8 February 2006

Lunch Time 500

Quite a number of us sawmill workers early in my career used to like to have a drink or two at lunchtime. Winters were colder in those days and a couple doubles seemed to take the executioner's edge off the winds that blew down river from Canada's frozen interior. Truth is we were all leaning a little too heavily on the booze as if it were a would forever keep us vertical.

We only had a half hour for lunch and the pub was at least a five minute car ride away even if we drove with a death wish. Carloads of us would speed out of the mill in anticipation of our chosen poison.

There was one major obstacle on our way to the pub. The long trains of one of Canada's two national railways. Lucky for us the road from the mill ran parallel to the tracks so if there was a train heading the same direction as us we could race it to the level crossing and avoid the wait. One time I remember a car ahead of the one I was in flying over the tracks in a cloud of sawdust and rat shit. Our car just missed being devoured by the locomotive. We all yahoo'd as I looked out the back window expecting the third carload of train racers to have admitted defeat in today's race with death. But they had only stepped on the gas even harder as they jumped the steel rails. The car had just beaten the train by inches and I could see the locomotive's engineer shaking his fist, eyeballs all popped out like Marty Feldman, yelling over his train's roar and warning horn, "You dumb cocksuckers are all going to die!"

The next day there was a note on the message board from the mill manager forbidding us to race trains over the level crossing on our way for a drink. I guess the engineer had ratted us out. Several of us were reading it. Someone said, "They can fuck off," as we recounted the previous day's adrenaline rush. It is the drug-like rush that keeps people racing trains. It is a high better than alcohol.

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