October 09, 2003

I Got Hit By A Train Once

Not many people can say that they got hit by a train and survived, but I can. Granted, I didn't get hit seriously or anything. I mean, it wasn't like I was walking down the tracks and got hit head on. If that were the case, well, I'd be dead now, wouldn't I?

No, my brief encounter with the train that hit me was far less serious, although it required a brain fart of staggering proportions on my part. Oh, and it also required the ingestion of vast quantities of beer.

It was the spring of my third year of college. I had just turned 21 a few months prior, and I was revelling in the novelty of being able to purchase alcohol legally from liquor stores. On that particular Saturday, Winona, Minn., was celebrating its annual Spring Fest, which more or less had become a college-wide excuse to get shitfaced by 1 p.m. For the record, that year was the LAST year that Winona allowed Spring Fest. But, anyway.

Following the Spring Fest morning concert, an event that involved students drinking cans of beer as fast as they could and throwing the empty cans at the band, those who could still engage in locomotion staggered their way back to campus. I was part of the exodus. It's funny how so many drunken young people think that repeatedly yelling "Whoo HOO!" somehow constitutes a form of communication. One person let's loose with a "Whoo HOO!" and that's following by several students across the street echoing with their own "Whoo HOO!" Really, what are they Whoo HOOing about?

As I made my way homeward, I remembered a request by my roommate for me to bring home a couple cases of beer, because we were going to have a small party that night. So, I stopped in at a local liquor store and made my purchase. It didn't really dawn on me that I would still have to walk six blocks carrying two cases of beer, but oh well.

With my purchases in hand, I continued my staggering trek homeward. About midway there, however, I realized that a train was coming. I judged the distance between me and the tracks and the approaching train, and I decided that, if I ran, I could probably make it across. So, I started running. It was at this point that fate intervened on my behalf. One of the cases of beer broke open just as I was reaching the tracks, and I had to stop my quest to beat the train in order to pick up a few loose cans of beer. In retrospect, I probably would have made it had the case not broke open. I probably would have beat the train by several seconds. But, still.

So, as I stood there, waiting for the train to pass by, I got this great idea. I mean, this was a fabulous idea. I noticed that most of the train cars were of the cylindrical variety, and I thought it would be cool to run my hand alongside one of those cylinders. I just couldn't resist the allure.

So, I extended my hand and touched the train, a train that was chugging past at about 40 miles per hour. That's when I realized that those smooth cylindrical train cars also have protruding ladders running up to the top of the cars, and one such ladder was zooming towards my arm at 40 miles per hour.

Realizing my folly, I tried to jerk my arm back to safety, but I wasn't quick enough, and the ladder smacked my fingers with all the force one would expect from a train. The impact spun me halfway around, and it did so so quickly I found myself with no sense of balance whatsoever, so I did a pathetic sort of indian style sit right there in the dirt.

I wish I had a picture of that moment. It was one of those snapshots in time that I'd love to be able to give to my parents sometime in the future after I've become somewhat successful in life. It would be a way of saying, yes, I'm doing all right now, but take a look at THIS. And then I'd show them a picture of me, sitting indian style in the dirt, with two cases of beer next to me (one broken open), staring in wondrous pain at my rapidly expanding right hand that had just been struck by the train slightly blurred by motion behind me.

In the time it takes a college student to shotgun a beer, my hand swelled up to the size of a catcher's mitt. I thought it was going to pop. And the pain! The pain was exquisite! I thought for sure my hand was broken in 4,342 places. It HAD to be.

Still, I had a mission. I had to get two cases of beer three more blocks to my apartment. And I did it! Carrying the broken open case under my left arm, and clutching the intact case in my left hand, I made it the rest of the way home without getting hit by another train or anything.

"Man," said Troy, my roommate, as I practically fell into the entryway. "What the fuck happened to your hand?"

By that time, in addition to being twice its normal size, my hand started to take on a purplish quality. There would be no intimate relations with my right hand for the foreseeable future. Even in class, holding a pencil was a real trick for well over a week. But it wasn't broken, which was astounding to me.

And the moral of the story? Don't get hit by a train, because the train ALWAYS wins.

Posted by Ryan at October 9, 2003 10:51 AM
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