Seattle Writing Prompts: The Battery Street Tunnel

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It's the tire tracks on the yellow walls that always get me. How often do cars go through that tunnel at such speed that their wheels end up on the walls? How often do they scrub or paint them?

The tunnel, built in 1952 and not upgraded since, runs under Battery Street (betcha couldn't guess that), which explains those passive ventilation grates that run down Battery Street. It's set to be dismantled and filled when the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel opens in early 2019.

The word "battery" has always confused me. The most popular common usage, of course, refers to a device to store energy (if you have a Tesla, you can drive your battery under Battery Street, at least for a while longer), but it also means assault (or, battering), which strikes me as the opposite of containing energy.

When you sing along to " ... the Bronx is up and the Battery's down, the people ride in a hole in the ground ... " while watching Kelly, Sinatra, and Munshin high-kick their way through the naval yards in On the Town, they're referring to the park at the tip of Manhattan, named for the battery of artillery installed to defend the settlement in the early days of the island.

The OED, in fact, lists seventeen different meanings of the word, some specific to industry, such as mining or cooking. Of these, it's hard to know how Battery Street got its name. Well, hard for me to research in the time-boxing I allow myself for these columns. Do you know? Perhaps a letter to the editor is in order?

For our purposes today, let's just stay tight on the tunnel. Yes, that means I can't spend time going over Battery Street's important part in film distribution history in Seattle, but people, we're here to talk of the tunnel, not that which lies above.

So, let's do just that. I mean, what could possibly happen in a tunnel?

Today's prompts
  1. Yes, it's my fault the spell went wrong. I created this effect, that for a brief period between 6:12 and 6:45 p.m. on Tuesday night, every car entering the Battery Street Tunnel southbound, whose driver thought of someplace else in the world they wanted to be, was instantly transported to that very place. It was my boyfriend I was trying to target. What wasn't expected was that his car would materialize with him and smash the front of my house, breaking the circle that contained my spell, along with my concentration, and expanding the scope of the magical energy. Anyway, I'm sorry about that, all you people who were suddenly in your favorite, or least favorite, place. I'm sorry to those of you who were catapulted back to work when you were almost home, or sent to your aunt's smelly living room. That sucked. Now let me tell you how I tracked everybody down and returned them home, and how I'm gonna use my powers to make it right.

  2. I was few miles into tailing the Dodge Dart when we entered the Battery Street Tunnel. The deal had gone down up Aurora, and I could have pulled them over any time, but I had a hunch they were gonna lead me to the big guy, finally. I kept a few cars back as they entered the tunnel, staying in the right lane in case they took that Battery Street exit that would drop them off at Western. But then, the damnedest thing. I look down at my speed, and glance back up, and they're gone. And so is the VW I was following. And about half the other cars in the tunnel. Into thin air. I pulled off the highway myself and picked up my radio, but didn't even know what I could say to dispatch.

  3. Going through the tunnel was the hardest thing I ever had to do. It was like rewinding time and going back to the night it happened. Exposure therapy, said a friend. Gotta get on that horse. I got offers to drive me through. But I can't even get in a car now with someone else behind the wheel. I need control, as much as possible. I need to feel it. Tonight is pilgrimage. I pay homage to where it happened. Tonight I mark the moment my life changed in such dramatic ways.

  4. How many animals do you think have gone through the Battery Street Tunnel? How many wolves? How many horses? How many dogs in crates, or cats in carriers, or parakeets in cages on the way to the vet? How many baby alligators or bats in boxes or or mice in the lining of a car? There's one animal I can tell you about for sure, but you're not gonna believe it until I show you the pictures. I'm gonna tell you about the sloth that went through the Battery Street Tunnel, and I'm gonna tell you about how it wasn't in the back of a car when it did it.

  5. The argument heated up right as they approached the tunnel. "Oh, he's alright," he said.
         "No, he's not," she said. "He hit her."
         "Yeah, but like, under it he's a good guy. He just made a mistake," he said.
         "Yeah, he made the mistake of assaulting another human being. Why are you giving him a pass?" she said.
         "I'm not!" he said. "He needs to deal with it, obviously. But I'm just saying he's not all bad, he's just a troubled guy who did a thing he shouldn't have."
         "Can you imagine me saying this about her if she, like, cut his dick off?" she said.
         "Whoa, whoa. He didn't cut off a part of her body," he said.
         "Yeah, but I'm exaggerating because you're not taking this seriously," she said.
         "Of course I'm taking this seriously!" he said. "I agreed, they should call the cops. She should call the cops."
         "Yeah but you didn't agree for a long time," she said.
         "But I did agree," he said. "I agreed and I helped call ... "
         She interrupted him. "I just wish we could go back and see it so that you could see how scary it is to be her in that moment. I just wish we were there right now."