Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker Brenda A.: "When were you helped by a random stranger?"

One night, many years ago, before there were automated railroad gates at every crossing on the country roads near where I live, I came to a railroad crossing I crossed all the time, braked to a stop, and looked both ways, just like always. I was just starting to proceed across the tracks when the driver of a car pulling to a stop, on the other side of the tracks, flashed its headlights at me.

It was just enough to get my attention, just enough to cause me to hesitate for a moment. And suddenly a train came barreling through the intersection, at an unusually high speed. Its horn blared as it passed, startling me so thoroughly I gasped out loud.

The front bumper of my car was inches from the tracks. Adrenaline rushed through me like a bolt of electricity. I knew with absolute certainty I would have been onto those tracks and in the train's path if that person hadn't been paying attention, hadn't noticed that I was about to cross the tracks and flashed hir headlights at me.

I don't know how I missed seeing the train, or how the stranger was able to see the train. It was a very dark night, on an unlit country road. Maybe it was just that the brush from hir direction didn't mask the front light of the train, but did mask it from my direction. I don't know.

I still feel a visceral rush of relief, even thinking about it now, probably 22 years later.

Once the train had passed, I flashed my headlights back as a thank you. We passed each other in the night as we crossed the train tracks, and I tried to see who it was who had saved me, but it was too dark.

That crossing has an automated gate now.

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