Death in the Evening

On the way home today, my train was delayed because of a fatality on the tracks happening about forty-five minutes before I got on. It was on the other side of the tracks, someone crossing over the tracks where they should not have been, possibly a suicide. I was already on a later train than the one I usually took, because of a late meeting at work, so the delays took me well past twilight into night. This kind of event is not uncommon on this commuter train line, occurring once every few months or so, and happening often around relatively affluent suburbs. Sometimes as on this occasion it’s a pedestrian, sometimes a car that drives around the gates or somehow gets stuck across the tracks with an oncoming train. Almost never does it seem to make sense for me to get off the train when they open the doors and try to take alternative transportation such as a taxi or ride sharing, given the kind of congestion in this area around rush hour, and I’m almost always fortunate enough to have a seat on the trains I take (which was not the case when I used to commute into San Francisco instead of the other direction) so the only thing to do is to sit tight and wait until the tie-up has sorted itself out. This time, the delay was about an hour, about average. We were mostly standing still waiting for trains ahead of us to pass through the area of the incident, where medical first responders and law enforcement and transit officials are busy following the procedures they each have in place in such cases.

Of course it is unpleasant to think about the loss of life. There isn’t a single person on the train who wouldn’t rather have preferred that the person at the cause of the delays were still unharmed without incident. It’s obvious that the train crew hated having to deal with this. Everyone riding along with me accepted the state of things placidly, even the hotheads on Twitter.

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I wonder why it is people end up dying in this manner, whether intentionally or not. I know there are all sorts of other ways people are dying around here in tidier ways, without drawing attention to themselves to hundreds of their neighbors, and that this isn’t a major cause of death. It’s just the most visible at the time. I don’t know that person whose life ended. They are not identified as someone I can imagine memorializing in a religious fashion or otherwise.

Back east, there wasn’t any sort of analogous thing that would affect my day like this. There might be an accident on the turnpike that would hold traffic up for a little while, or some kind of police action that would delay the bus I was on going to or from New York, but it wouldn’t throw off my routine like this. Maybe it’s better to be reminded death can come suddenly, I don’t know.

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