If for some reason you were to join me in my car, going about my daily errands around Palo Alto, we would in all likelihood pass the intersection of Alma and Charleston, and you might ask me who this guard was at the railroad tracks and why he was there:
“Oh, he’s there to make sure high school kids don’t jump in front of a train to kill themselves”, I would reply. And you, assuming you come from a place that isn’t insane, would be puzzled and appalled at my answer.
The thing is, I’ve gotten used to this lunatic asylum. The overpressured kids in this town, some of whom are expected to somehow Make It Big, can’t tolerate the thought of not being one of the 6% that are admitted into, say, Stanford, so they decide to end their lives about 60 years ahead of schedule. I personally think the notion of paying a man to sit, day after day, hour after hour, to guard a fifty foot stretch of track along a 45 mile corridor is preposterous, but I guess the town fathers wanted to show they cared.
The heart of the issue isn’t the fact that this one railroad crossing is or isn’t guarded by someone. It has to do with what the kids think they have to “achieve” to be worthwhile.
I was reminded of this by the front page story in this morning’s Palo Alto Daily Post:
Note the remark in the rightmost column: “The student’s death was not connected with the suicide death of an adult man who stepped in front of a Caltrain at Charleston Road on Sunday afternoon.” You read that right. The very next day. Oh, and at the exact spot that the gent in the picture above guards…………..on weekdays.
Strangeways, here we come.