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I Just Don’t Get The Trains

September 12, 2011

I remember, way back when I was a freshmen, writing a paper for my English 101 class on the differences between the North and the South. I had been here for about two months and it was weighing on my mind. If I remember correctly I wrote about three things: manners, antennas on pickup trucks and trains. While I am sure I will cover all three at some point in this blog, tonight I want to talk about trains.

Now, I should point out that we don’t really do public transportation well down here. A few buses in my city, but bless their hearts, the people that run that system can’t even seem to keep it afloat. No, many things are done well in the South, but public transportation is not one of them. So when I say trains, I am not talking about the passenger variety, but the CSX and other companies hauling variety.

Trains, while I am sure they do a great service of hauling crap and keeping it off a semi-truck (and off the freeway), piss me off. A LOT. Last weekend, in a period of 36 hours, I managed to get stopped by trains blocking the road FOUR TIMES. And it was the same major road each time (for those of you that know me, the road that runs down towards the stadium from downtown). Four times in a day and a half I got stuck, wasting gas and twiddling my thumbs sitting waiting for the damn thing to move. Now, occasionally I can see it in time and take a side road around it, but you have to be lucky in your choice of road. Why? Because the trains have a tendency to block multiple roads. I guess my big complaint with the whole thing is why are there not more bridges and such to go over trains or have them go over? I have lost track of the number meetings I have been late to over the years because I was stuck waiting on a damn train to move its slow self out of the way. FURTHERMORE, why do they stop in the middle of the damn road? I find it less irritating (slightly) if they are moving at least when they block the intersection. If the damn thing is just sitting there my blood pressure goes through the roof.

Approaching Train

Now another point of concern, as we know, I work on a college campus. The trains crisscross town all over the place, but there are a number of tracks surrounding the campus. I know we have had students die on these before… wouldn’t it make sense to try and get them to not run near campus? No matter how many times I warn my freshmen not to cut under them to try and get to a classroom building or the bar/restaurant area near campus, I am pretty sure they do it anyway. It is just another disaster waiting to happen.

The one thing that I have gotten use to over the years is the whistle blowing at all hours of the day and night. I remember being little and visiting at my Nana’s and freaking out every night when a train whistle blew near her condo. Now, I can hang out at the pool over there and not even look up from my magazine when I hear one. My new grad students are trying to get used to the whistles now, I suppose it doesn’t help when I tell them it took me about four years to get used to it… they are only here for two.

yes, because we stop to take pictures of trains...

Now, if we go back to that paper I wrote freshmen year, I had a theory about the trains. As an 18 year old I was convinced that the reason they were all over the place here was because of the Civil War. You see, one many reasons noted for why the South lost the Civil War was because the lack of industry and infrastructure in the South… railroads included. So my theory was the South invested in trains to be prepared in case the North ever invaded again. Just sayin’.

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