Tuesday, December 13, 2016


Yesterday I had an appointment in downtown Washington, DC, in a neighborhood accessible to three Metro stations, each within a short walk. So I rode Metro, the local subway system, the motto of which is “Metro opens doors.”

I finished my appointment, caught a Metro train at the nearest station, and went to my usual workout. When I finished at the gym, I began the trek back home and re-entered the nearest station to catch a train. As I descended the third of three long, long escalators, I heard a train rumbling through the station coming to a screeching halt. To my delight, when I got within site of it, the doors were still open and I had a fighting chance to reach the very last car.

Trains normally stay at a given stop for all of ten seconds, perhaps less. I made haste to get onto the train. Just as I made it to the door, the doors began to close. Unlike elevator doors that respond by re-opening when someone is entering, train doors shut quickly and mercilessly. The fighting chance I had became a real fight. My gym bag slung on my back and still on the platform side of the car, my right food and arm were inside, pinched hard by the closing door. Somehow or other, I successfully withdrew the arm and leg, uttering a curse but at the same time thanking God for the thick shearling coat I was wearing, giving my arms a little insulation in the struggle.
Caught in a Metro Door

I was glad enough to be all in one piece. It happened so fast that I hardly had time enough to panic. But once the train had left, I had visions of myself being half in, half out of a train car, possibly slammed to death against the narrow entrance to the train tunnel. I would think that the train operator might have a signal that something was caught in a door and thus would have opened it before departing. But my tight squeeze led me to do a little research. I discovered that earlier this year the exact thing had happened to a man at L’Enfant Plaza, who was dragged screaming down the platform, freeing himself only a foot or two from the tunnel entrance. I am a little more rattled having read that. Turns out my reaction was not disproportionate to the closeness of the call.

I felt for the next half hour or so the result of the squeeze to my leg and arm. I kept thinking about how awful it felt to be trapped, half-inside a car that momentarily would leave the platform. I came home and said to Joe, “Take a good look at me, because you're seeing a body that was almost a mere greasy spot on a subway tunnel wall.

“Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come,” runs a line of “Amazing Grace.” It only takes a second to slip, fall, break a hip or arm. Any of us can step in front of a speeding automobile or cyclist and be made an instant idiot. For that matter, one little molecule can move this or that way in our brains, and we can immediately become a person totally different from the one we were a split second before. Life is fragile.

If we saw them coming, we quite likely wouldn’t have accidents. But they are called “accidents” because they were not meant to happen and were not planned. 

I am revisiting and reviewing my position on guardian angels. I think I see their usefulness.

© Frank Gasque Dunn, 2016

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