I first heard about the underground tunnel from Davis to the North Building in the Medium Magazine at the end of my second year. The story of a secret investigative squad was sumptuous. In conversations with other students, it somehow manages to pop up regularly as a piece of hot “gossip”, an insider’s scoop, or, in one case, I think even a pick-up line. (I may have lied about that last one, but let me just pretend for a minute that another student attempted to flatter me and not just get help with homework.)
At the end of last year, this piece of gossip developed slightly. Apparently, with all the new construction—yes, we’re still talking about that—the tunnel was finally going to be reopened to the public. We’d finally be able to do a full circuit of the campus without ever having to go outdoors. (Because with all the time we already spend on our laptops and cellphones in dark, windowless rooms, why not make it easier for us to avoid getting any form of fresh air?) However, I arrived on campus at the end of August and didn’t notice any difference. In fact, I forgot about the rumour.
One Monday afternoon, mid-September rain strikes during a session of a campus-walking group I lead, the UTM Sneaker Squad. We decide that we should take an indoor route and suddenly I remember the tunnel. Let’s find the tunnel! The other participants admit that they have heard of its existence, but they don’t know how to access it or whether it actually reopened. We never find it.
Instead, we discover the underground tunnel between Davis and the Innovation Complex. It’s accessed from a hallway left of the Bookstore. The door is rather inconspicuous. I would have never guessed where the door led had another student not already known. It opens into a narrow, windowless, descending tunnel. It’s not particularly wide or tall—claustrophobic, almost. It’s “a bit disappointing, more like an extended hallway that hardly lives up to the carefully laid out dungeon/maze floor plan of [the] Davis basement,” says Vida Sosa, a second-year psychology major.
We emerge in Innovation slightly disoriented. For the majority of us, it’s our first time there. After we work our way through several hallways and around a loop of study rooms, we end up beside Second Cup. Andrew Iozzo, a biology and psychology double major, reflects, “Walking through it for the first time is a cool experience. I think I said ‘whoa’. It’s just cool to have a tunnel to another building, and then of course you have to tell everyone you went through the tunnel.”
From Innovation we walk through CCT, IB, and onwards to North to check out the other tunnel, passageway, or whatever you want to call it, to Deerfield. Tucked in beside that infamous North Building mural we find the entrance. We collectively take in a deep breath and fling open the door.
Just a few feet ahead of us is a wall. Then, after taking a sharp left, we realize that the entire length of the passageway is only a few feet longer with the door to Deerfield on the opposite side. It begs the question whether it even deserves the title of “passageway”. As Iozzo puts it, “The one from Davis to Kaneff is actually a lot bigger and more tunnel-like.” Sosa, similarly making the comparison to the Davis and Innovation connection, says, “At least it’s underground like a proper tunnel, unlike the North to Deerfield one. I suspect in any case that it’s actually a time portal between the present and the post-apocalyptic future, which I think handily explains the conditions of the North building.”
After the adventure, still frustrated with my gossip sources and determined to find the real tunnel, the one connecting Davis to North, I email Paul Donoghue, UTM’s chief administrative officer. However, I make two mistakes. First, I refer to the tunnel as an underground “passage” and secondly, I ask if it has been “reopened” in the first place.
“It was never meant to be ‘open’; it is a service tunnel, not a pedestrian tunnel or ‘passage’,” says Donoghue. “So it has not been ‘reopened’ as it was never taken out of use.”
And with that single sentence, any hopes of underground adventures and endless hours of running to and from North to Davis without ever having to take a step outside are dashed. It hurts almost as much as the Christmas Eve when, having overheard coughing coming from around our Christmas tree and sneaking out of bed to get a glimpse of the action, I realized Santa Claus and my dad had the same cold.
Nevertheless, like Santa Claus, I’m determined to let the dream live on. One day, I will find that tunnel.