The most frequent route that I take to work runs over a set of train tracks outside Mechanicville, NY. Most days on my way to or from the office I breeze right across the tracks without the slightest glimpse of a train.
On a recent morning I was stopped behind a line of cars as the train crossed over the tracks. The trains that run on these tracks are freight trains and are often over a mile long. Since they don’t travel very fast it can take a while for them to get their freight cars across the tracks. I knew when I got to the line of cars that I was going to be there for a while since I was only about 10 cars back and this was a Monday morning during what passes for rush hour in Upstate NY.
As I stopped my car and put it in park I thought about the situation and what I could control and what I could not control. I knew that I could not control how fast the train was going. I was not going to be able to control the wish that the next freight car was the last and the level crossing would slowly open so I could pass.
I could control how I reacted to the situation. I could look at the train and think about how lucky we are that this train is full of goods that are going to be used by some people somewhere along its route. I could look around and see what was going on in the field next to the road. I could listen to some music or roll down the window and listen to the birds in the morning.
As I looked into the backyard of a house next to the road I noticed a man outside his barn door loading what looked like grass seed into a spreader. If it was grass seed I wondered why he was doing that on the last day of November as grass growing season had been over for a while. Now I was curious and watched him go back into the barn. I couldn’t see very clearly into the barn but I could see that he was busy with something else. I wondered what was next and where he was going to bring the spreader.
That is when I noticed the brake lights and activity of the cars ahead of me. The flashing red lights at the crossing stopped and the black and white arms of the gate started to rise. As the car in front of me started to move, the guy came out of his barn and got behind the spreader. I had to put my car in drive and move on from the story or be subject to the horn of the Chevy truck behind me.
I was tempted to pull into the guy’s driveway to see how the story ended or ask him what was in the spreader but I didn’t think that was something on his agenda for this particular Monday morning. Instead I continued on with my commute, thinking that if the train had another mile’s length of cars I might have been able to find out where the guy was going with his spreader.
I’m not sure my fellow commuters would have been all aboard with that thought.