A series of tests were required to be passed for my railroad training. If they were not passed, trainees had to leave the facility immediately, go the hotel and pack their belongings, and go home. It was a betrayal to us all.
After our initial interview sessions, testing included, and notification to start training, we were assured by trainmasters that the job belonged to us. There was never a mention of additional, consequential testing, not until we arrived out-of-state for the 3-week training and realized there were 3-4 paper tests, a riding test, and strength tests to be completed. The failure of any of them meant going home posthaste.
I witnessed a few guys be unable to complete a hang test, which required them prove their ability to remain on the ladder of a stationary train car for three minutes. They were dismissed on the spot. I saw some fail their test and retest. Out they went with a chance to try again in three months. Disappointment is a poor descriptor; some were in tears and I understood why. We had quit previous jobs, rearranged our lives, and sacrificed to be there. We were excited about the opportunity of a lucrative career in a unique field. It was simply unfair to be kicked out having thought you were already in.
Most of the training went well for me. Some of it was challenging simply because I didn’t grow up around mechanics the way others there had. Many understood cars and farm equipment and machinery; then there were those right out of college. I passed my first few tests on the first try, but the last one gave me trouble me. I didn’t pass it and had one more chance to do so.
Retesting was done at the end of the day, so no additional study time was possible. I remember talking to God, asking for his help. We pray for God to “guide the doctor’s hands”; this was a moment I needed him to write with my pencil! I prayed over my test and did the best I could, but I knew I was a goner.
I passed, but the amazing thing is the way it happened. There were about seven or eight questions that I simply didn’t know. When I reviewed each of them, I saw that I had chosen the correct answer, except for perhaps two. I was stunned. It was the only time in any of my educational career that I had witnessed God’s aid like that.
Sometimes I reflect on this memory when I’m in a quandary, wondering where God is and how he’s going to come through. I make myself remember that all I can ever do is what I know. And if I’ll do my part to the best of my ability, he’ll come with his super-ability and do what only he can.