Today’s Metro Lesson: Thank You Metro (and I actually mean that)

I am under the impression that Metro rarely gets Atta Boys. And that’s understandable. Between the delayed trains, broken buses, dripping AC vents and sex rings operating from the stations, there’s a lot for the Ridership to complain about. But today, by some minor miracle, I benefited from a Metro initiative. It appears WMATA doesn’t always screw up. So, gold star to Metro!

There’s been a lot of fuss about the beaucoup bucks Metro’s been spending on new hand straps. And yeah, I agree the metal handles are pretty moronic. If a rider can’t reach the overhead pole in the first place, how are they going to reach the handles in an “up” position? Even if the things are spring-loaded and easy to pull down, they still are too high and there’s no way a Shortie can lower them to a hold-onable level. Metro Logic: it’s the best.

But today I came across the supposedly older vinyl strappy version. In nearly a year of daily Metro riding, I’ve never before seen these things. Are they only on the Green line? Is Metro taunting me? Anyhoodles, the Blue was delayed and only half the usual trains were running through Rosslyn this morning. When I finally, finally managed to wedge myself onto an Orange, it was particularly sardined. I’ve learned from experience that Free Riding (aka the practice of riding with no hand-hold or other support), no matter how cramped, is not a good idea. I didn’t want to a repeat of my last no-hands Metro ride, so I jammed myself in the direction of a vertical pole. Eventually, I got close enough, only to find a Pole Hog had wrapped her entire body around it. Drat. The door closing bell was dinging and with nothing to hold onto, I decided some bargaining was in order.

Me (in my head): Dear Great Train Deity, please let the first 20 minutes of my week not suck. I promise that if you help me out here, I will stop my Days In A Row That Farragut West’s Escalator Has Been Broken count. I know that 32 is a new record, but I’m willing to forgo a scathing letter to WMATA if you just give me something to hold onto and help me avoid Metro Humiliation.

And the Train Deity listened. Compelled by a higher force, or maybe just to stretch my neck, I looked up. Hanging above me were two, brand-spakin’ new vinyl straps.

*This is where churchy music played in my head*

Another other victim of the Pole Hog, also a Shortie, was next to me. As the train began to move, I grabbed a strap and she hunkered down into the Brace Yourself Stance. Her knees were sorta bent, hands splayed, feet planted in her allotted two square inches of space. Shortie’s face was concentrated, like she was attempting to become one with the swaying of the train. There was still one free overhead strap and no reason for her to attempt a Free Ride. But I was not about to break the Metro Code of Silence to tell her about it. I’d done that before and had been shushed so hard, you’d think I was telling a five-year-old about Santa. So, instead, I opted for significant eye gestures.

Eye contact upon the Metro is universally frowned upon. People go to great lengths to escape it. They awkwardly angle heads, dart their eyes around, anything to prevent an eyeball to eyeball exchange. And Shortie was a champion avoider. No matter which way I looked, no matter how hard I stared her down, there was no eye contact. In desperation, I nudged her with my foot. That got her attention. Within seconds, she was face to face, trying to invade my limited personal zone. Her eyes screamed, “YOU TOUCHED ME UNNECESSARILY? Do you not have Metro Manners?” Calmly, I looked her in the eye, then glanced up, motioning with my head. Shortie’s face went from Violent to Oh! to Bliss in two seconds and she grabbed the hand strap. A few minutes later, as we rounded a shaky bend, one of those that give Free Riders particular difficulty, Shortie broke the cardinal rule of Metro riding. Faintly, I heard her whisper, “Thank you, Metro Jesus.” I whispered back, “Amen.”

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