“Memories of a Slamtrak Vacation Part 3”
“When Will This Nightmare End?”
I half stood up and leaned over my wife (who was still trying to process what was going on) and squinting, looked out the darkened window. Apparently I wasn’t the only agitated passenger who knew something else was wrong because I could see the reflections of many other faces pressed up against the windows. The same thing was taking place on the other side of the aisle too, but this time, anger won over reason and I sincerely thought there was going to be some sort of riot!
My wife joined me at the window and together we scanned the landscape moving our heads from left to right hoping to get some answers. With very little illumination, all I could make out was a dirt road that appeared to cross over the train tracks. I assumed the dirt road continued on the other side and it was used as a fire road or for four-wheeling and other outdoor activities. As far as I could tell, there were no railroad crossing signs or warning lights anywhere. By now, everyone was wide awake (AGAIN!) and asking each other if they could see anything strange or unusual? A short distance away from the train, blue, red, yellow and orange lights were quickly heading straight for us and the vast majority of passengers saw them at the same time causing everyone to shout out in unison; “What the hell is going on now?”
By now, my daughter was completely awake and playing the typical children’s game of; “who can ask the most questions in a minute?” Her dialogue of inquiries ranged from; “where are we?” “Are we at Mickey’s house?” “Is this where Uncle Tommy’s picking us up?” to “What are those shiny things outside and why is that guy sitting in the dirt with another guy?” What guy, what shiny things is she talking about, what . . . “Holy Jesus” I exclaimed as I bent down to be at the same exact eye level as my daughter. Sure as hell, there they were, a multitude of various, shiny, metallic, objects, scattered about the surrounding area. Some were larger than others, but when you followed the trail of shiny, metal, parts from any direction, they all led back to what appeared to once be a car or reasonable facsimile thereof. The frigging train “Slamtrak” had hit a car at top speed turning it into several pieces of twisted, mangled, abstract, art. Oh, the guy in the dirt with the other guy . . . well, one of them was a staff member and the other one was . . . “The driver” from the car! We didn’t know this at first, but only found out later from one of the “Amtrak” staff members
We all watched as the guy sitting in the dirt attempted and then succeeded to stand up with the assistance of two “Amtrak” staff members. Together they slowly walked back and forth with the unknown guy in the middle staggering like a man who was completely drunk out of his mind and not an injured victim. The distant, assorted, colored, lights were now pulling up to the train one right after another and emergency personnel were quickly jumping out of their vehicles, medical bags in hand and a stretcher not too far behind them. They were heading directly towards the tango trio who by now had stopped walking and were waiting for the EMT’s.
By now, everyone in the train had created several different scenarios of what they thought might have caused this brutal accident from attempted suicide to a direct hit because of the lack of signal lights announcing the approaching train. The one thing everyone was in full agreement with was; how lucky that man was to have actually survived that crash. He must have had either a few hundred Guardian Angels surrounding him or just some plain “dumb-ass luck.” Whatever it was . . . it worked! Outside the train, darkness had given way to dawn and the unfamiliar scenery suddenly took on a sepia tone making this whole event seem even that more surreal. I couldn’t help staring at the giant piece of twisted metal that once was a car and I suddenly thought to myself; “Oh my God, what if he wasn’t the only person in that car, what if there’s a totally squished person still in there?”
My wife must have somehow locked onto my thoughts because no sooner had I thought about the possibility of another person being trapped inside the wreck, when my wife said; “Do you think he was the only one in the car, what if there are more people lying dead out there that we can’t see?” I shrugged my shoulders as I sat in my seat singing the “alphabet” song to my daughter who was now sitting on my lap getting super restless. Together we watched dozens of rescue personnel work on the “lucky man” as well as survey both his car (what remained of it) and the cars of the “unlucky train” which really didn’t seem as though anything was wrong with them.
The banter in the train was a jovial mixture of anger, frustration, irritation, comic relief and confusion as everyone waited on pins and needles to find out what the future held in store for us. The “lucky man” was hoisted on a stretcher, placed inside the ambulance and off it went, lights flashing and siren blaring. The remaining rescue vehicles exited a few at a time until they had all disappeared into the morning fog. Very soon after, an “Amtrak” staff member came bounding through the front door of the train car and apologized again for the massive delay, but said everything was fine with the train and that we’d be rolling out shortly. He was very vague with the information he offered up when asked about the accident involving the train and the “lucky man.” I mean he was polite and all that, but at that point we all believed that we were entitled to more details than what we were told. I suppose he was just following company policy and was bound by specific rules and regulations on what information he could share.
Five minutes later the train slowly puffed into life and we were on our way . . . “AGAIN!” Without sounding conceited, I can humbly say that “I was blessed with the gift of gab!” Oh yes, it’s true. As a matter of fact my wife always jokes with me by telling me that I could talk to a tree and become best friends with it if I wanted too. Anyway, we had become friendly with one of the staff members so when I saw him head towards the back of our train car . . . I followed him. (I told my wife I had to go to the bathroom . . . wink, wink!) A quick “hello” and a “talk about the trip from hell” to my train buddy and within a minute I had all the sorted details of our latest catastrophe. So here’s the skinny . . .
The dude was intoxicated beyond what intoxicated should be and decided that he didn’t want to live anymore. So he figured the best way to commit suicide was to park his car across the railroad tracks and have the train slam into him at whatever high rate of speed it was going. After all, isn’t that the most practical way to take your own life . . . crushed to death by a train filled with innocent passengers . . . in front of little children? Well, apparently God had other plans for this “lucky man” because he walked (staggered) away from it with barely a scratch! I’m thinking that if he wasn’t stoned cold drunk, he probably would have died instantly, but because his body was like putty, he kind of just bounced around like a super ball.
By now, every passenger on that train couldn’t wait to get to where they were going and most everyone on board was exhausted, irritable, agitated, smelly, sweaty, frustrated, angry and ready to snap! We were almost there, only three more stops to go and we could dismount this hulking piece of metal, have a reunion with one of our best friends and finally begin our vacation. What was supposed to be a pleasant twenty four hour train ride to Florida, turned into a thirty two hour “train ride from Hell” As I dismounted the train and my feet touched the blessed ground, I wanted to jump for joy! As soon as our friend, who was patiently waiting for our arrival, saw us, he literally ran over to us and with his arms stretched out wide, embraced the three of us in what can only be described as the most sincere, loving, bear hug ever. My wife, who by now was emotionally drained, turned on the waterworks and let her tears of stress and joy flow like the Missouri river. Our daughter, who was in my arms and not quite sure what was really going on, looked up at the three of us and in a booming voice that surprised even her, yelled; “are we at Mickey’s house yet?”
The three of us burst out laughing which was something neither my wife nor I had done in, well, the last thirty two hours and it felt good, real good. Smiling at my daughter, I was finally able to say; “yes, we are almost at Mickey’s house, I bet you can’t wait to meet him.” Looking like something that the cat dragged in (and smelling like it too) we hoisted our luggage and tired aching bodies into our friend’s car looking forward to our week and a half stay, but already dreading the train ride back. ”Oh come on,” I thought to myself, “The train ride back won’t be as bad as the ride down, sometimes shit just happens.” I mean, it wasn’t Amtrak’s fault. If it wasn’t for the bomb scare and the failed suicide attempt, oh, and the delay in D.C. waiting for the late passengers, we would have been here hours ago! The next ten days were wonderful, fun, relaxing and much needed. The time had arrived to board the train again and head home to Massachusetts. Remember what I said about the train ride home not being as bad as the ride down? I lied!
Keep checking back for part four “The Long Ride Home”
If you haven’t read parts 1 & 2 please check them out here;