I take the tunnel.
i like the tunnel. Geographically it is not really in the middle of my way, but when i get to it, whether is it going somewhere out, or going home, i always have the filling, oh, i'm almost there. there is no traffic, it is not windy, it does not rain, and you get to take two little breaks when going down and up the electric stairs. if you sing in the tunnel, your voice ecoes. it also breaks the flatnes of the route.
Several times a week in the morning, a gentleman sits in the southern part of Maastunel and watches the passers-by. Last year he sat on a wooden built-in bench, now he has a soft office chair on wheels there. He looks everyone in the eye and whoever looks back, he smiles. With his consistency of presence, he made this completely public space - the passage of the tunnel - into his own.
7. NOVEMBER 2022
first encounter with Mr Tunnel.
he is French.
he does not speak English. I do not speak French.
I mimik my way into asking for taking his photo.
he smiles and gives me thumbs up.
for a goodbye he gives me two mint candies.
9. NOVEMBER 2022
Mr Tunnel is not there.
the chair is on the right side as usual.
10. NOVEMBER 2022
construction work started again, on the third escalates from the left.
they put up fences
chair is in the corner
16. NOVEMBER 2022
Mr Tunnel is siting in his chair but on the left side because of the construction work
he never sat on the left side before. it messes with the balance, it messes with the tradition.
I am not a fan, i just bike by
17. NOVEMBER 2022
I drew him in the morning. his portrait from the photo i took of him on the right side of the illustration, and on the left side a never ending tunnel with a whale inside, and a chair in the middle.
he is sitting on the chair, on the wrong side. i stop my bike and take out my sketch book. i try to get out the illustration but i rip it instead. i give it to him anyways. i can see that he does not really know how to react. he smiles and takes his big plastic mistery bag that is sitting next to him. he pulls out a coca cola bubble gum and give it to me. he reaches in the bag again and pulls out two Kruidvat flyers. he hesitates a little bit and gives me one. points at me, then at the flyer and says "werk". funny, because on this same day i get a call from a job i applied to.
this was my second closer encounter with Mr Tunnel. and i rip my first message for him before i even give it to him. i hope it does not mean something, because it just can not be positive..
18. NOVEMBER 2022
i realize that his chair is not green as i was saying the whole time. it is dirty blue.
19. NOVEMBER 2022
He is not there. his chair is pushed to the wall and next to it another chair appears. exciting!
the new chair is deep dark blue, not on wheels, but legs.
for who is this chair? does Mr Tunnel have a buddy? or is he just changing chairs
21. NOVEMBER 2022
the two chairs sit alone in the corner.
a cardboard box is in between them
22. NOVEMBER 2022
I spot Mr Tunnel from outside already
we wave at each other. i have my camera ready but i don't take a photo, because i feel awkward. i do not know how to approach him. what if he does not want to be approached.
regardless, i want to know what is he doing here
so we just wave excessively
a chair on legs and a chair on wheels are placed in the transit area of the of the southern entrance of the tunnel. both are blue, different shades. they stand and wait. they are waiting for someone to stop and sit. that's what they're there for, right? but everyone is always in a hurry, just passing by, going out,, somewhere. where are they going? why doesn't anyone look at them? why doesn't anyone acknowledge? they spend so much time in the corner that they don't even remember where they came from. where were they brought from and why were they brought there if no one uses them. they only remember the warm embrace of a grateful body, the smell of jasmine tea and the scratching of their back by strange claws. but now they are alone in the corner, gathering dust on themselves and flirting with the bench on the other side of the room. they watch the black figures passing by, who, looking at the ground, push the steel horses on the pedals next to them. the braver ones hop on right in the room already. the figures come from the right and fall into the pit, or they crawl out of the pit and run out into the rain. a long time ago the chairs stopped wondering what was in the pit, what was under the rain. what if they never feel the warmth of a body again. is this their fate now? to bake in a corner so close, yet so far. maybe they don't even want the warmth of a stranger..... one cold morning an old gentleman enters the room with a shopping bag in one hand and a walking stick in the other . there is a lance sitting on his head from which thick drops drip onto his shoulders. probably from the rain. the gentleman stops and stands still for a moment. he slowly turns his head and with his gray eyes stares into the chairs.
23. NOVEMBER 2022
24. NOVEMBER 2022
24. NOVEMBER 2022
26. NOVEMBER 2022
he is sitting there with in a light brown coat. i stop my bike and squat next to him. he is looking at me. i wave my arms around while slowly asking a question "why are you here, what do you do?" he nods and points at himself; "gemeente".
i am a bit disappointed. the romantic story that i crated in my head of an old Mr Tunnel sitting in the lobby of the tunnel, just observing people passing by, before he goes home for lunch, is crushed. such an odd hobby that would be but it filled me with joy and love for life thinking about it. how people find interest and comfort in so many random places, in their own way, and just by doing that, creating an atmosphere for others, without even knowing. now Mr Tunnel is no more. he is a Mr Gemeente, and he has to be in the tunnel.
Mr Tunnel always had and always will only exist in my own imagination. i can see him sitting in the chair, smiling and nodding at people, imagining where they are headed, or where they've been and getting to know them through the patterns they apear in the day. I was just projecting my idea of his life on him, based on my perspective of him. so easy, but i did not notice it..
The space that he created is still there, but not as strong any more. at least different.