Thursday, February 27, 2014

Big Bertha

I recently had a strange dream.

As with many of my dreams, this one had a distinct sense of locality.

I was in Seattle.

I was in an elevator with a number of other people; the elevator car was descending; one of the people among us was talking. She had that sort of authoritative tone usually assumed by a tour guide.

“We are descending in this elevator to a place below the streets of Seattle.”

Everyone on the car turned their heads toward the outer shell of the glass enclosure of elevator car that we occupied. Beyond the glass all was dark.

The voice continued.

“When we reach the bottom we will enter into an area under the city enclosed within a huge bubble of elastic material kept inflated by pressure pumps. Directly in front of us will be the long stalled cutting apparatus of the world’s largest boring machine. We will be in the Seattle Boring Machine Museum.”

An almost audible murmur of appreciation seemed to come from our little group of elevator passengers.

“In late 2013 the boring machine – known by the name of Big Bertha – began to bore under the city with the objective of creating a tunnel to replace a crumbling elevated highway.”

The elevator had reached the bottom of the shaft. We all waited for it to open. The guide continued.

“Not long after drilling had commenced – the boring machine had gone a thousand feet – the cutting head encountered a problem. Since then various attempts have been made to start the borer going again, but to no avail. The head of the thing has been locked in place where it is under the streets of Seattle ever since. That was fifty years ago.”

The elevator door opened revealing a brightly lit area full of glass exhibit cases.

“After a great deal of municipal tooth gnashing and disclaiming of blame, the facts had to be faced. Bertha was going nowhere. So taking a page from the playbook of the French, it was decided to turn a disaster into a museum. And so it has been ever since.”

We all moved into the museum proper. At the far end was the gaping maw of what must have been the business end of Bertha. It looked like the mouth of some sort of gigantic carnivorous worm.

The Guide spoke again.

“On your right is the first exhibit. It contains audio clips, video clips and still images. They all document the objections of the Seattle Mayor at the time of the project’s inception to the project. The exhibit is formally known as the Mike McGinn Exhibit.  Informally it is known as the I Told You So Exhibit.”

That was when I awoke.

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