My job is to watch the trains pass by. Well, that is literally what I do. The actual description of my duties state that I am to ensure that no vehicles or persons become disabled and unable to be removed from the tracks when a train is about to pass through the crossing. If this ever happens (and it hasn’t) I’m to say into the radio “Emergency, Emergency, Emergency, Clear,” and relate that the track has been fouled and the train needs to stop. What comes after that, I don’t know. It has never come up. No, what I always do is, once the bells start ringing and the gates come down halting traffic, I step out of my little shack with my flag in my hand and the radio clipped to the back pocket of my jeans and I hold the flag out until I am reasonably sure that the engineer piloting the train has seen the signal, which tells him that the track of the crossing is clear. Then I drop it, wave to the engineer I do not know, and return to my shack.
Sometimes when I’m watching the wheels of the train car passing over the rails, I think of putting my hand there, on the rail, so that the wheels would run it over. This is not a serious or remotely possible consideration. It has zero chance of taking place. I enjoy my two working hands. I do not wish to lose one. Really, when I’m watching the wheels ride so smoothly over the rails and I ponder laying my hand down on the metal I don’t visualize the true result of my hand being cut off and pints of blood spurting from the wound. I understand that this would be the only possible consequence, but for some reason my brain doesn’t dwell on it most of the time. When I picture it, my hand is returned to me unscathed, or, upon contact with my hand, the train derails, which I learned in orientation is the outcome to be avoided at all costs. The train is to stay on the tracks because for it to do otherwise would cause a staggering amount of delays, and delays are enemy number one when in the business of moving commuters from point A to point B. So if placing my hand on the steel and keeping it there as the train approached would end up in a calamity for those on board and everyone else who expected to be picked up and dropped off in a timely fashion, it’s best that I refrain.