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ISSUE 121 VOL 10 PUBLISHED 12/7/2007

Tunnels incite forbidden adventure

By Kelin Loe
Contributing Writer

Friday, December 7, 2007

St. Olaf operates with a secure "sense of community." In actuality, this means that my friends have a list hanging on their refrigerator of all of the engaged campus couples. Information spreads like lice. In a place where secrets are currency, it wouldn't surprise anyone that underground networks hold a history of intrigue. As soon as the administration threatened to expel anyone found in the tunnels (or so I heard), of course my ears pricked. Tunnels? Secret access to other places on campus? A refuge from the overcrowded Crossroads? Many students share my query. So why are we really interested in the tunnels - do we seek adventure or solitude?

I learned about the tunnels during Week One of my first year. Immediately, obsessive thoughts of finding the door - the secret door - to the tunnels mapped across my mind. I interrogated all available authority figures: where were the entrances?

Junior counselors, area coordinators and the deans answered, "I'm not really supposed to tell you that." Weeks into my investigation, based on encouraging winks and my own genius, I learned that there was, indeed, an entrance underneath my very own dorm. What was the lowest part of Hoyme? After poking around the stinky first floor, the custodian's closet, the basement bathroom and the lower lounge, I found absolutely no trace of the door. Then it hit me. Obviously, the tunnels had to be under lock and key. Like the storage room.

Cursing my lack of tools, I hid my flashlight in my hoodie pocket and approached the maniacally studying desk worker. I told her that I was looking for my cell phone charger and convinced her to not only let me into storage, but to leave me there while she continued muttering element chains under her breath.

I don't think Hoyme storage has been aired out since 1960, and the smell of bell bottoms and shoulder pads welcomed my exploring nose. Boxes, bins and televisions loitered around shelves to the left of the door, while window seats and sleds leaned against the back wall. On the right, a hole in the cheap wood paneling exposed the real wall. Hello. It had been painted brown like the rest of the room, perhaps in an attempt to thwart little buccaneers like myself.

Built into the panels was a shoddy door locked with a combination lock. I knew how to crack a combination lock, but I didn't do it just then. I'd bring friends back down with me. Down on my stomach, I pointed my flashlight through the dark space under the door. My perspective didn't allow me much; all I saw was a dark shadow. That had to be the entrance.

I stood to crack the lock (I realized I didn't want people with me). I was here alone, and I would do this alone. I didn't want a Play Fair of support.

Just as I turned the knob right to the first number, the frizzy-haired desk worker returned, apparently in her right mind again. I spun around and turned up the charm: "Oh, no boxes back here? Sorry."

St. Olaf built a series of barriers to keep me out. I understand the tunnels are too dangerous for traffic, but they still represent a place of privacy and seclusion, both of which are scarce on our the Hill. I had been trying to retreat from the strained excitement of my first month at St. Olaf. Yet St. Olaf law, however enforced by the dumb desk worker, had forced me to stay above ground.

I know someone who did make it. On Ole Night Out, a delightful man, who shall remain nameless, told me about the myriad of pranks he pulled during his four years at St. Olaf. When he and his friends were JCs, they brought first-year girls down into the tunnels to party. They partied underneath all the dorms, and for every special occasion, they had a special location. They partied in the swimming pool. Every time they left for the night, the left a candle and wine bottle behind to mark their presence.

Obviously, drinking and burning candles are still banned on this campus. These guys withdrew to the tunnels to engage in activities prohibited at St. Olaf, while I was merely retreating from the forced cheerful interactions of my first year. Perhaps an adventurous nature sparks the fascination with the tunnel, but the true tunnel seekers are looking for a Fram Fram refuge.

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