Wednesday, October 26, 2005

I *think* this counts as my good deed for the day.

I was leaving the Abbey late tonight when it happened.

Located roughly midway between the Port of Seattle, the main rail terminal and the switching yards, the abbey is surrounded on 3 sides by active train tracks. It is not uncommon for any (or all of them) to be in use at any given time. We joke that whenever we leave the shop for lunch, before we decide where to go we first have to see what route out is blocked, then make our decision. Many a visitor has been delayed en-route due being on the wrong side of a train track.

I was leaving late and headed to meet up with Dancer. So it was no surprise to me when I hopped in my car and saw that one of the nearby track’s warning lights starting up, the track that lay across the most direct route to my destination. I thought for a second that maybe I should take an alternate route and bypass this delay, but I had time and the train was probably not THAT long, so I opted for the direct route. When I pulled up to the tracks I was greeted by a frantic, scruffy looking middle-aged white man running towards my position. He was in full on wild-eyed panic mode. Now, I should point out that this neighborhood is not the best of spots after dark. Sure, during the day it is fine, but at night it becomes an industrial wasteland, inhabited only by day laborers and extras from a bad zombi flick.

“Dude! You gotta help me! My car is stuck on the tracks and there is a train coming!”

Sure enough, off to my left there was his little geo metro, high centered on the tracks. Now I should point out two details. First, the tracks in question are actually 2 sets of parallel tracks. The larger, faster moving trains use one, the primary. The other, the one this poor sap was stuck on, is a switching track, less used and only by REALLY slow trains… but large, hard to stop, car obliterating trains nonetheless.

Upon closer inspection it looks like the guy tried to drive around the tracks, but ended up running parallel to them, one set of wheels inside the track the other on the outside. Now this would be fine, save for the tiny detail that once the tracks cross the street and into the alley they rise to a height of about 18 inches and his poor car was teetering dead center on the track.
He did try to free himself, as evident by his two blown out front tires and the ditch said tires had made trying to free the tiny car. Two homeless guys were also there trying to help push him off the tracks, with little effect. Whatever the hell this guy did to get himself into this position, he sure did a damn fine job of it.

Did I mention that the train crossing lights were still flashing?

So here he is, frantic to move his crippled car and he is asking me if I can pull his car off the tracks. Hence my second detail, I drive an SUV. Well a tiny SUV actually, more like a micro SUV. But and small, stout SUV nonetheless.

Now if this guy could stop freaking for like 30 seconds I would tell him that this is a little used spur also that I have rope capable of towing a car back at my shop… that is less that 50 yards away, but he is too busy bouncing up and down on his hood trying to rock the car off the tracks while looking over his shoulder for any sign of the impending locomotive of doom. Meanwhile the two bums who are helping him are chattering back and forth in Spanish, from what little I could pick up they were placing bets on which end of the car would get plowed into first.

I don’t carry towlines in my car. I do however carry tie down straps. Hardly strong enough by themselves to really to by, I grab 3 and hand them to the guy. “Hook these to something solid, NOT your bumper.” , I tell him. He scurries under the car and wraps them around something that I hope will be solid. Slipping behind the wheel of my rig I engage the 4wd, note this is exactly the 5th time I have used this feature in the 5 years I have owned the vehicle. (hey, I live in Seattle. It snows once every 2 years) While not a towing powerhouse, I think my trusty little rig has enough moxie to drag this poor sap’s car off the tracks... I just hope our impromptu tow cables hold out long enough. As I slowly start to press on the accelerator, the little car starts to budge. A little at first, then with a sudden ear piercing SCREACH the thing begins to slide along the tracks as I pull it back onto the road. Sparks fly from the under carriage as it grudgingly grinds it’s way along the track and to freedom.

Out of harm’s way, I set about to un-hook my car from the towlines. I don’t want them back, they are ruined and besides, I really don’t want to see the aftermath of whatever he tied them to so I free my end and leave them for him to deal with. I pull out my phone to call Dancer and let her know that I’ll be late when he asks if he can borrow it to call his work and let them know where he is. WTF, I pull your ass off the train tracks AND you want to borrow my phone too? Whats next, want me to loan you money to get your flat tires fixed too?!

Of course I don’t actually say that. With a sigh I hand him my phone and do my best to brush the adventure’s dirt off my hands.

When I finally arrive at Dancer’s place, I greet her with a kiss and tell her, “You are not gonna believe what just happened to me, but first… can I go wash my hands?”