Driving through tunnels makes me uncomfortable. I especially dislike the Lincoln Tunnel into New York City. Invariably, when I’m driving through, a traffic tie-up delays me inside. The two-lane passageway fills with exhaust fumes, and brings out the worst in those aggressive NJ Transit bus drivers who inch ever closer to my bumper and seem to roar with their every gas-filled surge, “Hey, Pennsylvania driver, step lively!”
Maybe it’s the idea of being underground that makes me nervous. Maybe it’s the idea that this specific route underground is underneath tons of water! Maybe it’s those “loose tiles” that He Who Must Not Be Named invoked when he was clamoring about the need for infrastructure repair. Whatever it is, if it weren’t for the fact that I love New York, I’d gladly forego using either tunnel, the Lincoln or the Holland (which is even worse because it’s narrower and more curved).
Is there a point to this rambling? Tunnels make me think about how we use language. When I am driving in a tunnel, I see only the walls and the cars in front of me. I anticipate the daylight and can barely wait until it comes into view, signaling that I will soon emerge from this coffin-like edifice. When we use language as a way to narrow viewpoints—making the false seem true—it’s like being in a tunnel. We see only what is in that narrow passageway. We don’t seek the emerging light. George Orwell writes a great deal about language and how it may be used to deceive and mislead. Let’s all use our words with precision and rigor. Seek the light!