Considering all my options

Published 10:07 pm Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A moment of clarity arrived not a moment too soon for me recently.

I am a lot more of a daredevil than most people give me credit for. Yes, I am that person who rides the scariest roller coasters just because they scare me. I love a good challenge, and unless the idea is super-stupid or goes against my morals, I will most often rise to the occasion.

It was 10:10 p.m. and I was headed down Main Street one night not too long ago when I saw red lights flashing on the raised railroad crossing gate and heard, “Ding, ding, ding.”

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I stopped and gave a glance down the tracks. Where was the train?

The moment of truth had arrived. I had several — let me say again, SEVERAL — seconds to consider my options before the gate came down. Only a few days before, I recalled, a friend who shall remain nameless mentioned that as a youth he had raced across the tracks to beat a train.

“Haven’t you ever done that?” he asked those of us who were looking at him in shock.

I couldn’t recall ever having the opportunity to race a train. In my hometown of Portsmouth, when railway lights begin flashing, the traffic signals ahead of you change to red and the arms slam down, sometimes on top of cars, long before the train even arrives.

Because of the wait time between the arms coming down and the train actually arriving, I have seen folks navigate between the arms. I also have seen these same folks stopped by police immediately after passing the second lowered arm.

“What I would do,” I wondered, “if the opportunity ever presented itself?”

Here I was in Suffolk, seemingly alone; flashing red arms still raised, a green light (perplexingly enough) ahead of me — taunting me, tempting me and enabling me.

Perhaps it was the part of me that values having a license, a job and a car; or imagining one of my friends calling my train-pancaked car a Ford Crumple; or my recollection of the statistics on the number of people who have died as a result of being hit by a train.

Whatever it was, I quickly decided to refuse the challenge, and I watched as the train passed by with its ferocious speed, its enormous weight and all of its might.

Being a daredevil is one thing. Racing a train, though — that’s just dumb.