December 20, 2009, - 1:42 pm
Last night, I had a very scary experience, which was as if it was right out of the movies.
As most readers know, I’m located in the Detroit area. And even though we weren’t hit by the East Coast snowstorm, we got a couple of inches of snow or so. Still, it was very scary and slippery driving, yesterday evening, which I didn’t know, until I got on the road. I was headed to meet friends at a movie theater, to see one of the rare movies I didn’t screen ahead of time, “The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans,” starring Nicolas Cage (I’ll post my review with most of the rest of the new holiday-release movies on Tuesday or Wednesday).
I left my home with plenty of time and drove very slowly, like the rest of the traffic. But that didn’t stop me from having a really scary spinout, where my car stopped just in time not to hit something. (If I’d known it was this bad, I’d have stayed home, but I was already most of the way there.) That wasn’t the scary part, though.
When I was less than a quarter-mile from the theater in downtown Royal Oak, a re-gentrified, hip Detroit suburb, I was driving very slowly on a city side street, when all of a sudden, the bright red flashing railroad crossing warning lights and security arm came down on top of my car. It was one of those crazy flukes, where the timing was such that I was partially into the crossing when the warning came. There was no warning for the warning.
I pressed lightly on the brakes, which–because it was very slippery–made me swerve further into the crossing, anyway. I was scared out of my mind. I very slowly backed up. And fortunately, the crossing security arm was flexible and dragged over the top of my car and back down in front of it. But I guess I was still not far enough back out of the crossing, because I could hear the train coming and beeping its horn very loudly, repeatedly. Unfortunately, there were other cars and lots of traffic behind me, trying their best to back up. We were all caught by the railroad warning lights suddenly and by surprise. I tried to back up and finally there was enough room. All of this happened in a matter of seconds, with no time to think. It wasn’t like the railroad crossing pictured above, with a big metal structure. It was a small single-lane street, with hardly any notice that there is a railroad crossing there.
Two seconds later a very long train came by, still beeping its horn loudly at me (though I was out of its line of travel). The train was so long, it took almost ten minutes to get by and I was late for the movie.
But I didn’t care. Because I was alive, thank G-d. Whoa, that was scary! I said a gazillion prayers when I got home, last night. I’ve seen several stories on the news here, recently, of crazy kids who tried to beat trains and got killed as their car got caught on the tracks. That’s the exact opposite of me. I’m not a risk take when it comes to driving. I abide the speed limits and the stop signs, and I don’t rush to beat trains. I just had the very bad luck of getting caught in the middle of this.
Next time I see something like this in the movies (something I normally wouldn’t believe), I’ll say, “Yeah, that could definitely happen.” It’s vivid in my mind, and I won’t forget it anytime soon.
Tags: Michigan, railroad crossing, Royal Oak, scary, scary experiences