Sunday, November 7, 2010

On The Tracks

I've spent way too many days away from the blog.
The challenge I face is the same one you do every day, provided you're one of those trying to dig yourself out of the current global economic sinkhole.
Ever since the internet bubble burst, work comes first when you intend to remain financially independent. And my work is no nine-to-five gig.

Basic, yet important domestic things like laundry, dishes, vacuuming, grocery shopping, get tossed by the wayside.
My list of to-do's grows longer by the day. As does the guilt that follows from not doing it.
Friendships are hard to maintain because the timing is seldom in sync.
Family meals are not the norm.
Blogs are fewer and further between.
And sleep only comes because the body won't let you stay awake any more.
Most days are spent on the road, going to see people who can't get out of their hospital beds, homes.... or even graves.
I represent the living, the dead and those whose status has yet to be determined.
Once I gather info on their cases, time is so essential to getting those case moving.
Every case has to be investigated.... on scene and on net.... then written up, photos have to be developed,  often follow-up calls made,  everything has to be packaged up, evidence secured. All followed by invoice and delivery to the attorney or the private client.
I don't get paid sick days, holidays or health insurance.
I don't get a water-cooler around which to chat with my associates.
I don't get 15 minutes breaks.
I don't get L&I or Worker's Comp.
I don't get bonuses, a union or any guaranteed hours.
As a self-employed subcontractor, I  spend my time working, driving.... and getting new business going and flowing to cover life's basics.
I know many people who do not need to work. Or do not want to. This is a hard concept for me to fathom.
I think even if I won the lottery, I would still investigate because it is not just a job to me, it's a passion. And work is fun when it's something you love.
I'm not jaded by this business, I'm enthralled by it.
I have never worked in any business like investigation.... where I can help, change, improve...and most important of all --  recognize and acknowledge lives that all too often go unnoticed. Or disregarded.

This brings us to last week, when I was squatted down on the edge of a train platform, the toes of my boots touching the orange edge of the marking on the platform that said, "warning do not cross."
I was still in the safe, legal zone.
I looked left and saw the distant lights of a train coming, it was close.... so I switched focus, first to my camera.
Then, had I been a dog, my ears would have perked up as I opened the air canal to some serious sound in the chamber.
No horn, just the growing ominous roar of the train getting closer and closer to me left.
I squatted in the exact spot my now deceased young client had stood.
When the incident happened, he was beside a friend and many people were present.
He was happy, excited and definitely not suicidal.
He was just a teenager watching the trains when something bad happened.
What that something is remains to be determined.
He went under that train and died before he had a chance to grow into a man.
So I was there to investigate why and document what I could.

I was there with his mom who wanted to come and knew the exact spot where everything happened.
We arrived in separate vehicles and didn't speak as we walked.
Then we found the place, "This is it!" she shouted.
She pointed to a spot  where an impromptu memorial had once been, it was made by all his friends, kids at schools, notes from strangers. Time had passed, the memorial came down, now  there was nothing left except some duct tape.
I photographed that area and moved to the tracks.

I squatted down, with my camera, in the same space where my dead client last stood... and a little voice in my head said, "Bring it on."
The train's sound turned into a roar....
the wind whipped up....
and I clicked the locomotive first as it blew right past me with a huge endless growing gust that ripped the clip off the back of my hair. The last shot I saw of my favorite (and rare) combat-colored banana clip was a peripheral glace as it went under the train.
I kept still and strove to remain steady to get the shots.
I pressed my feet and body into the ground,  in a fetal-like vertical position, placed the camera on my knees and became a human tripod while snapping pictures.
More than once, I wondered if I might get sucked under the train by forces of physics... as some claim my client was.
I thought of that young client and what he thought in his last moments.
I listened to the screech of metal, the roar of  train's engine, my nose filled with train track dust.
The train was all there was in the world at that moment.... it over-rode any conversation, any movement, anything else. It was there, it felt greater than a force of nature and you didn't mess with it.
And this speeding chain of steel boxes kept rolling.
No horn sounded, it just passed by the platform.
I recall thinking it had to be the world's longest train.
And then it was gone.

I took many photos that day.
Talked to a few of the people standing around who were curious and watched.
Some approached me with questions about why I was there.
Some heard of the young man killed that day.
Others told of others such instances at other railroad crossings.
One wanted to discuss the last episode of CSI.

I finished my worked and lingered longer with the mother.
She grabbed my hand and asked me an odd question.
"Are you psychic?"
I  decided not to tell her the truth.., being, yes.
Instead, I said, "Sometimes, though I tend to think being intuitive is mistaken for being psychic."
She said, "Well if my son communicates with you, will you tell me?"
"Of course," I said, leaning forward to receive her hug.
At that moment, there was a down-burst of rain, tears from heaven.
I tucked my camera in my pocket and we quickly said our good-byes. I pulled up my hood, then jogged to to my car.
I had to get prepped for my next case. I was running a half hour behind.

And now, today, it all gets written up, packaged up, mailed or delivered top various attorneys and clients.
Yet there are life moments, pearls, like the moment at the train station last week, that are too precious not to mention.
Not to write somewhere.
Not to share with someone out there.
Lesson learned from this one:
However bad you think you have it, someone has it worse.

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