Metrolink111: Finding Rob's Spot
Shelley J Alongi


The Biggest Cheeseburger Ever

The weather has been perfect this last week of April and first of May; perfect for spending out doors watching freight trains hurtle through the station and blowing their whistles, startling even those of us who are used to them. three times this week I've made the pilgrimage: Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. On Tuesday I eat the biggest double cheese burger I think I've had there since beginning my sojourn to my favorite haunt in October, 2008. Jose tells me that they have upgraded the patties in the last few months and it is obvious. A double cheeseburger now becomes a huge affair, very rewarding and always worth the wait. The prices there are a little steep if you add fries or buy sodas but the food is decent and will get you to the next meal and sometimes, in my case I think, through the next two. The night is quiet, the company interesting. I bring the card for for Bob for everyone to sign and then I sit out on the planter with Doug and watch the trains. I donít' know that Tuesday is so eventful except that I bring the card.

To Heck with the Money

Friday I go out there, not quite sure that's what I want to do, mainly because I have to watch the money till the rent check clears the bank, but then making the decision on the way out from work I walk past my second bus stop and over to the station saying to heck with the money I'm buying a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with tomato.

At first while sitting there I am by myself, but then here comes Dan and then there's a finger in my back, that would be Larry, and then later on Doug who arrives on his touring bike pulls up a chair.

"Is it a Goldwing?" i ask. "Is it better than a Goldwing?"

"Hell yes," he says and I start laughing as if to say, "What? I buy something better than that! I don't want that crap! You should know that, Shelley."

"That's his baby," says Larry but it is worth a good laugh. I can always use one of those.

ďI used to be into motorcycles till I discovered planes,Ē I explain, ďbut now I think trains are better.Ē Trains seem to be more about people. Thatís my opinion today anyway.

Metrolink and the Cell Phone Delemma

Metrolik engine 888 shows up, shining in its white and blue beauty and sits there for an extraordinarily long time.

"Does he have a red light?" I ask.

"I cant' see it," says Larry." It's green," he says again, and I think ok what's taking so long?

"maybe he's on the phone," he says.

Probably so. according to Metrolink they can't figure out a way to better monitor the use of cell phones among train crews anyway so why not? Sit up there and chat away baby! Just be sure and donít' miss a signal!

I can feel the sarcastic part of my experience returning. After feeling great sympathy for Rob Sanchez and that will never change so don't think it will, I have to respond sometimes with incredulity. So why would someone use a cell phone on a train anyway? I suppose it could be because one might not expect things to change. But a railroad worker would know that donít you think? Well, you would think so. A brakeman in June 2008 was killed while walking behind a moving train using a cell phone, a train he had instructed the engineer to move. So I suppose it is a human thing to get distracted, but on a moving train? I hope I would pay more attention.

Like David, one of the railfans who writes down all the trains and what tracks theyíre on once told me, sometimes on the railroads you expect something to be the same way every time, and it is ninety-nine times out of a hundred. But sometimes things are different.

One small segment of the Chatsworth hearing suggests just that. Apparently the Metrolink111 that day was running about five to six minutes late and so the meet between the two trains was moved up to a different spot. No one ever covered that in the media. It wouldn't matter, someone would say, well he should have been paying attention anyway, no matter where he was and where a train usually met him. it's true. If he wasn't paying attention I can't help but think he knew he made a mistake and missed a light, especially five seconds from impact. We have to give him the benefit of the doubt because simply put none of us were there. I may be a little flippant at times but I still find the death of that engineer very moving.

The Metrolink train pulls away and we sit there talking about a $10.00 knob that gets broken on an air conditioner, trying to find out why the pressure is wrong in a faucet, Bob is almost ready to go home from the rehab center, and I better get that card over there. Larry gives me his hospital phone number and I say Iíll call him. Iíll probably do that tomorrow, Sunday.

The Shelley Perspective

Larry talks about his upcoming trip to North Plat where he wants to see the largest switching yard, a yard that contains nine hundred switches for trains. He wants to go up in the tower thatís for viewing the entire yard and costs $5 for seniors. According to Larry, the minimum stay there is thirty minutes. He leaves on May 16 and Iím sure heíll tell us all about it. He talks about the horseshoe curve and then he says that not many girls like trains. His wife doesnít like trains, he says. So if there arenít many girls who like trains I guess I am a rarity. Of course some people would think that anyway. I remember saying something to Larry and he said that he had never heard that before. I donítí remember what I said but my response was that heíd probably hear a lot of things heíd never hear anywhere else. I do have a particularly Shelley style perspective.

Later on, we go out to the tracks and listen to the loud band playing on the patio. The freight trains come through the station, covering the loud rock music. At 8:30 I head home and get ready for today. There are no unusual experiences; it is all comfortable and cozy and fun.

Finding A Spot

On Tuesday I go into the cafť with my heart in my mouth because Christina is there and I need to find out if they will take the memorial plaque Iíve made for Rob Sanchez. Two people have suggested that I put the plaque in the cafť so since it is such a public place and it is possible that those who knew him may see it, Iíve decided to give it a try. I explain to Christina that I have his plaque and Iíd like to donate it to the cafť. She says to bring it for inspection. On Friday I see her again and I explain that I will possibly bring it on Saturday but since I have plans to attend a ladyís luncheon at church, and then Iím meeting my dad and Linda for dinner, I say that perhaps Iíll bring the plaque down next week. As it turns out, I do bring the plaque down there today, that would be Saturday and the story goes like this.

After returning home from the luncheon I go home and read my book on building the trans continental railroad and then I decide to go to the station after a nice nap. My dad calls me just as Iím thinking about this and we arrange for him to meet me at the station. Hugging the plaque to me and getting my keys and phone I head out the door and meet Jose at the cafť. I canít believe it! From the first call to the Metrolink office to contacting Lilian, to finally getting to the trophy shop on the hottest day so far in 2009, picking it up and now walking to the station holding the plaque, Iíve watched this idea materialize. Now the next step will be the hardest and the one perhaps that requires the most patience. Jose and Christina are both impressed with the plaque and say that theyíll show it to the owner who will be there on Monday. Jose doesnít think she will say no to displaying the plaque. So now Iím waiting with bated breath. Could it be so quick and painless to display this plaque? A man who has received such mistreatment perhaps only by a few may have found a haven for his memory in a train station that has been there for a long time. Friends of his went to the station to grieve after his death. Maybe some can come there to remember him. Iíll keep you posted.

My dad shows up and we decide to eat dinner at the train station. I order another grilled ham and cheese sandwich with tomato and it is yummy! It is my second favorite sandwich. I donítí see anyone there I know it may be too early for them to come through the station but Iíve accomplished my mission for the day and now Iím waiting again. What a journey it has been, thatís all I can say.



Copyright © 2009 Shelley J Alongi
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