Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sensory Adaptation

My parents, my brothers and I lived in the railway station for years. It was our home. We lived on the mainline of the Canadian National Railway.There was, in the fifties, a train every hour or so on the main line, day and night. In our little town the trains went through at close to full speed and they whistled twice at the level crossings, 400 yards and 200 yards from the railway station. The track was about 25 feet from the station and our bedrooms shook when it whistled through. Many were very long freight trains. The station shook because the platform attached to the station was like the leg bone connected to the hip bone. Though most of the train traffic were long freights,two transcontinental passenger trains at night came thundering through as well. We never woke up at night with the trains running, the shaking and the noise. My mother, who was a light sleeper under certain circumstances never woke up! Fred Schmidt came in the station at 4 am and lit the fire in the pot belled stove in the waiting room right beneath us, and met the way-freight that stopped and unloaded mail and manhandled jangling cream cans, and we never woke up ! Sensory adaptation! However,when the running employees went on strike and the trains stopped for a few days,the silence was eerie! We all woke up repeatedly during the night ,alert because of the silence. We adapt to the familiar, however unusual, but change, however seemingly innocuous, brings sensory adaptation to a halt. Unconsciously alert to danger!

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