After starting a new job as a ventilation engineer, I have officially become a much-maligned or much-celebrated (depending on who you speak to) ‘white van man’.
I’d readied myself for the early starts and late finishes, the M25 traffic jams, kamikaze cyclists in London and rip-off service stations.
But what I never expected was to see one man’s love for a certain tunnel.
As we approached the Hindhead Tunnel, the radio was turned down. Conversation stopped. I nearly choked on my coffee as I looked over to the driver’s side and saw my colleague gazing at the tunnel, like a father seeing his newborn child for the first time.
The silence was only briefly broken by words such as ‘magnificent’, ‘amazing’ and ‘wondrous’.
I thought ‘white van man’ was supposed to leer out of the window and beep the horn, not marvel at the lighting arrangements or smooth road surface in a tunnel.
I appreciate the difference the tunnel has made to the thousands of drivers who use it every day. For those who’ve spent hour upon hour in tailbacks around Hindhead, it must be a Godsend.
None of the people driving through would argue that it’s not £371m well spent.
But tunnel worship? Three months later and it’s still the same routine. Radio turned down, silence interrupted by more words describing greatness of said tunnel.
Aliens eavesdropping from outer space would think they were listening in on two blokes from Pompey taking a tour of the Sistine Chapel.
I admit that it’s a great feat of engineering, but a Michelangelo masterpiece it isn’t.
Maybe it’s just me, maybe I just don’t get it. Apparently 10,000 people applied for tickets for the ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to walk through the tunnel before it opened. Those who got picked even paid £6 for the privilege!
But this isn’t the Pyramids or the Great Wall of China. It’s a tunnel. You can find them all over the world.
Ah well, I might not get as excited about it as my mate, but it does mean I get an extra half-an-hour in bed.