Stalled on the Tracks

For most of my life I have lived in the rural parts of Georgia.  Of course, some would argue that outside of Atlanta, there’s nothing left except rural parts.  During a good portion of their histories, many small-town businesses in Georgia were supplied by railroads.  Rail tracks often ran right through the middle of town, as they still do.  Most of the freight trains no longer stop in these small towns because those businesses are supplied by the trucking industry, but the trains still travel through the towns quite regularly.  Most small Georgia towns will only have one or two places where roads either go over or under tracks; otherwise, vehicular traffic has to stop for trains as they make their way through town.

I can remember as a child being stopped at a railroad crossing in the car with my parents.  It was exciting and fascinating to hear the whistle of the engine, to feel how it shook the ground as it passed by, and to watch the succession of rail cars as they sped through the crossing.  Counting the rail cars and reading the graffiti painted on their exterior walls was great entertainment.  Then I celebrated my sixteenth birthday and started driving.  The novelty of freight cars roaring through town wore off and was replaced by impatience waiting for the train to pass so that I could get where I was going.  Now as I have aged and live with a more hectic schedule, as most of us do, I find myself dreading the sight of the flashing red lights and the descending black and white striped crossbars that indicate the approach of yet another freight train and just one more delay in my already too-busy schedule.  But, even worse, and something that raises my blood pressure to dangerous levels, is when the passing train slows down until it finally comes to a complete stop, blocking the road.  This is a situation that railroad companies avoid if at all possible because some townships have actually filed suit against railroads for causing significant traffic problems with stopped or even stalled trains.

Freight Train
Freight Train

Thinking about how enraged I have been waiting 10-15 minutes for a train to finally move past a crossing, I can’t help but draw comparisons with the current political climate in the U.S.  Our government, especially on the federal and state levels, is like a train stalled on the tracks at a major crossing. People who are from multiple origins and who have many different objectives are on either side of the crossing. They can’t get to the other side. They can’t even see the other side. They are completely separated by this huge obstruction that refuses to move forward and clear the way for the good of everyone involved.  The real frustration comes from the realization that the train operators don’t seem to care at all that they have brought everyone, and everything, to a stand-still.  A train can carry an incredible amount of materials, or people, from one place to another most efficiently, as long as it keeps moving.  When it slows down, or worse yet, stops, the train is useless. If a train can’t deliver, it has totally lost its value.

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