"When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained."---Mark Twain

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Playin' Beat The Train

Last week, on my way to the post office for the boss, I heard an ominous sound..................a train horn.

While that means nothing to most people, it means that I have to play Beat The Train.

One of the joys of living in this town is the fact that the tracks run through it.    They cut it slap in half.

Everything I Love And Hold Dear is on one side.    Kids, grandkids, my father, all on the same side of CSX that I live on.   

Everything else, food, medical, JOB, law, dollar store, Wal Mart (ick), bank, bakery and damn near everybody I owe money to, is on the OTHER side.

When I first moved here in 1976 if you got caught by the train it was an acceptable excuse.     "I got stopped by the train" was a Get-Out-Of-Trouble-Free Card.     Accepted everywhere.

Then, they put in an underpass.   Just one.    And permanently shut down several crossings.    It shut down the old reliable "train" excuse as well.

Now, if you have to be On The Other Side for some reason when you hear the horn blow, you are open to three choices:

a)  Resign yourself to the fact that you will be late.    Pull up and wait it out.    I've had meaningful discussions with fellow drivers at these crossings.    If the train stops, you might not get home 'til dark.    Make yourself comfortable.

b)  Head for the singular underpass and duel at the four-way stop for a chance to get in the line of cars now sitting UNDER the train.   They are sitting there because this street crosses a very busy street and the guys who got to the underpass before you are now somewhat stuck themselves.

c)  Hit the gas and haul ass.    My personal favorite.    It is possible, given your proximity to a crossing and traffic flow, to run like a rabbit and actually get across the tracks safely if you hear the horn in time.   

It doesn't matter if it's the crossing you prefer, you can always get back on your route if you can.   Just.   Cross.   The tracks. 

When I heard the horn blow, I was too far away to get across the closest crossing.  

The crossing I needed was right at the post office, and me and CSX got there almost at the same time.

Wait it out, or try the underpass?     I opted for the underpass.    It's moving slow, and I don't have time to sit.    It is headed toward the train yard and that means it could stop for a while.

I drove four blocks, made it through the four-way stop with no real wait, ran under the train, up to the next intersection.    I didn't have to wait but a minute, crossed the road, made a hard left, and drove up three blocks in order to hit the alley behind the post office.   

This alley was blocked by two trucks waiting at the crossing.   DAMN.   I still can't see the end of the train so I am under the impression that I had made a wise choice in using the underpass.

I made a hard right into another alley behind the utility company   (I always feel like I have been violated somehow when I drive by it), followed by another hard left turn in front of the glass place turned gym turned church building, a hard turn to the right which put me on the alley blocked by the two trucks.  

This alley runs right beside the tracks.   I made a stop at the stop sign just in case there was a cop somewhere and whipped into my favorite parking spot in the post office parking lot ( it's my favorite because I can drive over the sidewalk there), and grabbed my camera for this shot:
Had I just stopped and waited,  I would have been just yards away from the same parking place when the train was gone.

 CSX for the win.


  1. A few years ago my daily route often forced me to deal with a train. For reasons I never could find out it often stopped blocking several crossings.

    Throw a few cars behind me with impatient drivers and nerves could run thin as everyone wanted to turn around at once.

    1. Beach Bum: Usually, when one stops here it is because the engine has come into the train yard and they are changing crews or goodness-knows-what.

      You learn to take it in stride here for the most part. May as well, a train will roll thru here roughly every hour. It used to be every twenty minutes.

  2. Suthern: It's a "time" for sure. "Good".......not as much fun as it looks. I have resolved to just sit there from now on. Evasive maneuvers are becoming a waste of gas, and when everyone else hits the underpass all at once I begin to feel slightly homicidal.