A-Train Mayhem

Noticing unattended luggage on a subway

A Situational Awareness Scenario

Danger can arise in many forms, and sometimes in seemingly innocuous ways. An unattended bag can be the result of someone’s forgetfulness on a train, or it could be something more sinister. 

Take, for example, the situation of Curtis Hortenski. Curtis arrived on the subway platform of the A-train around 7:08 that morning. He always arrived at the same time, every morning, Monday through Friday to catch the train to the office. He checked his watch. The 7:10 would be along shortly.

The whistle blew through the station, and the silver bullet whooshed past him. The train stopped, the doors opened, and Curtis joined the throngs of commuters piling into the car.

Curtis was lucky enough to find an empty seat. No strap hanging for him this morning! And good thing, too, because he needed his energy to face his day at the office. With an 11:00 AM meeting with the CEO about the quarterly returns, Curtis needed to take the first three hours of work to prepare.

As he mulled the numbers from his spreadsheet compiling the night before, he spotted a brown bag stuffed under the seat across from him. Did someone leave their bag behind? he thought to himself. He looked around, searching for the owner of the bag. It seemed like a nice bag, one that someone should recognize they forgot. After a moment, he put it out of his mind. It probably belongs to one of the other commuters. Afterall, it looked heavy, and someone probably didn’t want to carry it the whole time.

What would you do if you found an unattended bag?

The train slowed, stopped. The doors opened and about a dozen people filed from the car. No one got on, relieving some of the pressure inside. Curtis pulled reports from his briefcase, leaned back in his seat, and flipped through the papers. His eyes darted up, noticing the bag under the seat again.

His mind engulfed in the reports, Curtis noticed the approach of a pair of travellers. He looked up at them as they paused in front of him. His eyes darted down to the bag, back up to the commuters, listening as they conversed loudly. One had a bag slung over his shoulder, the other was free of any additional luggage. Curtis shrugged, thinking the bag under the seat likely belonged to this man, and went back to his work.

A few moments later, Curtis realized the two men had left, but the bag was still under the seat. He looked around, spotting a man in a dark gray suit sitting a couple seats down. The man had his face in his cell phone, typing away. The bag must be his, Curtis thought to himself.

Situational Awareness – Don’t let distraction cloud your better judgement.

The electronic voice announced Curtis’s stop. He stuffed his papers in his briefcase and rose from his seat. As he waited for the doors to open, he spotted the straps of the bag under the seat again. The doors split, and Curtis stepped out.

Down at the office, Curtis poured himself a cup of coffee in the break room. He stirred in a couple of sugars and lifted the cup to take a sip. As he moved to leave the break room, his eyes fell on the news program on the television. The image showed billowing smoke from a subway station downtown. The on-screen graphic read “EXPLOSION ON A-LINE, DOZENS KILLED.” Curtis froze, realizing that he was on the A-line. He wondered where the explosion originated from. His mind reeled back to the unattended bag stuffed under the seat. A sick feeling came over him as he realized that he could have prevented the explosion. 

Though this situation was fictionalized, it’s the kind of thing that could happen anywhere, which makes being aware of one’s surroundings and eliminating distractions so important. Trust your instincts; if something feels off, it probably is. Following the lessons of the program will help keep you and others safe. 

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