Photo By Sahil Jagad
It’s your first week at the beautiful University of California, Irvine. The insane amount of drink options at the Anteatery overwhelms you, the campus seems to grow each time you try to walk across it and your dorm mates seem friendlier each time you talk to them. After walking out of Late Night at the Anteatery on a Friday, one of your dorm mates throws out the suggestion.
“I heard there’s a tunnel under all of UCI,” they murmur. “My (insert: cousin, Resident Advisor, estranged Summer Session roommate who they will awkwardly wave to each time they pass each other on ring road for the next four years) told me where to find the entrance, we should check it out!”
Before you know it, you are gearing up to partake in what you hope to be your first of many college defining experiences.
“I hear these tunnels are used to evacuate faculty if there’s ever a student riot,” suggests one member of the excursion, woefully unaware of the campus culture they have chosen to become a part of.
You arrive at what feels like a new place entirely but is actually just across the street from the Mesa basketball court. The pitch-black maw of the bus-sized drainage pipe calls to you like the siren song of the $2 boba peddler, and your feet seem to carry you to the entrance automatically.
With phone lights on, or actual flashlights if you are bougie enough, you and your gaggle of dorm mates begin marching into the infamous tunnel. Right when you walk in, you notice a small stream, only a few inches wide and even less than that deep, running at the very bottom of the circular tunnel that manages to get your shoes just wet enough to be annoying.
“No problem,” you think. “It’s just part of the adventure.”
As you delve deeper into the tunnel, thoughts like these become more common, and harder to suppress. “It smells pretty bad in here, it’s hard to breathe, my socks are soaked in sewage.” Finally, the original head of the expedition has deemed that the group has gone far enough, and suggests you all turn around. No one puts up a fight against the idea, and you all march back the way you came. You get back to your dorm tired, with your shoes drenched in raw sewage and attempt to validate the experience as anything but lame.
If you’re lucky, that’s the best outcome of a trip into the UCI tunnel system. If you’re not so lucky, you could end up trapped in the tunnel system until UCI Police and Irvine firefighters come to your rescue. With this in mind, is it even worth attempting to go into the tunnels?
“But Nic,” I hear you, dear reader, ask rhetorically. “My tunnel experience was great and I will cherish it all my days until death divorces me from this mortal shell!”
That’s great! Go into the tunnel again, if you liked it so much.
I’ve yet to hear from anybody in my four years here who has gone into the tunnels more than their first time. If you have gone into the tunnels more than once and have enjoyed it, I congratulate you for you and your offspring’s survival in the oncoming climate apocalypse. If you regularly adventure into the tunnels in order to satisfy a hankering for the devil’s lettuce, I can unofficially assure you that this is not only unnecessary, but one of the worst places imaginable to willingly ingest psychoactive substances.
The tunnels are not only chronically lame, they pose an actual danger to your health in numerous ways. Along with the possibility of becoming lost, spelunkers put themselves at risk of contracting various diseases — Campylobacteriosis, Cryptosporidiosis and Hepatitis A, to name a few — through contact with literal sewage. On the legal side of things, it is considered trespassing to enter the tunnels, and being caught can put a serious damper on your academic career.
There’s a lot of experiences that are going to define your college experience, and most of them are going to happen to you. It’s rare that we get to decide to have a defining experience, and it’s even harder to remember such experiences as anything but manufactured. The tunnels provide the alluring promise of adventure, but in reality, only offer the false hope of experience at the cost of one pair of socks.
Nicolas Perez is a fourth year Literary Journalism major and Opinion Co-Editor at New University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.