When I was beginning my working career my parents and others tried hard to understand exactly what I did. As I made several noble attempts on numerous occasions to describe what a computer programmer’s work entailed, there was no comprehension of it… and subsequent promotions made it even more difficult.
Finally, in desperation I agreed with their thought that I really worked for the CIA and was using “computer programmer” as a cover. They found that to be much more acceptable even though the company I worked for and my occupation had nothing to do with “the company” (as the CIA is often referred to) or being a spy.
However, a few years ago I was a “mole…” but not in the context of espionage. This is my story about an incident I had in the former Yugoslavia.
During a three-week stay in Zagreb, I decided that I wanted to visit the Adriatic Sea. I had no particular reason to do so other than to journey somewhere I had not previously visited. On my way to Rijeka by bus I saw such beautiful countryside. The previous Yugoslav government had preserved the beauty of this land to which I was drawn.
Rijeka is a commercial port and from my perspective had no visible attractiveness for explorers like myself. I didn’t plan to stay long. I had a hotel reservation for only two nights. I saw this visit as a short venture from Zagreb and preserving money.
This last point about money preservation brings me to the story about being a mole.
On arrival in Rijeka I examined the GPS on my Phone and decided to not take a taxi to the hotel. According to the GPS I was certainly within easy walking distance and with only a backpack it seemed logical that I walk. There were some flaws in this decision when I assumed the accuracy of the map and that the way to get there was short.
Along the way, the walk surpassed what I had anticipated. The phone’s power was rapidly dwindling and the distance to the hotel seemed to be getting greater instead of less. I did, however, believe I was on the correct roadway there. Soon I encountered an unanticipated obstacle… a highway tunnel.
As there were no warnings to not do so, I decided to stay on the walkway and go through the tunnel. There are signposts inside this particular tunnel that indicate distances between emergency exits. As I had traveled about 750 meters into the tunnel, the marker indicated 1000 meters to the next one. “Surely, this tunnel has to end soon past that exit,” I thought. Remember that I was low on phone power and since I was underground, neither the GPS nor phone was going to do any good. I kept walking as cars buzzed past me.
On arrival at the next emergency exit, I decided I had enough. By this time Mother Nature was also calling. I did what probably few have done, I decided that it was time to get out of the tunnel and use the emergency exit.
The exit was barely lit. It had dusty cement steps indicative that few had ever been there before me. I left footprints in the dust like one would leave in a light sprinkling of snow as I walked up and up the winding stairwell.
Fortunately, there was a handrail. It didn’t occur to me until I had almost arrived at the top of the 299 steps, that the same dust I described earlier had also accumulated on that handrail. I had wiped my brow and then touched my jeans and observed my filthy hands and clothes. “Yes,” I thought, “I am a mole” and the story of my family thinking I was a spy came to me as I grinned.
I had wondered what I would find at the top of the stairs. I hoped that there would be a door leading outside. To my surprise, there were beer bottles, candy wrappers, and syringe needles near the top steps. Yes, there was a door and it was one-third ajar. I walked through it to find myself outside a small cement building with children playing on a nearby playground. They looked at me like it wasn’t unusual seeing someone there and went about playing.
My phone power registered “1” so I thought that checking the GPS first was more critical than taking any photos. I did obtain a GPS location and the phone died… and that is why this story has no pictures in it.
I soon found the hotel and completed the registration form. I was head-to-toe filthy. As I completed the paper registration I left my dirty fingerprints all over it. The man at the reception didn’t blink an eye or ask what had happened. Maybe he had seen “moles” emerge and arrive like me previously… maybe also through the emergency exit in the tunnel.
My family members often think that my travels now have a lot to do with undercover missions. My entrapment in a Croatian tunnel brings a smile to me and thoughts about my misadventure as a mole. I now have a story about escaping from there which can be embellished for the family.