When I first arrived in Kaunas in September 1993, I lived in a studio apartment in a residence hotel on the hill behind the train station. In order to get to the center of town, I would walk down the hill, cross the pedestrian overpass over the train tracks and four-lane road, and catch a bus. The bus stop coming back from town was in between the road and the railroad tracks, but there were no stairs up to the overpass. I had a daily choice. I could cross the road and take the overpass back over the road and the train tracks. Or I could cross the train tracks and take a path up the hill. It was actually a toss up as to which was more dangerous — crossing the four-lane road at the pedestrian crosswalk or crossing the train tracks. I admit that I often just crossed the tracks.
One evening that fall, I heard a knock on my door about 9:00 p.m.. I opened it to find the other American Fulbright student cradling his arm. He had slipped on the train tracks while crossing in the dark and broken his arm. We called a taxi from the front desk and headed to the trauma hospital. When the taxi pulled up in front of the trauma entrance, it looked completely dark. The taxi driver was concerned about letting us out, but the door was unlocked so we went inside.
After wandering a few halls, we found a nurses station. Fortunately I was able to explain in Russian that he had broken his arm and we were taken first to see a doctor and then to x-ray. The x-ray station was a cavernous room with a giant piece of equipment. After the nurse positioned my colleague’s arm, I followed her into what I assumed was the shielded room. She scolded me and told me to go into the hall. I stepped into the hall, but stayed by the doorway. She came out of the room and shooed me off way down the hall. At this point, I was a bit concerned that my fellow student was about to get radiation poisoning. In the end, the doctor put a plaster cast on my colleague’s arm and the break healed nicely. I’m happy to report that was the only time either of us ended up in the hospital that year — and that we stopped crossing the train tracks and used the pedestrian overpass.