Saturday, May 4, 2013

Rail Testing and Real Testing

    In the late 1960s and early 1970s I worked for Sperry Rail Service testing railroad rails to find any developing defects within the rails which could result in a broken rail ending in a potentially devastating derailment. One of our test routes was through West Virginia on the Norfolk and Western railroad.

    The terrain between Williamson, WV and Bluefield, WV is quite hilly and isolated.  The testing is done at a speed no more than 13 mph and to completely test both main tracks between those two points took several days. At the end of each testing day, a tie-down spot was chosen about midway between Williamson and Bluefield in the railroad town of Iaeger, West Virginia. That put us at the most convenient location for a quick return to the spot where testing stopped at the end of the previous work day.

    In Iager, the tie-down spot for the night was in front of the old freight station where the necessary facilities were available to us. After completing the daily maintenance on our rail test car, we were free to enjoy the pleasures of a small town evening on the town.

    One of those pleasures was Marie’s bar where many of the local young women would socialize and might offer a challenge to “Flip you a quarter for the jukebox”. It was an easy challenge. The odds were generally 50/50 and either way, some music would result from the quarters put up by the loser of the toss. It was music since Rap didn’t exist yet. Anne Murray’s Little Snowbird or any of Merle Haggard’s or Charley Pride’s songs would likely have been among the choices.

    These young ladies were not B-girls hustling for the house. They were just local ladies out for some socializing. And the challenge was honest, not underhanded. And therein comes the real testing.

    I had the opportunity last evening to socialize among some younger local ladies. A couple of them seemed eager to listen to a crooning Old Dinosaur. Their interest felt genuine until they INSISTED I have a shot with them. Rachel asked what I would like. I told her Windsor and she ordered for the three of us including her friend Emily.

    They listened to my next song, applauded and chatted a bit longer and then left. I hung around for another song or two and asked the bartender, an inexperienced trainee, for my tab. I was shocked to discover the round Rachel ordered for us was on my tab.

    Unlike Iaeger, where the ladies who want something ask for it, these two B-girls-in-training chose to use underhanded means to get a free drink. Had they asked, I might have offered to buy them a drink. They chose instead to hustle. How cheap!

    The real test is in trying to determine whether the small town taproom in an economically depressed small town will have more genuine honesty than would an upscale lounge in a thriving community.

    I think it’s time to start thinking in terms of rich white trash rather than the more common counterpart.
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