minutia press.
Tunnel becomes more mundane

Some years ago, when I worked for IBM, a business trip took me through the United Airlines terminal at Chicago's O'Hare airport.

O'Hare is one of the world's busiest airports, and United is one of their biggest customers. Two of their concourses, B and C, are actually in separate terminals (1 and 2). Because they are so far apart and because connection times between flights can be short, a tunnel was constructed between the two.

As you can see from its photos, this is no ordinary tunnel. There are neon lights that flash in progression, and music suggestive of Rhapsody in Blue, the United Airlines theme piece, accompanied your transit through the tunnel. You could walk through the tunnel or take a moving walkway to make the trip a bit quicker.

On my first trip through the tunnel, I was completely unprepared for what I was about to experience. It's easy to become jaded about air travel, and to acquire a certain numbness when flinging between cities and traversing airports. This tunnel had a profound effect on me, and made me reawaken to the wonders of flight.

On every trip since, through O'Hare on United, I have sought out the tunnel between flights, even if I didn't need to connect between the terminals, just to have the tunnel experience.

I did so yesterday, as I flew through O'Hare from St. Louis to Moline, where I would then drive to Iowa City. I was very disappointed to see that some of the neon lights were not functioning -- these hang overhead and usher your way through the tunnel. Also, there was no music at all -- no eerie tones or fragments of the Rhapsody. All you could hear was the drone voice telling you to look down, as the moving walkway was about to end.

Chicago, United, O'Hare -- your neglect of this previously eye- and ear-opening experience is appalling. This year is the 20th anniversary of the completion of the tunnel. Can't you work on it a bit and restore it to its original magnificence?


The new Northwest Airlines terminals at Detroit have a similar tunnel that floored me when I first saw it.

Posted by: James B at April 8, 2008 10:17 AM

I've only been through that tunnel once, and all I can remember is hoping I'd make it to my connecting flight on time.

Posted by: david at April 16, 2008 10:21 PM