Tunnel Mole Heads Above Ground

One thing about the Houston tunnel system--you're insulated from the harsh world outside. It's like the womb. The only dangers are ingesting the wrong things and bad vibes from others.

So Tunnel Mole leads a sheltered life and was shocked to emerge yesterday to see about a dozen police cars, a heavy rescue team and a couple fire trucks swarmed around the Houston House Apartments, above ground at San Jacinto and Leland. As most folks who watch local TV news know ("if it bleeds, it leads"), a car sailed through the solid brick wall of the building's parking garage, killing the driver.

Tunnel Mole learned from Houston Fire Department Assistant Chief Omero Longoria that the man whose car plunged three stories, onto the roof of a two-story building next door, was dead on arrival. It took rescue teams hours to extricate the body and maneuver the car off the roof, working as they were between a tricky juxtaposition of palm trees and telephone lines.

Houston House residents gathered on the street below to witness the passage of one of their own -- he was a resident -- and send up prayers. No one expressed doubts about the wall being flimsy; no one expressed plans to move. Au contraire: Tunnel Mole saw some friendships being forged at the scene. One couple spreading good vibes, Reetu Jain and Nehal Sanghari, just returned from mission work in Africa after burning out on accounting and the law, respectively. They had just moved in that day, and pointed to their truck nearby. "We just unpacked everything, and went out for something to eat, just before it happened," Jain said.

A partner with the law firm next door was of course still at work at 6:30 pm, when she heard what sounded like a bomb. Kay Pearson dashed out of the building and wasn't surprised to learn "it was the Houston House again.”

"They're always doing something," she said. Three or four months ago, she said, some rowdy residents of the high-rise tossed or knocked a cinder block to the street below. "It made a car catch on fire."

Then there were the frozen water balloons, Pearson said. (Tunnel Mole's note to self: Clear out the freezer for some cool pranks this summer!) The apartment’s ninth-floor pool faces her building; police shooed the residents who congregated there to gawk at the crash yesterday.

"We're lucky our roof is so sturdy," she said. Despite her inherent ability to sue, Pearson's cool. The only thing she did after the crash was to dash in and change into casual clothes -- an Abbey Road spoof featuring the Pope, no less -- to wait out the recovery from her rooftop.

Tunnel Mole, who herself once narrowly avoided becoming a lawyer, wondered if the incident stemmed from some kamikaze mission against that firm or maybe lawyers in general. Instead, it was said by residents to have been an accident--the man had bought the car that day, and probably accelerated too hard while backing up.

Because there's a three-foot-high concrete wall lining the garage, according to Houston House residents, that must have been some horsepower working. As Houston House has a number of residents connected to South Texas College of Law down the street, Tunnel Mole hopes at least one of them will consider taking a look at the car's manufacturer. – Tunnel Mole

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