Friday, June 10, 2005

I ironed my pants and shirt last night, and my tie, so as to save time this morning. I catch the train at 6:02 on Fridays so that means getting up around 5:00: if I wanted to shower AND iron before work I’d have to get up even earlier, so I tend to either iron at night or not shower. Today I needed the shower, though.

She probably didn’t sleep last night, but she may have ironed. She wanted to look halfway decent this, her big, morning.

For various reasons, mostly pertaining to my coffee and news addictions, I very nearly missed my train, or thought I was going to. Fortune smiled upon me, however, as I discovered two things when I got to the bottom of the hill which all but guaranteed that I would make it on time. 1) My clocks are all a few minutes fast. 2) A bus pulled up just as I got across the street and offered a 3-minute ride (sparing me an 8-minute walk). I had time for a cigarette (my last one: I had time to pick up a new pack in the Dortmund station at the kiosk at the foot of the stairs when I got out of the train).

Did she unplug the iron? Better go back and check! Yes. Did she have her wallet? Yes. Gas in the car? Hmm. Let’s see. . . . It was 6:15. Not enough time: She would just have to hope it was enough.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Rhein-Wupper Express from Aachen to Dortmund with stops in Wuppertal-Barmen, Wuppertal-Oberbarmen, Schwelm, Ennepetal, Hagen, and Witten will be arriving shortly on track 2. Bitte Vorsicht bei der Einfahrt des Zuges.

Two minutes late. I would have made it even without the bus, and could have bought my cigarettes here instead of waiting until Dortmund. Oh well. No smoking on the trains anyway.

The 6:02 is usually pretty quiet and empty. I took a seat, as is my custom, facing the back of the train. Ever since the big ICE crash a few years ago it has seemed to me that I would be less likely to suffer severe injury in the case of a sudden stop if I sat like this than if I sat facing forward. This is both a natural assumption and not really all that clever: if a train stops suddenly, then you are bound to be in trouble no matter where you are sitting, because trains just can’t really stop suddenly.

The Rhein-Wupper Express is not, sadly, an ICE. It usually doesn’t go much more than 120 kilometers per hour.

Ennepetal has a lovely old wooden train station. EVERY TIME I pass through there I think that thought, and I also think that someone should do something to spruce it up. It appears to be empty (just platforms and ticket machines) and it is covered in grafitti.

It was 6:20 when I thought this today (as it usually is when I think this on Thursdays and Fridays). We are usually in Hagen by around 6:30 and in Dortmund by 6:55. Today’s break from the routine would have been for a pack of cigarettes, but otherwise I planned to just go into the office, get some more coffee, and then go off to my 8:00 appointment.

She would have, perhaps, noticed that the train was running late by a couple of minutes. Time enough to check her makeup and read the letter one more time. Having established that everything was in its proper place she got out of the car and glanced around. Nothing stirring. That’s why she picked this place. The good people were mostly or all still a’bed, not that it really mattered. She closed the door but didn’t lock it. She wanted everyone to understand that she was not a twit wandering aimlessly in search of a locksmith: they must see the keys (just as they must see her purse and letter) there in the front seat of her unlocked car. She couldn’t risk them being lost when

I collected the first piece of evidence suggesting that my fear of a sudden stop was unfounded. We stopped quickly, to be sure, but *relatively* quickly. I did look up from my magazine, though, because the conductor had not announced Hagen and so we should not yet be stopping. But we were. Out the left side of the train I could see a few old factories and a working-class apartment block or two. Out the right side I could see the tidy, boring, quiet middle-class neighborhood between the tracks and the hill.

The conductor’s voice apologized for the fact that, due to an accident, we would be going no further for a while. He would keep us posted and thanked us for our understanding.

The conductor’s voice apologized again one minute later. If there is a doctor or a nurse or anyone with similar skills on board, would they please come see him at the front of the train?

I soon noticed the conductor, and then a young blonde woman walking along the side of the tracks back the way we’d come. A few minutes later I noticed a police officer.

This train was a double-decker. It was quite nice and comfortable, and in most senses an improvement over the older trains that run on most routes (and sometimes on this one). One thing I don’t like about it, though (and I just noticed this today), is that you can’t open the windows very far. Just about 4 inches. I slipped my cell phone/camera though the window and used the zoom function (I tried to get a basic model that just does telephony, but those are hard to get now, so don’t mock me) to try to see what was going on. I could just make out something, but it wasn’t clear what I was looking at.

I called in to cancel my appointment at around 7:30. Even if we started immediately I wouldn’t make it for 8:00.

At around 8:15 I took a hike up to the front of the train (I had been back in first class, because there was no one else there). Some folks had taken advantage of the temporary anarchy to smoke in the train. Which is forbidden. I wished that I’d bought cigarettes in Wuppertal.

The conductor and engineer were talking. They weren’t saying much. I sat down near enough to them so that I could learn something if something worth learning came up.

Then the young blonde woman, followed by two young men (one brunette, one bald) and a police officer came out of the bushes along the side of tracks. The conductor opened up and let them in.

The policeman said he saw the keys. He noticed that the door wasn’t locked. He saw her purse and the letter. He knew that she was born in 1941. The conductor and engineer hadn’t been sure whether they had seen a woman or a man, as it all happened so fast. So it was a woman, eh? Yes.

The young men didn’t have much to say, but I did learn that one was a paramedic and the other was a nurse. They had both seen this sort of thing before in other contexts, they said, and were sure they would be fine. The conductor was quite shaken up, and said this happens, on average, once a day somewhere in Germany. The engineer has experienced this sort of thing 4 times in his 38-year career. He said it doesn’t usually happen on days, like today, when the sun is shining and the birds are chirping. The young blonde woman had a lot to say and said it. She was a doctor’s assistant and, I assume, had not seen this sort of thing before. She said it bothered her a great deal. She had questions. She learned that the crew of the train would have some time off and go to the company doctor for a little talk. She might try that herself, I think, or something like it. What shocked her the most was that the woman was just sitting there on the tracks. Like she was just tired of walking and the rails were convenient. Turns out she had a severe head wound, though. Not much blood, but it looked bad. Probably a severe concussion, said the paramedic. She probably wasn’t really conscious, although she was moving her eyes around at first. She was definitely dying though, as she had had her legs amputated (one just above the knee and one right at the hip). She was bleeding profusely.

She closed her eyes right after they got there.


At 6:51 PM, Blogger shelley said...

Just damn.

At 7:13 PM, Blogger Greg said...



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