December 20, 2009, - 1:42 pm

OMG: My Very Scaaaary Experience of the Week

By Debbie Schlussel

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.

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50 Responses

Glad to hear you are safe and sound!!!!!

Jeff W. on December 20, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Hi Debby,

I am so glad and thankful you are OK. You are one of the best bloggers around and we need you! A guardian angel must have been watching over you last night. God bless you!


rebecca on December 20, 2009 at 1:48 pm

VERY SCARY…glad to hear you are safe and sound…maybe a move to the West or SW is needed…we are enjoying spring like weather in AZ ?

@freedom4usa on December 20, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Glad you missed the train.

I once had a spin-out on a rainy night at 2AM after driving for something like 14 hours straight. Was half asleep, went around a sharp curve on a 2 way street without slowing down.

The car spun between 2 lampposts in the middle of the road and wound up on the other side, turned 180 degrees around. Boy, did that ever wake me up!

That’s when I turned to my friend and said “now, you drive.”

Shy Guy on December 20, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Makes you feel more alive once it’s over, doesn’t it?
Those types of crossings are the worse types. Stationed at Edward AFB there is a set of tracks that runs along the Sierra Highway north and south. Lancaster and Palmdale are joined by it in a desert (rural) area. Not all of the streets that ran across those tracks had arms, just lights. I had a couple of close calls where thelights came on, I slowed down to yield and had to slam on the brakes just in time. Young and dumb lived to see another day. The train didn’t slow down through there either so there were a couple of cars full of people that did get creamed.
It’s like in the movie TRUE ROMANCE where Christian Slater comes back from wiping out the pimps den and says the hamburger he eats is the best tasting hamburger he’s ever had.
Be careful out there.

Joe on December 20, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Thank G-d you are safe and sound, Debbie.

JeffE on December 20, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Please be careful, we really need and appreciate you.
A couple of inches of snow on the ground is good reason to stay home unless it’s really necessary for you to go out.

(you know, it never rains,,,, or snows,,,, in California,,,,)

Marvin on December 20, 2009 at 2:54 pm

All of what they said and more, Debbie. I’ve spun out a few times myself; it doesn’t matter how careful someone is, it can still happen.

Douglas Q on December 20, 2009 at 3:08 pm

All the more reason to move to Florida like me next year

seahawker on December 20, 2009 at 3:31 pm

What you experienced is thankfully a very rare occurrence. The signals are made and maintained in such a way that this should not happen, but it does on very rare occasions, usually when the weather is awful. My husband works for a Class I railroad managing the repair and maintenance of the signals in our little corner of Ohio, and prior to that he worked for five years for a Class II maintaining signals. Thankfully you were able to get out of the way of the oncoming train, as he would not have been able to stop in time.

I would report the signal problem to the railroad in question so that it can be repaired quickly. If you don’t know which one, let the police know and they will contact the railroad responsible for the crossing.

Agnes B. Bullock on December 20, 2009 at 3:41 pm

PS- also, in response to Joe, the railroads themselves do not dictate the type of warning systems there are at each crossing- the federal, state and local governments do. The railroads maintain them. The railroads are as regulated as the oil industry.

Agnes B. Bullock on December 20, 2009 at 3:44 pm

How often do you think someone in the U.S. dies at a RR crossing? I would have guessed once every two weeks or so.Its about one a DAY and three serious injuries a day.

poetcomic1 on December 20, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Debbie – I wonder how many people have been killed in that scenario while they were just focused on one thing – GETTING THE CAR OUT OF THE WAY – and they couldn’t make it? I’ll bet it would be sickening to learn the number.

When I used to fly – it got so expensive I stopped – but you always want to think of an “out” – what if the weather closes in and socks your destination airport?

What if the engine fails on takeoff and you are 500′ off the ground? (hint many times trying to make it back to the runway will kill you)

Please understand I am not trying to be an “armchair quarterback” – far be it from me to know exactly what I would do under your scenario until it happens.

But at some point it would be wise to GET OUT OF THE CAR. That’s what insurance companies are for.

Always try to play the mental game of “what if”…

Glad you are OK. Don’t know if you believe in Guardian Angels but I too have had some “close calls” in my life that make me wonder…

BB: Certainly, if I didn’t think I could make it, I’d have gotten out of the car. And, yes, I believe that G-d was watching over me and it wasn’t my time yet. Thank G-d. DS

Bill Brandt on December 20, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Harrowing tale, Debbie. Glad you got home to tell us about it.

CO, AZ (all of the SW) & FL are Hell-holes.

DS_ROCKS! on December 20, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Ah, Cage can’t act anyway, you didn’t miss much.

Nihilist on December 20, 2009 at 5:04 pm


ebayer on December 20, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Please move to a warmer climate and a safer state. The Universe is out of kilter and this is a perfect example.

Stymie on December 20, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Glad to know you are safe and sound. Thank GOD. TAKE CARE.

Daniel. on December 20, 2009 at 6:38 pm

So glad you survived to tell us about it! Praise be!
That’s what you get for going to see a Cage movie, You’ll think twice next time….:)

perception of truth on December 20, 2009 at 7:30 pm

I am so glad you are ok. I trust that other than this incident you had a blessed Hanukkah. May your New Year be filled with friends, family and happiness!

sirsurfalot on December 20, 2009 at 8:35 pm

Thank G-d you’re ok!

yonason on December 20, 2009 at 8:44 pm

I’m glad you’re OK. Something similar happened to me a few years ago with a spinout.

Little Al on December 20, 2009 at 8:58 pm

I’m not one to easily beleive in the warm and fuzzy Guardian Angel bit, but considering all the close situations I’ve been in (I should be dead at least 9 times over) there’s definitely someone looking out for us. Glad you lived to tell the tale. So good to make it to see another New Year, ain’t it?!!

theShadow on December 20, 2009 at 9:19 pm

On my gosh. That was frightening. Thank God you are safe and at home now. Your angel was taking care of you is all I can say. Glad you are still with us.

Darlene on December 20, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Debbie – Thank God you were safe. For all its majestic beauty, winter can be a scary time

C on December 20, 2009 at 9:44 pm

Debbie, glad to hear you’re safe and sound. Driving on snow and ice can be quite dangerous. One has to exercise special care in driving over slick pavement. I’m as careful and safe a driver as any one and I’ve had a few close calls. My other rule is I never drive at night, unless I have to. As much as I like the harsh serenity of winter, there are things about it that do scare me.

NormanF on December 20, 2009 at 11:02 pm

May He Who bestowed much good on you continue to do so.

Len on December 20, 2009 at 11:27 pm

Glad you are O.K. The loyal Debbie Schlussel readers would be devastated if something went wrong. One reason your blog rocks. You put your life experiences out there. I think if this happened to Michelle Malkin or Anne Coulter they wouldn’t share it with their readers. You wear your heart on sleeve. Keep it that way. That’s why we know you are for real.

CaliforniaScreaming on December 21, 2009 at 12:22 am

Make sure you Bench Gomel (A Jewish blessing one says for a couple of reasons, one of which is an incident such as this that could have ended tragically) the next time you are in Synagogue.

I_AM_ME on December 21, 2009 at 12:31 am

I had something similar happen to me once, during a driving lesson (I never got my driver’s license.) I was in the crossing when the warning bell started to ring. I got through the crossing and out of it before the gates came down.

Miranda Rose Smith on December 21, 2009 at 2:19 am

yeah glad you are ok, and it doesn’t matter if you move to another state, life is not some mathematical equation – just living is risky. That’s how it is. In the mid-west there are tornados, in California well there are Californians etc etc, and everywhere there are people who drive like maniacs who endanger your life every time you get in your car.

Larry on December 21, 2009 at 3:08 am

The railroad clearly needs to reset it so those bells and lights start flashing well before the gate comes down. Sort of reminds me of the subway conductors who shut the doors on people as they’re getting on or off and and trap them.

tempus fugit on December 21, 2009 at 4:14 am

Bill Brandt, you should appreciate this aviation story.

Shy Guy on December 21, 2009 at 9:14 am

praise G-d you are ok, that is very scary, very moving experience. not a happy one. maybe you can just stay home??

lindapolver on December 21, 2009 at 9:19 am

Been waiting for this.

War in Heaven.

You’re on the side that keeps revealing the evil, refusing to kneel and accept the yoke of tyranny. I’m truly surprised we haven’t heard a report like this before now.

Watch your Six, Deb.

Watch your six.

It’s not just two leggeds who are angry with you.

War In Heaven

Jack Mackenzie on December 21, 2009 at 10:29 am

Really glad you’re okay, Debbie. Thanks G-d. Happy Hanukkah. 🙂

Bobby'sBrain on December 21, 2009 at 10:52 am

If you were hurt, us loyal readers would be very devastated. But thank g-d that you are okay!!! A lot of car accidents happen in this season for the record. For the record, my first car got totaled last Christmas eve in an accident where I and the other guy were uninjured. Again, I’m so happy that you’re okay and you were very lucky!!!

Matthew on December 21, 2009 at 10:57 am

Debbie, very happy to hear that you are safe and sound. I hope your dry cleaning bill is minimal.

Syd B. on December 21, 2009 at 11:06 am

Sorry for your experience. Those situations tend to stick with you for awhile. I was out too on that evening and thought it was worse than had been reported. I did not see one salt truck.

sharon on December 21, 2009 at 11:14 am

Very scary indeed! Glad you are ok!

MOMinMINNESOTA on December 21, 2009 at 11:29 am

This is just one more sign from our heavenly Father that you are to get the hell out of Detroit.
It’s not like you could be accused of deserting a sinking ship. It has already sunk and is sitting at the bottom of the ocean rusting away.
Your car got stolen, next you’re going to be telling about your car-jacking.
Run Debbie Run.

smg45acp on December 21, 2009 at 11:51 am

G_d was watching over you – good for us! Keep up the good work.

Charles Chapdelaine on December 21, 2009 at 1:01 pm

These are two seperate incidents, right?

First the spin out… then driving slowly enough for a railway crossing to activate and then come down on your car?

Jambo on December 21, 2009 at 5:53 pm

I bet if you looked very carefully at the circumstances of your having missed that rendezvous, you will discover that the hand of G-d was working in your situation. There is a reason you were prevented from making it to that movie. I am glad you are safe, but a little curious about what Ha-Shem was protecting you from, but that is between you and Him…

Mewize on December 21, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Debbie..Seriously..Two words..WINTER TIRES! It’s the law here in Quebec..or don’t drive in that crap no matter what.
Glad ya made ‘er back in one piece! You’re almost Canadian

boru on December 21, 2009 at 11:13 pm

Debbie..Seriously..Three words..CHECK YOUR MEZUZAHS!


Shy Guy on December 22, 2009 at 12:28 am

The train “beeped its horn”? What? Honda now build locomotives, too? Just kidding-I drive a lot and there’s one thing I absolutely respect is railroad crossing grades when they’re activated (and also when they’re not). When you’re first in line at a crossing waiting for the train to pass you can feel the mass of that thing through the ground-would hate to get bumped by one let alone witness it. It’s bad enough to hear about it in the news and I’m glad and grateful to read that you were able to get out of that situation. Take care and be safe.

T. Y. on December 22, 2009 at 1:28 am

Oh thank goodness you are okay. I have a deep fear of railroad crossings for a similar situation except I wasn’t driving. My friend was and she was texting the whole time. I just knew we were going to crash. She stopped on a RR track for a red light still texting away. I started screaming there was a train coming and she was apparently in her own little world because she didn’t even acknowledge me. The light turned green as the train was barreling closer to us and blowing it’s horn rapidly (along with other drivers) and she just toodled ever so non-chalantly off the tracks like nothing was happening. The train missed us (Whew!) and she eventually looked up, pulled her earbuds out (I didn’t see she had them on) and was shocked there was a train. I will NEVER ride with her again. That was the worst drive ever. She’s 40, she should have known better.

To this day I get a deep panic feeling when I approach any railroad tracks. I roll down my window so I can hear better, stop before them, turn off the radio, double check… I am sure I look like a massively paranoid freak but at least I have a healthy respect for something that can kill me.

Dotchi Latham on December 30, 2009 at 4:21 pm

Daaaaaaaamnnnnn youur Finneeeeeee A’f Lil Mammaaa <3333

Sheee.Muurdeers on October 18, 2011 at 10:31 am

—> imaaa Makee Youuu Mineee’s Oneee Daaaaay xDDD <3333

Sheee.Muurdeers on October 18, 2011 at 10:33 am

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