After a few minutes and the passing of an odd group with swords, we felt confident enough to make our move. Slick tumbles sideswipe through the frame. A procession of darkly clothed figures manoeuvres across the walkway, set elegantly against a soundtrack of free form jazz.

Into the trees. Lift the grate: GO GO GO GO! One in. Two in. Three in. Yahtzee.

The ladder was incredibly slippery and a lot longer than we initially thought. After reaching the bottom it became clear that we might not be alone down here. Not that there was an early Ridley Scott extra down there or anything, but the light in the first room was on. This terrified us. Nonetheless we proceeded, heroes that we are.

Given a wrong turn we ended up in the passages running under the Arts Block, eavesdropping from beneath the benches of some random lecture theatre. Upon realising our mistake we turned and made our way to the actual tunnel. Picture an endless passage like something out of the midpoint of a Bond film – somewhere that oozes conspiracy and evil henchmen; European guns and a helpless femme fatale named after a cunning stunt.

None of these things were there, though: just four students quietly wondering to themselves why in the name of Jeff Bridges they were down in this sorry excuse for God’s lower intestine. It’s hot and cold at the same time; although that could have been the adrenaline pumping under our cold sweat of mortal fear. In addition, if we got caught by any form of security, we had no exit strategy at all. One way in, one way out. A bad sexual encounter without the sex or happy ending. Just deep, dark and completely impersonal.

Realising that we were just past the science block and that our epic quest was beginning to lose all sense of meaning and purpose, we turned back. Yet with heads held high and egos raised slightly above their average low, we exited the hole in an inexplicable display of bumbling fortitude. Attitude be damned, I was getting out of here alive and without punishment.

In retrospect, the mediocrity of the adventure lends itself quite nicely to the story of a UCD student career. The system is one way, shrouded in dark thoughts, unnecessary maintenance and tiresome work. When you come out the other side, you’re dirty and not quite sure why you went in the first place.

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