Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Silence of Cicadas

I've come to the conclusion that cicadas are the Spinach of 2007. The media has once again made us panic and essentially freak out over something that has turned into a minor ripple of consequence. In fact the spinach debacle of 2006 was actually more detrimental to health and picnics than the nonexistent plagues of noisy insects are turning out to be. But one thing is annually constant in the world of summer annoyances: train delays.

Seriously folks, I can ride the train ten or twelve times a week for eight months out of the year with naught but a minor impedance but once summer, or at least late spring, attacks say goodbye to being on time. Oh sure, it might be worth a minor complaint if trains were a few minutes off schedule once or twice in a week, but as I all too fondly recall the middle of June last year and the ever so insane Stearic Acid incident, I find that warm weather seems to incur multiple and increasingly lengthy (often half hour or more) alterations for expected arrival times.

Case in point this week. As I was taking the late night train home after class on Tuesday, we were less than ten minutes out of Chicago when the train stopped. It was the bad stop too. Ride the train long enough and you can tell the difference - the normal "good" stops are pre-announced where as the alternative are preceded by a distinct hiss of emergency breaks and generally occur without a station in sight. What made matters worse and exceptionally more frightening was the voice from the walkie-talkie of the nearest conductor that proceeded to tell everyone within earshot, "Looks like someone's laying on the tracks." Trust me, not the words you want to overhear especially when they're followed by the loudspeaker announcement of, "Sorry for the delay here, folks. We may have run over something... or someone. We're sending some officials to go check it out. Thank you for your patience." And I'm really not sure why they were thanking us for patience because really, what choice do we have other than to be patient when stranded between stations on a train that may or may not have just killed someone?? But regardless it was later discovered that the "someone" in question had fallen asleep on the middle track (there's a three track system inbound and outbound on the outer tracks with the middle for freight and transfers) and was perfectly fine with the exception of being startled at awakening to train conductors and railroad police asking if he/she was alright. It was later announced that the individual was "in no condition to be left alone" so the train backed up to allow the sleeper to board and then kindly dropped him/her off at the next station (to an awaiting ambulance and ERT). The story speaks volumes to the compassion and efficiency of Metra staff and I guess also proves that it's possible to hail a train instead of a taxi cab. It's by far the most interesting train story I've had all year but as it was followed yesterday by a train striking a car at a crossing (with an assumedly less happy ending) I have to wonder at the effect of the warmer weather on increasing the incidence of incidents.

So I guess what I have to say is don't be stupid around trains. Maybe when it's warm people think a stroll along the tracks - or even a little nap on the rails - is a good idea. Maybe in the summer rush they they think their car can make the crossing because it's hot and they don't want to wait. There's a reason though, that Metra has begun making the morning announcement, "Did you know a train hitting a car is the equivalent of your car running over a soda can? Look, Listen, Live!" Seriously, they say "soda", not pop. What's the deal with that? But seriously, seriously, it's not really something I should joke about. I hate being late to work but even more than that I hate the thought that summer brings out recklessness that leads to injuries or deaths. Be safe people.

1 comment:

x-ray chick said...

Yeah, I don't have any Cicadas, but I hear they are out. I do not hear them either.

It is scary how many people don't take trains seriously. Metra does do a good job.

Funny how I eat more spinach now than I did before last year....