Today I had a meeting in the city. We were all to gather at a restaurant for lunch then head to the meeting afterwards. Since I was in the city I decided to visit a friend that I rarely see. This friend doesn't live in a great part of town but I figured during the day wouldn't be bad. I visited for an hour then had to head out to the lunch and then the meeting. Not wanting to be late for lunch, I made a couple of stupid decisions. Fortunately all ended up alright.
After leaving my friend's apartment I headed towards the freeway. I try to stay away from this part of town. It's not the drive-by shooting during the middle of the day area, but it's still an area with a nefarious crowd. If you observe the people during your two mile stretch prior to getting on the freeway it you will notice lots of people just wandering: the drunks, drug deals, prostitution, gang members signaling to each other, etc. It's not a place that I would ever be at night...daytime is bad enough. But I was there.
On my way to the freeway there was some construction going on along the road. The two lanes in my direction were moved into one. The signal at the corner was not working which meant it became a four way stop sign. This was a very busy corner as the other three directions all had two lanes going straight and one lane turning. Couple that with the jam of the two lanes in my direction being squished into one lane, it was a very slow process getting through that intersection.
I should have turned right to take a side street but I didn't. I figured that even though the traffic was slow at least I was on the main road. A better place to be when in the bad area of the city. About four or five car lengths before coming to the intersection is a railroad crossing. This railroad track is very busy with a train coming every ten minutes or so.
Today I figured I'll just drive the Prius. I'm going to be using the truck this weekend, so the truck didn't need to be exercised. Now I know what I think of a lot of Prius drivers, even though I am one...I remind myself that my "real" vehicle is my pickup! As I was driving down this road, a large pickup pulled in front of me. Get on in there, mister. You are bigger than me, I'll just get behind you. Doesn't matter to me that I'm one whole car length behind where I would have been.
We were all in the line of cars. Slowly the first car would go through the intersection and the rest of the line of cars would creep up one space. I'm almost to the intersection! The truck in front of me just crossed over the track. I'm next and was waiting patiently for the next person in line to go so I could cross over the track. I don't want to get stuck behind a train. Knowing my luck it would be one that takes 10 minutes to go through rather than 30 seconds!
After what seemed like forever the first car went through the intersection. All the cars in the line moved forward. I crossed the railroad track then slammed on the brake. The truck in front of me stopped. He had lots of space to move forward. He just didn't. I honked my horn. He didn't move. And there was my car with the back end on the track! Can't back up. I looked to the right and to the left. No train. How am I going to get out of this jam?
There was no where to go on the right. But on the left was the very beginning of the turn lane. I found a way out. Get into the turn lane and make a left turn. But no. I decided to be stupid. I don't want to turn left. It will take me out of the way. I want to go straight. I see the freeway entrance just past this intersection. Instead, I will make a plan. If I see a train I will pull into the other lane and make the left turn. Then it crossed my mind that maybe the left lane will fill up and I won't be able to get into that lane. Maybe I should just get into the left lane now. No, I don't need to, I decided. Since the lane was just starting, if the train arms were coming down then the traffic would stop and I would be able to change lanes and not get smashed by the train.
Finally, after what seemed like forever of being parked on the train track...no the train didn't come...the front car crossed the intersection and all the vehicles moved up a bit. Including the jerk in the truck. Yes, I'm sure he had a good laugh. Finally it was my turn to cross the intersection. As I was crossing I look in my rearview mirror. There's a motorcycle cop behind me with lights on. Surely he's not trying to pull me over...there must be an accident ahead or something that he's in a hurry to get to. So I pull into the right lane to let him pass. He pulls behind me. Busted. I knew right then that I was getting pulled over for getting stopped on the train track.
He gets off the motorcycle and walks up to the window. Before he even asked for my license he started lecturing about how dangerous it is to stop on a track. YOU are responsible for making sure that your vehicle will have enough room to cross the track. Great, I thought. He knows the jerk in the truck caused me to get stopped on the track and he's going to give me the ticket anyway. But polite I was. He was right and I had been stupid.
Not only did I cross that track without knowing for sure that there would be space, when I did come up with a good way to put myself into a safe location I chose not to. I would have been inconvenienced by not getting to go directly onto the freeway. As he was writing up the ticket a train did go by. He made sure to point that out to me. He handed me the ticket and said that I needed to make sure I read the bottom line. Warning Only - No Court Appearance.
He had me sign the warning ticket and then told me that they keep track of warnings. If I do it again they will give me a ticket. Don't worry. I won't do it again.