The weather has a disproportionate effect on my day at work for a person who technically works indoors. I’ve mentioned before how much I love zipping along in the sunshine and how I loathe struggling with a train in a downpour. I realised the other week exactly how much I dislike driving in the rain when the heavens opened on Guy Fawkes night. I usually feel somewhat tense when I’m driving in wet weather. I had thought this was just because it is more difficult to drive and brake smoothly and it is easier to make mistakes. But on the fifth I was contentedly trundling about the place admiring the many, many fireworks people were letting off from their back gardens when heavy rain started to fall. And I realised that while the rain certainly means I have to concentrate a lot more it is also very isolating.
My “office” stretches for miles. Even when I’m in the tunnels it goes on and on. But when I’m out moving through rain all my windows are spattered by droplets and even with the wipers my view is obscured. It only takes a fine drizzle for my world to shrink to 2 foot by 6 foot.
Today it was very foggy. Serious, proper fog that wouldn’t be out of place in a penny dreadful. Throughout the day it burned off and then thickened again but mostly it was a dense white wall of swirlng nothingness. It creates the same problems as rain in that it can be harder to stop if the rails get wet but also adds in the problem that I can’t see signals until I am right on them. If there are no trains around then signals are usually green and there’s no problems but should I suddenly happen on a red then I have the issue of trying to stop almost dead on wet and slidey rails.
It’s also astonishingly difficult to work out where the train is. You would think that a person who goes up and down the same stretch of road many times a day would have no problems knowing where they were at any time. But as soon as the context is removed then I could be on the anywhere. A road that is very familiar becomes new and it’s impossible to remember if there’s a station coming up or if there’s one more signal before the bend or even if there is a bend at all! Most of my day was spent in a constant state of surprise as things like stations, signals and trains suddenly appeared out of the murk. Fortunately I managed to stop at all of the stations although I don’t supposed anybody would blame me if I accidentally skipped one or two.
The only real way to drive in fog is to slow down and concentrate more. It gets tiring to peer into swirling gloom with no point of focus and by slowing down the whole thing lasts longer. It’s also very isolating as any passing train suddenly appears and then rushes past without warning. It’s not always possible to see in the other cab and each driver tends to concentrate only on what they are doing and has no time for Waving.
Drivers wave to one another as they pass. It doesn’t matter if the other driver is from another line or a different company or even operating some mysterious yellow train that nobody understands the purpose of. The drivers will always wave. I have no idea when or why this custom started but I like it. So when I am unable to have this tiny bit of human contact it makes my cab feel even smaller. Even when I’m in a place where I am able to glance up and wave it’s pretty pointless because the other driver won’t see me and I won’t see them. Eventually I gave up trying today.
If the fog didn’t make my job so lonely then I’d otherwise like it although perhaps only as an occasional thing. It’s very strange to move about in a small pocket of light with no visibility outside that. Anything near becomes unusual and interesting because it’s the only thing to be seen. And for the longest time I zoomed down the road gazing at the sun. The fog was so thick that there was a perfect, white disc sailing overhead that brightened and dimmed as the water vapour swirled but which was not able to dazzle me. I was entranced by the sun for a long time. At least until I glanced down and noticed a red signal suddenly appear in front of me. Then there was a quick yet slidey stop. I’m sure I’d be forgiven for passing a signal at danger due to poor visibility. I’m not so sure if my excuse was that I was staring at the sun.