When I was a little kid, my family would spend a good amount of time at my grandparents house. They only lived an hour away, so it was nice to visit them. On one of these particular occasions we were sitting in the living room watching television. They had channels like the Discovery Channel, the History Channel (before it went all alien apocalypse on us), and National Geographic, which we did not have at my house, so my sister and I would watch in the evenings if there was something good on. This particular evening we were watching a program on National Geographic, and it has sort of stuck in my head ever since.
The program was about a train in a ski resort in switzerland or sweden or some snowy country that started with ‘s’, I’m not too sure about that detail. But train was innovative because it would take people up the to the portion of the mountain by going in a tunnel through the mountain, cutting like 10 or 20 minutes off the ride time. This one day, as the train was going up the tracks taking people to the top of the mountain, a fire started in its engine compartment. There is this one scene from this TV program that showed the train going into the tunnel, and you can see wisps of white smoke coming from the back of the train. The local time for the people on the train was 2:03:10 pm, there was a little clock on the screen for our reference. Anyway the train stopped only a short distance inside the tunnel when the fire got bad. The sad part about this story and the reason this idea is in my head is because, there were like 100 people on this train, and almost all of them died.
You see the people on this train were stuck in this tunnel and all they could see was the flames coming from the back of the train, which was the lowest point of the train in the tunnel. Most people reacted to every instinct that their mind and body and upbringing was telling them, run away from the fire. You see the problem was, something else was also running away from the fire, the smoke. It was a long tunnel. The smoke won. The 12 people who survived the accident did so by moving down, toward the flames, past them and down to the entrance of the tunnel where they were rescued. It just so happened that in the second car from the back, there was a firefighter, or fire marshal, or someone who was trained enough in fire mechanics to know what was going on. If not for that person, everyone probably would have died.
I actually thought then, and sporadically throughout my life when I remember this little television program, what I would have done if I was on the train. The little me watching it came to the conclusion that while he would have liked to be the one to know what to do, and keep his feet about him and all those heroic things little boys dream of, he didn’t really know. The 20 year old me writing this still doesn’t know. Sometimes you don’t until it all plays out.
Sometimes, things have to get worse before they get better. The people that lived had to get closer to the burning and the heat of the flames before they got to safety. To them it seemed like they had probably just jumped out of the frying pan into the fire. Or in their case out of the frying train. Sometimes this happens to us, in less drastic situations than being on a burning train. Some situation that we have to deal with where it seems like no way forward is a good one. Maybe it seems like the way that won’t get you anywhere is the easier way, or even the right way. It maybe something at work, something with a friend, or something that just happened to stumble into I don’t know. Sometimes we have to choose the harder path, the one filled with flames. These are the times where we grow and learn about ourselves and others. And we go down the hard path, the fiery one, and at some point, the fire is behind us. And the light at the end of the tunnel is most definitely not a train.