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I blame the media for sparking the underground-tunnel craze. Those Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made romping around in the sewers look so sexy and fun, and now there’s an epidemic of UBC students trying to find the campus’s legendary secret network of passageways. It’s an elaborate way to get your kicks: call me old-fashioned, but when I was in university, recreationally abusing Adderall was all the excitement most undergrads needed.
These tunnels are more than just a legend: unlike my college internet boyfriend, they actually exist. Steam tunnels—utility passages that transfer steam between buildings—create an underground route on campus, which the bravest, stupidest scholars can access through manholes if they’ve planned ahead and spent their student loan on a crowbar.
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To be clear: entering these tunnels is definitely not a good idea (unless you’re majoring in the Getting Arrested Arts), but students at least as far back as the ’60s have been doing it anyway, getting their kicks by sneaking around, graffiti-ing, eating pizza and fighting Shredder. (I am also a victim of the TMNT paradigm.)
It doesn’t make sense to me that this is an activity UBC students, of all people, have turned to for fun. When I was at SFU, the pub served jugs of “Winchester,” which was rumoured to be leftovers of all the other beers mixed together, and our mascot was a dog who is also a weatherman. So if anyone should be desperate enough to spend Friday nights in a claustrophobic tube lined with hot metal pipes, it should be my fellow alumni, not UBC kids who live in the lap of luxury with their Koerner’s kimchi tacos.
These are actually not the only tunnels at UBC—there’s also an underground corridor between the Life Sciences Centre and the Woodward Library, used for transporting medical materials (science talk for “loose organs”) that could be contaminated by the great outdoors or knocked comically out of a scientist’s hands by a stray hacky sack as she crosses the Quad. Those who use these tunnels aren’t looking for fame or glory or turtle power—they’re just trying to do their jobs. Half shell or no half shell, these brave faculty members are heroes.