The Tunnel of Doom


My Real Memoir

When you’re eight, there are limits as to how far you’re allowed wander. In fact, “Don’t go past such-and-such street” was an annoyingly familiar refrain. And for the most part (except for that time I ran away), I observed it. Why? To avoid hearing the dreaded “WUYFCH!” (“Wait until your father comes home!”).

But Mommandad never said anything about travelling below the streets.

The most mysterious thing in The Field near my house was The Tunnel of Doom. It was, I learned years later, part of the massive L.A. County storm drain system that leads all the way to (as my buddy Rory called it) the Specific Ocean! Talk about things “never before witnessed by human eye!” But the entrance was covered by a steel gate. So the best we could do was shine our flashlights in and dream.

But then, miraculously, it happened. Some enterprising teenagers managed to pry up a corner of the gate–just enough for an eight-year-old to squeeze through.

And squeeze through we did!

After days of planning (we’d seen Journey to the Center of the Earth, so we knew what to bring), we had our first adventure in The Tunnel of Doom. We didn’t have to bend over much, but we did have to straddle the little creek that ebbed and flowed through it. Sometimes after a rainstorm it was so high we’d have to postpone our trip.

manhole-friendWe saw very few stalactites or stalagmites, and virtually no dinosaurs. But we did see scampering rats, picked-clean bones, and various things dropped through gutter grates (“No, honey, not Daddy’s watch!”). It was a storm drain, not a sewage pipe, so fortunately we didn’t see “that kind of stuff.”

We’d time ourselves, sometimes travelling for hours. There were only a few outlets we could exit through, but all were miles away, opening up whole new urban vistas! Hence, The Tunnel of Doom soon became our Secret Subway! It remained that for several years—until some nosey grown-up said, “Wait, what the—?” and a bigger, heavier gate was installed.

Decades later, I taught at La Mirada’s Biola University, located near my old Secret Subway entrance. One day, I overheard two of my students talking about their latest “draining” expedition in The Tunnel of Doom. A rainstorm had struck while they were inside, and they’d nearly drowned!

So don’t try this at home, folks. Or if you do, join an “urban caving” club. Yes, apparently, there are quite a few eight-year-olds out there who never grew up. And, hey…

Why should they?

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to The Tunnel of Doom

  1. says:

    I think I may be one of them.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. clcouch123 says:

    So the Tunnel of Doom has a legacy. That’s cool. My version was Pine Creek, which was distant and flowed between cliff walls. There were big rocks everywhere. How did we survive?

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Pingback: To Go Where No Kid Has Gone Before! | Mitch Teemley

  4. anitashope says:

    Oh I remember going through the storm drains under the elementary school. They were kinda scary.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Enjoyed your vicarious thrills!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The Tunnel of Doom sounded like a grand adventure–until rats became involved. Rats, bats, and snakes are all deal-breakers for me.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. My inner 8-year-old is jealous. We didn’t have anything as wonderful as a tunnel of doom in my home town. The furthest I got while exploring the world as a goofy little girl was the time I went deep into the woods behind our house and came upon a small stream. I remembered hearing my school teacher say that all rivers eventually end up at the sea. So naturally, I decided to follow the narrow stream to the ocean. Never mind that we lived in the Missouri Ozarks. I was determined not to stop walking until I reached an ocean shore.

    After walking for what seemed like hours, I came across a barbed wire fence that went straight across the creek, disappearing into the distance as far as I could see in both directions. Having previously lost a battle with barbed wire (with scars on my arms and legs to prove it), I turned around and headed back home, arriving just in time for dinner.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This made me laugh, surfacing a memory of one son who did this as a late teen (old enough to know better). I didn’t know about the adventure until watching a video compilation of numerous adventures he and some friends had over the years. Fortunately, when I saw the video evidence it was far enough in their past I could no longer ground him for life or say, “WUYFCH!”

    They had done it in another city larger than the one we lived in. They went down through a manhole, had no idea where they were traveling because apparently there are no street signs in the underground labyrinth of passages. When confessing their exciting experience they spoke of lifting manhole covers from below, peeking out to see if it were a busy thoroughfare, or a safer less traveled side street where they could exit.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Michele Lee says:

    Sounds like quite a memorable adventure for an eight-year-old! Any age, probably. 😆

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Mary Jane says:

    I misread the word “Mommandad” as “Muhammed” and I thought, oh wow, what a twist to a Christian’s memoir. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Yael_Eliyahu says:

    Man, this sounds like good stuff!! *adds drain exploration to bucket list.* But something I’m glad I couldn’t access at age 8. 😅 I was not a prudent adventurer back then.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: Confessions of an 8-Year-Old Prankster | Mitch Teemley

  13. swabby429 says:

    There is something like this on a smaller scale in Lincoln, Nebraska near Irvingdale Park. My brother and I explored the “tunnel” quite frequently.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: I Created the World’s Greatest Thrill Ride (at Age Ten)! | Mitch Teemley

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