Sunday, August 16, 2009


It gets cold at Penn State in the winter.

Yeah, I know that's an understatement and a lot of people wish they could forget about it and are a little angry that I should bring it up. But it's true. You know the chant: 'We are . . . Penn State!' Well, it started out as 'We are . . . frickin' cold!' When I was at State College back in the late 1870's, I discovered there was an alternative to walking outside and freezing my rear end off.

The tunnels.

Yes, many of the buildings at Penn State are connected by underground tunnels ( I guess that's redundant, isn't it? Are there 'overground' tunnels?) Regardless, I was saved from rain and snow by heading down into basements and finding my way around. How did I find them?

I try doors.

A closed door is a beacon for me. I'm dying to see what's on the other side. I have exasperated my family more often than I care to admit, but in this instance, it payed off. I found tunnels.

Not under Pattee, of course. People might swipe books.

So, last week, I was in downtown Philadelphia for our company conference. I was presenting about how 'green' my data center is. Of course, it was the hottest couple of days of the whole summer, so I decided to check out the Philly tunnels.

The conference was at the downtown Marriott, but spilled over into the Convention Center. You can easily get between the Marriott and the Convention Center without going outside, but I was parked in the Wanamaker Building across from City Hall. Could I do it? Oh, yes. Yes, I could!

From the parking garage of the Wanamaker, I could walk along the underground concourse right to the Convention Center and never see the light of day. And never actually SEE Philadelphia. Perfect! I could get in my car in my garage and never actually have to be 'outside' EVER! Rain? Snow?? Pfffffbbbbt! Remember that great line by Karen in Will and Grace? "Are we. . . outside?"

But it got me thinking, how far could you go underground in Philadelphia, so I checked it out. Look at this.

You can get all the way from Race Street all the way to Spruce, and from Eighth Street all the way to Eighteenth Street. Not quite river to river, but darn near. How about that? Sure, it smells like old, tired urine, but like anything else, you get used to it. It's the smell of Philadelphia! And it turns out that Philly had even bigger plans at one point but circumstances didn't let the dream come true.

Here's a different map that shows the actual open areas. There are stores and restaurants, even whole malls down there. You could live, work, eat and play . . . and never go outside.

I'll have to see if I can find something for underground Penn State. I'll bet there are tunnels I never found.

When we visited the Library of Congress recently, my daughter mentioned there was a tunnel for congress to use. Here's what that looks like.

I wonder if they smell like old, tired urine too?


Leah Kleylein said...

No, the tunnels for the Library of Congress do not smell like old, tired Philadelphian urine.

They smell like.....Secret Knowledge the General Public is Not Privy To.

And that's all I'm allowed to say.

Dave said...

The X-Files live on!