Tunnel Vision

Let’s talk about tunnels…


…and about Tunnel Vision.

Each time I return to Kuala Lumpur I have to deal with people who have Tunnel Vision. That is to say, each person around me only sees and sticks rigidly to their own point of view. It really is so difficult to find co-operation between the parties living under this roof.

It’s not that teamwork has flown out the door, it was never allowed in in the first place.

So each morning there’s the challenge of guessing who will fly into a rage first and who will make the most unreasonable demand. The way to work under such circumstances is to keep your head low and try to complete the task you have set yourself for the day.

And that is the premise of the Korean film Tunnel 터널 which I watched on the flight from London.

It’s a simple story. A car salesman (the Kia Motor Company is mentioned), Lee Jung-soo, is driving home when he enters a long tunnel. Mid-way through, the tunnel collapses. When I say collapse, it truly collapses. The car is buried under an impenetrable pile of of rock, concrete and metal, and there is hardly crawling space for Jung-soo inside the squashed car.




Jung-soo manages to get a mobile phone signal from one area of the internal space and communicates with the chief of the rescue operation, Kim Dae-kyung. There is desperation of course, but what the film captures very well is human vanity and spitefulness: government officials keen to be seen by the media push Jung-soo’s wife into posing with them for photos, their three-year old daughter is forced to leave nursery because other mothers criticise the amount of money spent on the rescue, a journalist laments at one stage – when the rescue looks like it might be successful after two weeks – that it is such a shame it did not beat the previous record for a person trapped underground.




Throughout the film I kept on thinking of what I really needed in the car in case of an emergency where rescue might be a long time in arriving. We have now done two road trips in South Korea where there are hundreds of tunnels cutting through the mountainous country.

It isn’t so in England, but to be prepared, my quick list starts with a torch.




The torch has to be separate because the one included in your mobile phone just eats into battery power. My parents return from lunch with friends and bring this novelty home. They are fascinated because it can bend and shine its bright light into awkward and hidden areas. In fact they bring six home because you would want to give one to each of your children and then have three left in the house…in case.

Sisters…we have the start of an Emergency Box.





The tunnel rescue starts off dramatically but then snow sets in and there are setbacks. I didn’t manage to complete the film and left the plane at the point when someone shouts call off the rescue. This was nearly a month after the collapse.

What I am hoping for by way of an ending is that someone is forceful enough to reinstate the search for one last day and that they find Jung-soo alive. That’s the kind of story I like and I will find out in a week’s time on my return flight to London.

In the meantime, there is the final chemotherapy session for my dad, a new maid who should be arriving this weekend to help with the housework, the annual health check for my mother and the on-going care for my disabled sister. Like the tunnel rescue team, I just need to keep focused and keep going regardless of what I find at the end.

For a bit of distraction KL Sister and I headed to Petaling Street this morning in search of Chinese New Year decorations. We find all sorts of interesting things but fearful of collecting pointless objects, we settle on two small stuffed roosters and a slightly bigger one.




Then we discovered an old-fashioned bakery and brought home some pies and tarts. Looking at the bite-size treats (chicken pie, roast pork pie, egg tart, almond tart and kaya puff) made me think of how appropriate this is as emergency food.

In the film, Jung-soo has a cream cake which he has to eat little by little, yet mindful that the cream will get bad quickly.





Over dinner I ask KL Sister what she would carry along with her on a driving trip. She looked at me suspiciously and asked why. I said I was curious to know what kind of things she might have in her car that would be of use in an emergency on, say, the road from Kuala Lumpur to Terengganu on the East Coast. Her answer was

why would I drive when I can fly?

So all that leaves me to do is to share my own list which includes: small bottles of water, sealed straws, spare batteries for the torch, spare mobile phone and power bank, dry biscuits or long-life food bars, wet wipes, small towel, plastic sheet, thermal jacket like the ones that Uniqlo sells that can be squashed into a ball, hat and gloves.

I always have with me a notebook and a pencil for writing. Jung-soo scratches numbers onto a rock, using some metal, to count the passing days. It’s easier to write on paper but then again, if you are trapped in a desperate situation with no way out, etching on stone might be a way of keeping sane.