Thursday, December 08, 2005

Blowing off some steam.

The old Amtrak Station.

I wake up early sometimes. Really early – like 4:00 AM. I wake up and roll around looking for the sweet spot in my bed that will magically make me go back to sleep. Then I get up and drink a glass of milk. Then I jump back in the bed, cuz now I’m cold from the milk and the lack of covers, and I burrow down into my blankets, absorbing the warmth while curling myself into a fetal position. If I’m lucky, it will be enough to get me back to sleep. If I’m not, then guess I’ll just have to get up and blog about it.

A few months ago a co-worker came into my office looking rather blurry eyed and disheveled and asked me if I had been able to sleep lately. I just looked at him, wondering how he knew my deep, dark, secret. Then he said in a voice full of desperation, “Can’t you hear the trains?”

If you live anywhere in the downtown area of Bakersfield, you can most likely hear the trains. If you live in some areas of downtown Bakersfield, you can feel them as well. I used to live much closer to them than I do now, and there were many nights where I was awaken by the sound of what seemed to be explosions. The whole house would shake violently, and I would lie there wondering if THIS time I really would read about the horrible train crash that happened just blocks from my bedroom window. It didn’t sound like the trains were just “linking up.” It sounded as if ten thousand pounds of metal had smashed into another then thousand pounds of metal at a speed of ten thousand miles per hour. In other words, it was REALLY loud. But I don’t live so close to the trains anymore, and the most I hear is the occasional ‘woo woo’ as I lie in my bed early in the morning wishing I could sleep.

I asked my co-worker if he was suffering from a similar experience, and he told me no. He had a different problem. Apparently, a new law was passed recently requiring engineers to blow the train’s whistle EVERY time they pass through a railroad crossing. Evidently the striped bars, flashing lights, and ‘bong, bong, bong, bong’ sound aren’t enough to warn people that a train is coming so you’d better get out of the way stupid. Now they blow the whistle too. And they don’t just blow it once. According to my co-worker, they blow it four times. He should know - he lives just one block from a very busy railroad crossing.

I sympathized with him about the trains, and shared my experiences of thinking my house was going to collapse on me from tremendous shaking, but I told him I can’t really hear the trains anymore. Ever since then, when I wake up in the morning, whether it’s when my alarm goes off, or hours before, I lie in bed and listen to the trains blowing their whistles.

Some of the engineers seem to be conscious of the fact that there may be people sleeping nearby. Some of them blow the whistle slowly, with a gentle woooo…woooo…woooo.” Then there are others who really seem to get into it, blasting their approach with a hearty ‘WA! WAA!! WAAA!! WAAAA!!!’ It’s pretty obnoxious.

My co-worker came by my office to visit me recently, and I told him that nearly every morning when I wake up and hear the trains I picture him tossing and turning in bed, cursing the trains the stupid head engineers inside them. That’s when he told me, “Yeah. I don’t even notice it anymore.”

It’s funny the stuff we get used to.