Some stranger tells you, "Your girlfriend is not going to see you anymore! Is there anything I can do for you?" (or maybe it is your sister, or your daughter!) She is pretty, about 17 or 18, just budding into a young woman, happy with plans for tonight. She approaches a private railroad crossing ahead, slows and comes to almost a dead stop, glances to her right, then to her left then...... ....... I need for you to understand, so let us think about this a bit. Before you read any farther, stand up where you have room to stretch both your arms straight out horizontally away from your body until you look like the capital letter "T". Now, place your arms down with your palms flat against your legs, then quickly raise your arms out to the "T" position and imediately swing them both down against your legs and stop. Now say, "One Chimpanze". Now spell O-N-E and as you start to pronounce the "O", turn your head quickly to your right 90 degrees, and the "N" as it is at 90 degrees and imediately back to look straight ahead as you finish pronouncing the "E" and stop. Do this as quickly as you can. Why? I am trying to give you some firm realization of how long ONE SECOND of time is. All THREE methods I describe above, require just one second to perform. I am traveling almost 60 feet EVERY SECOND! Think about this: When you turned your head to your right awhile ago, tell me what details you remember seeing when your head was at the 90 degree position! Don't look back, you have to make a life or death decision based upon what you saw in that 1/3 of a second you looked to see if anything was coming that might endanger your life! Don't cheat! It is your OWN life you are making this decision about. You are staking your own life that what you saw, or did not see, is enough information that you have just BET YOUR LIFE ON IT! Remember, you have just apporached a railroad crossing, so you expected to see tracks dwindling off into the distance, some trees, grass, maybe a few buildings, possibly a dog running out there, maybe a train. Was there a train? Yes, I'm there! It takes the human brain 2/10ths of a second to attain recognition, 4/10ths of a second for the brain to start muscles to react, and 4/10 of a second for the brain to make an emergency decision. You have just spent one full second of your life making a life or death decision based upon the data you fed your brain in that 1/3rd of a second! What are you going to do? We will start the next second of your life.... While you think it out! How far away was the train your memory tells you it "saw"? Did you even recognize it as a train? Maybe it was a bus, a building, just a blob? Was anything waiting, sitting still? Was anything moving? Which direction, away from you, or toward you, or sitting still, or nothing there? The human brain does not percieve motion in objects approaching directly at your eyes in the 1/3 of a second you allowed yourself to stare at the train to gather data suffecient to make a determination! Now what? You are already looking to your left and back, so another second has passed. Three of your last seconds of life have passed. I am getting closer! I travelled 58.6 feet closer to you during your first second, now three seconds later I am 175.8 feet closer than when you "saw" me, your time is running out at 40 miles an hour! She is at a position facing up hill on the grade from ground level up to the track level and you are sitting with her! It isn't much different on flat ground, let's see if you make it. Her car is fifteen feet long front bumper to rear bumper. The train is 11 feet wide over the fuel caps. That means the side of this train is hanging out toward her little car 7.5 feet from the center between the rails! She has stopped at the crossbucks which means her front bumper is now fifteen feet from the center of the rails. This means that if she decides to out run me, she has to carry you 37.5 feet to get across. Meanwhile, back at the engine, the engineer is looking ahead down the track. Because of his line of sight along the short hood he can only see the right hand rail some 90 feet in front of the hood. He can not see the left rail until it gets out some nearly 175 feet! That is on a short hood diesel! Long hood forward is even worse! The engineer must rely on his fireman or conductor to tell him if anything is happening on the left, and the engine IS a diesel! (If it were a steam engine you could easily double those distances!) The engineer is pulling 10,000 tons of train. Her little car weighs slightly over one ton. The odds are getting worse. Now lets compare what's happening, so you can tell your girlfriend, mother, sister, or daughter, how you died, before she does. The train is coming on at 211,200 feet every 60 minutes. That is 3,520 feet each minute, which is 58.6 feet every second! You just used up 175 feet of space you needed to save your life, and she just set down on the gas ...... in her little car to try to carry you and herself up hill from a standing start, and travel the 37.5 feet that is required to allow her rear bumper to miss the far side of the on coming train by the thickness of the paint on the fuel cap! You are in trouble! She came into the conductor's view just as the hood blocked the engineer's view, and the conductor saw that she was slowing to a stop as the horn was honking for the crossing. I never saw her at all! The next time you are in a car, think of the "One Chimpanze" and start out from a dead stop to cross the average residential intersection with no stop lights. That is usually 40 feet, so very close to the distance she must start, accelerate and travel to clear her REAR bumper, in order for you both to live for another day! When it is clear, set down on the gas as you start "One Chimpanze, Two chimpanze, Three Chimpanze, Four Chimpanze, Fiv.... well it doesn't matter any more. You didn't clear your rear bumper at the other curb. You really don't have two seconds to make it anyway. From the time the engineer lost any possible sight of her (and you with her), he was just two seconds from going over that crossing at 40 miles an hour, and she needed 6 "Chimpanzies" to get across any way. Here is what really happened: Yes it is a true story! Her car got to the center of the track before the engineer even saw her coming, and the conductor was so stunned to see her look directly at him, look away, then step on the gas to go across, that he only had time to yell, "WAIT"! All I could do was freeze hanging on the horn handle and duck! The coupler went right into the passenger side door shattering the glass into shards like bullets inside the car right into your ear! As the snow plow pressed against the door her car instantly changed direction to moving 40 miles an hour sideways carrying her hips with it, you are out of it now. The seat belt carried her hips along with the car as the coupler came inside the car crushing the car body until the coupler touched the stearingwheel. Her head was not restrained by anything, so it remained in motion going forward while her shoulders began to slip out of the seat belt causing her neck to stretch trying to keep her twenty pound head connected to her shoulders. As her car moved the four feet sideways, her head and face smashed into the coupler along with all the broken glass, which imediately started her head moving at 40 miles an hour sideways! Inside her little head, her brain smushed up against the broken skull inside bruising and tearing at the tissue, and she passed out. It took the 10,000 tons almost a mile to stop after the impact. To have dumped all air would have caused the heavy cars to run up on the empty cars derailing them and scattering railroad cars all over that side of the little town. You can stop counting now, its over. The Doctor said he does not think she will make it. She has massive damage to her head and face. They had to cut her out of the wadded up scrap that had been a car. I can not help but feel like "I" have killed this beautiful young girl. So does the conductor. Every one who nails a person, does, its natural I guess. That is what the counsellors say anyway. What could I have done differently that would make it all go away? Neither my conductor nor I saw her move in time to even blow the whistle again. You get into the habit of thefour honks of the crossing signal, and it becomes such a habit that you can't get another honk in the routine. You almost unconsciously blow the three and hold the fourth as you cross the road, but this time it was hard to let go. The whistle was probably still blowing when we were almost stopped! If you see her coming from the right, you feel like you want to climb down and push her out of the way, but you can't out run your engine at 40 miles per. The engineer can't see her coming from his left. You look at your conductor, he looks at you, we don't have to really say any words, we know! I am just trying to put it into words in such a way that you out there who have a sister, or your girlfriend, daughter, or even a mother who might not realize that when she just takes a quick glance in my direction, she has just made her last move if she steps on the gas to out run me! Most of the time I travel one full mile in one minute with the wallop of a 10,000 TON flyswatter! That is 60 miles an hour! Her parents want to know why didn't I stop! I would have if I could have, but that many tons will slide on ahead for a quarter of a mile laying on its side in the dirt! I tried to put you in the car along with her so you could get a taste of what her last few seconds of life were like. How do you feel now? You think maybe you better have a more serious talk with her, maybe some instruction, maybe park with her at a crossing and explain some of this? I sincerely hope for her sweet sake, she will listen, or read this and understand, engineers are not monsters. We hurt too. It is a gnawing ache in our guts we can't simply shake off. Yeah we are alive, but we don't sleep well for a long while, and even though we have to go out on runs again afterwards, we pray people watch out for us. I don't even care if they become afraid of us, just wait for us, and live a long happy life. I'm sorry, but this is serious! I am truly sorry if she was your girlfriend, we all are.