Tuesday, January 29, 2008

not my lucky night

Last night it looked like I was going to get out of work earlier. I packed up my stuff at 5 pm and ran for the bus, hoping to get to the train station in time to hop onto the 5:26. I missed it by two minutes.

The next train was the 5:49, so I waited around with my Sudoku and got on when the train pulled into the station at about 5:38. The guy who sat next to me had a crunchy leather coat that made a lot of noise every time he moved. I started reading my book.

At about 5:55, the train stopped, which is odd for an express train that usually doesn't make its first stop for about thirty minutes. The loudspeaker announced there was an accident up ahead and that they had no other information. Everyone grumbled a little, but for the most part we figured it'd just be a few minutes, like when there are track issues.

After six, a woman in our car called someone she knew who was on that 5:26 train. It seemed the train hit a car and the car was on fire. The lady in our car was speaking very loudly to relay the news to everyone sitting nearby.

At 6:30 the loudspeaker came on and essentially announced what we heard from our fellow passenger, adding that not only did the car get hit by the incoming train, but it was pushed into the path of the outbound train and hit again before it caught on fire. The fire department was putting out the blaze and we couldn't proceed until the police released the track. Leather Jacket told his wife on the phone that he was "effing annoyed" and was turning his newspaper pages in a huff.

At 7 pm, I decided to take a nap. But Leather Jacket was shifting around a lot. Noisily. I thought to myself, Self, this guy seems like he's a nicotine addict in need of a smoke.

At 7:30, I realized that there was a draft coming from my window (emergency exit) and wrapped myself in my hat and scarf. Leather jacket took out some gum and started chewing it in frustration. He started to relax. I'm willing to bet it was the nicotine kind.

At 8 pm, both Leather Jacket and I were leaning forward, snoozing into our hands. So were some other people. It was as though we were in a disaster drill or something.

At 8:30, the announcer said no one was hurt in the accident and that we might be moving soon. However, because we were on the center track, we would not be able to let anyone off earlier than the original scheduled stops. All of the people who were frantically trying to arrange pickups at various stops groaned.

At 8:45, we started moving. Then we stopped. More groans. Leather Jacket was on his third piece of gum and in a jolly mood. He began to tell me that the last time a train he was on hit somebody, the person didn't make it and that the transit authority actually let people off during the cleanup. He said police were walking around, covering things up here and there. It took me a second to process that. He was three hours late to work that morning.

At 9 pm, I got to my stop. A full two hours and forty minutes later than I was supposed to have reached my destination. I had spent more than three hours sitting in the same position. Fortunately, the buses were all lined up and waiting for us, so I still had a way home.

So the first night in more than a week that I had a chance to get home at a decent time, a drunken 72-year-old gets stuck in my homeward path. I'm happy he was pulled from the car before the trains hit, but it sure did throw off my evening.


Lia said...

That is a horrible commute story. I'm so sorry it happened to you, but at least you weren't in the car that was on fire on the previous train. And you had a seat. Small comfort, though. Hope tonight is better.

And you're definitely right about the nicotine gum. I'm right there with you.

Lia said...

With you, not with him. I'm not a nicotine addict, but I agree that from your description, he probably is. Just wanted to clear up any suspicions that I smoke or anything.

Anonymous said...

The exact same thing happened to me last month, only I was in the train that hit the car. As the train was going about 50 mph through a busy intersection, a car stopped by the crossing gates was rear-ended and pushed into the side of the locomotive. There was a big bang and then the emergency brakes came on. We were maybe three minutes away from my stop.

The collision caused the train to become uncoupled from the locomotive and when we came to a stop there was another big bump as the passenger cars hit the back of the locomotive. Then the lights went out.

So we sat there in the dark for about an hour. No one was hurt on the train and only minor injuries in the vehicle. But the train was too damaged to be moved so we were "rescued" by the fire dept - helped down the steep drop from the train door to the ground - and led away to a bus to take us to the station. The whole thing took about three hours - I could have walked home in 30 minutes but they would not let anyone out of the train.

Last Friday the train I was on hit a big rock that had slid down onto the tracks from all the rain and we almost derailed. Again no one was hurt but with all the damage to the brakes it took about two hours to get another train to couple to us and drag us in to the next station.

There is no such thing as a 20 minute problem for the railroad. If there is a problem it is at least 1, maybe 2 hours.

But as we say here in SoCal "A bad day on the railroad is still better than a good day on the freeway." And besides, I can say I have been in an actual train wreck.

omar said...

Wow, that sucks. But at least everyone was OK.

I put your Twitter ... feed? Is that what it's called? I'm just trying to say that I saw this on Twitter last night. It's like I was there live, except I was much more comfortably sitting on my couch.

Jon said...

I don't like traffic, but one of the things that I do like about being in my car as opposed to a train is that I at least have my personal space. No loud leather clad nicotine fiends, just me and my music. That's how I justify the bad days in traffic.

Really though, I'm just waiting for them to master teleportation.

The Stormin Mormon said...

Holy shit...

I'm with Jon.
This is where traffic beats mass transit ever time.

Michelle said...

It's weird. In Britain, every single train crash that occurs is reported on the national news, no matter how bad it is. It seems like train crashes happen more frequently in America but we never hear anything about them over here (i tune into American news channels frequently). Were any of the above crashes reported??

cadiz12 said...

lia, i know some smokers who are perfectly lovely people. they just sort of smell like smoke sometimes.

wow, anon, you've had some terrible luck on the trains lately! rock slides? train wrecks? be careful out there.

omar, it makes me happy that at least someone was suffering with me (sort of). not very many people answered their phones that night. at least i know i'm not twittering into the ether all the time.

jon, when you get the knack of teleportation, will you hold a workshop?

stormin, i really miss being able to sing along to the radio and talk on the phone without worrying about people hearing.

you know what's weird, michelle? i went home and turned on the news to find out what the heck happened and it wasn't even included! i guess they had covered it on the 6 o'clock broadcast (while we were still stuck on the tracks) and by 10, it was old news. they only televise crashes that are really severe on local news here, and the ones that involve a lot of fatalities in the national news. i think it wasn't as big a deal because there was no one hurt in, neither in the car nor on the train. just a whole bunch of inconvenienced people.

Sphincter said...

I'm glad he was OK, too. But Jeez. It burns my butt when dumbassery affects others.

Michelle said...

That is weird. The way it works in Britain is that any time there's a crash, someone or some group will call for an public enquiry into why it happened in the first place - i think the general opinion in UK is that services should be performed perfectly and without a single hitch. The minute there's a problem with any public service, all hell breaks lose and people just want someone to blame.

cadiz12 said...

we certainly have the inquiry-plus-blame situation here in the States. i just wish they'd do more to make things better--we just had a big deal about them not having enough money for mass transit, and it doesn't look like the solution is much more than a bandage over the wound.

jinius said...

ugh. scary. glad to hear you are safe though. im so lucky to be close enough to work that i can walk there.