You’d think we’d have learned our lesson. You’d think we’d have put it together by now that freight trains in Costa Rica don’t sound like those cute train whistles or Thomas. Or even real freight trains. They sound unremarkably like 18 wheelers. EXACTLY like 18 wheelers. And such an unremarkable sound, you can’t find a .wav online… not like you can train horns!

Monday morning, Day One, and we’ve departed for whitewater rafting at 7am. Been driving 30 minutes, now in San Pedro in front of the University. We missed a sign and had to turn around… now coming back up the hill… At the top of the hill, there is nothing to grab our attention. Cars have slowed but that happens all the time for no particular reason. You stop noticing. There is no stop sign, no intersection, no railroad track sign: we are all the way over in the left lane of three lanes… maybe there is a sign on the far right hand lane? We don’t even see railroad tracks. Till we are on them.

My husband, the world’s most cautious driver, sees nothing extraordinary goin’ down. We are inches from the tracks when we hear it: that 18 wheeler horn. Nothing odd about that, it’s a common enough sound. Except… isn’t it kinda loud? And isn’t it coming from an odd angle?

As we hit the tracks, that lonesome whistle blows again and the four of us – in a collective moment of horrific déjà vu – whip our heads to the right. Holy Freight Train, she is Right There. For the second time in our lives, we come within seconds of buying the farm. Including poor Jacob’s farm who is thinking maybe he’ll hitchhike to the coast. You know, meet us there.

We spare ourselves the long moment of silence and tear immediately into why don’t Costa Ricans have those railroad arms or flashing lights or the zillion other things they COULD have, SHOULD have at an active railroad crossing??? None of us mentions we might have slowed down and looked both ways at the tracks… which we SHOULD know by now to do. Which we’d sure as heck BETTER do next time because you know what they say: third time’s charm.

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