One of the scariest moments in my life was during a normal drive home in the evening. I think about it a lot, and it’s been on my mind lately since I’ve been home visiting. I thought I’d write about it!
I was in the car by myself and I was approaching the railroad tracks I must cross every day, which are generally unoccupied. Just before the tracks were marshes of tall grass which obstructed the view of the tracks, making it a bit more problematic to see what was coming over them. Since I had only been a licensed driver for about a year, I had just begun to relax on some of the things that perfect drivers are supposed to do on their driving tests, such as taking obvious glances to both sides upon approaching railroad tracks (if it didn’t look like you were looking, points were taken off of your final grade). I just flitted my eyes to either side of the road and saw only grass and pussywillows. But as I got closer, I saw a bright light on the ground, coming from…where? Not the lamp posts…and the Rail Road Crossing lights aren’t blinking and there isn’t a bar in my way, so it must be ok…
And just as my car was halfway over the tracks, I turned my head completely to the right to meet the blinding headlights of a train, not more than twenty feet from the car. It was just like the cinematic approaches to car crashes: time stops and slows, and the driver stares helplessly into oncoming headlights right before the first window shatters and the metal of the door cringes. My heart halted and sunk, and I felt the blood rush from my face. It felt like ages before I was out of the headlights
My car was still moving, though, so I was really out of the way in less than a second. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw nothing but the lit ground again. The train hadn’t been moving at all. It was just parked there to terrorize oncoming traffic and perhaps make repairs. I looked back ahead of me and started to hyperventilate as the shock wore off. I couldn’t believe what had happened. I managed to get home and park the car (I wasn’t very far), but I sat in the driveway to let myself calm down. I went inside after a few minutes but didn’t tell anyone that it had happened because I didn’t want them to think I was a bad driver already.
After this incident, I vowed to ALWAYS look both ways properly…even though nothing really happened. May you, dear reader, never get caught unexpectedly in the headlights of a train.