Hi yo, Silver, Away!
Let’s see if you recognize this scenario. Before you have a chance to get a cup of coffee and begin your hectic day, your son yells down the stairs that the toilet isn’t working. Your daughter tells you her schedule, consisting of a science project due tomorrow, that she “spaced,” soccer practice after school, and the band recital scheduled for that evening (you knew about the soccer practice). Your son makes his way to the breakfast table asking if he remembered to tell you that he was responsible for the cookies for today’s home room party. Of course, he didn’t. So begins your busy day.
Dressed for work, you try to remedy the bathroom situation and it’s downhill from there. As you change clothes, a blood curdling scream makes its way up the stairs. Mid-buttoning, you race to see what disaster has struck only to find your daughter pointing to a spider on the wall. Once again, you don your hero’s cape (and shoe) and do battle with the monster in your kitchen. Now, it’s off to school and work and the rat race begins again.
This scenario could be occurring in 80 percent of the nation on any given day, but adding to the pressure of normal life is the fact that your spouse works for the railroad. We, as railroad families, have extra pressure because it is often like being a single parent. The odds of the sky falling when your spouse is home are quite low. In fact, my experience has been that nothing ever happens when my husband is home. Luckily, our spouses chose well, and we are able to get through the daily grind.
When your husband returns home and, even though you are genuinely concerned, you almost hesitate to ask “how was your trip?” The lack of concern by the Carriers to get crews back home, compounded by the manpower shortages, constant harassment and intimidation, and lack of suitable working conditions, usually make for some bad conversation. Yet, you listen because you know that a little venting is good for the soul of the one you love.
In my opinion, the worst part about being the spouse of a railroader is that little nagging fear always buried in the back of your mind that the day could come when they return home in an ambulance, or worse yet, not at all. I realize I am probably preaching to the choir, but it is a dangerous job and we all have to find ways to cope.
The BLET Auxiliary, formerly know as the GIA to BLE, was formed almost a 120 years ago, as a sisterhood to help out the BLE and provide some social interaction with others who understand just how crazy it is to be married to a railroader. Over the past 15 years, we have enhanced our organization by working more closely with the BLET on issues that affect our daily lives through our Legislative Department that works hard to keep members informed of legislation that has a direct impact on our families. Working under the guidance of BLET Divisions, we also do what we can to address quality of life and safety issues by bringing them to the attention of the public at large.
Of course, the greatest role of the Auxiliary is still to provide support to our fellow railroad spouses. In addition to our ability to speak “railroadese,” we understand the pressure and stress associated with living at the beck and call of an employer whose consideration of their employees and their families is less than admirable. We all need support groups in our lives, and our organization provides a sort of “extended family” to those who wish to help where we can to reduce the risks to our spouses on the job, and provide a loving environment for them to come home to.
We can, and are, making a difference. Outside of contractual issues, we are the best asset available to change the way the public and our elected representatives look upon the railroads’ practices. I invite all engineers’ spouses, mothers, fathers, and children 18 years and older, who are interested in joining their voice with ours to become an auxiliary member and help make a difference for ourselves and our families. To learn more, visit our website at www.bletauxiliary.net.
NOTE: This article ran in the Summer 2002 edition of the BLE Journal. As you can see nothing much has changed in the last 5 years. I again encourage you to join the Auxiliary to make a difference in our loved one’s working environment, and in our own family lives. For the first time in a long time, we have the opportunity to truly make changes to our quality of life and make our loved ones safer through the Federal Rail Safety Act, H.R. 2095. Join with us in talking to your elected representatives. When they hear the ongoing nightmares we live with, we can counter the lame arguments proffered by the railroads.