Sunday, October 31, 2010

Metro To Restore Sanity? Or Something Like That.

This weekend I had eleven visitors coming to stay for the Rally to Restore Sanity and for Halloween, and I found myself in two de-facto carless situations.  The first was due to the number of people I needed to get down to the rally and the second was due to everyone’s state of inebriation before celebrating All Hallow’s Eve in Adams Morgan.

The overcrowded metro and the chaos on the mall for the rally reminded me a lot of the last time I had such a full apartment:  President Obama’s inauguration in January 2009.  I wanted to get an early start on Saturday morning to avoid crowds (doubt that would have been possible) and get a good spot for the rally, but after thoroughly enjoying the $15 sangria pitchers at La Tasca the night before, let’s just say my friends and I were dragging.

When we left for Inauguration in 2009, I made my friends (some of the same ones) get up at so we could leave early.  While the Rally to Restore Sanity was awesome, I didn’t foresee the same historical urgency in such a wake up call.  By the time we left, it was .  What I saw at the Silver Spring station that I did not see the morning of the inauguration was a line backed up to Second Avenue to buy metro cards.  Had I had only a few friends coming, I might have went down and bought them the night before, but either way it hadn’t really occurred to me, so wait in the line we did.  By about we made our way onto the platform but were not able to get on the first metro to Shady Grove that passed by because of the sheer number of people on the platform ahead of us.  We did make our way to the edge of the platform, positioning us well for the next train, and after a lengthy discussion of the pros and cons of taking the next train to Glenmont to the end of the line and turning around, we decided to go for broke with the next Shady Grove train.  Our plan failed, and two of my friends were left behind on the other side of the closing doors with me shouting apologetically that they should look for us at the Massachusetts Avenue exit of Union Station.  After the train pulled away, I joked with my more assertive friends that had made their way on to the train that we had just witnessed an exercise in public transit Darwinism.

The train was packed.  Every time the train pulled up to a new station, the hopeful riders standing on the platform were greeted with self-righteous cries of “there’s no room for you” and “there are children on this train!” from riders who had stuffed their way on at the previous station.  I felt like I was on the Titanic, riding away on one of the remaining lifeboats.  Should I offer my space to a woman or child?  As if I actually could – I was stuffed in the very middle of the train with nary a bar to hang on to.  For some of my friends, it was their first time riding “the DC subway”, including a friend’s boyfriend visiting from the Netherlands, and for this display of public transpo chaos I profusely apologized.

The Grim Reaper holds a sign that says
"Unemployed - Thanks Obamacare"
We finally made our way to the rally, but given our tardiness, we could hardly find a good spot.  We watched a little bit of the rally, stood around and shot the shit with strangers nearby, and walked around and checked out the awesome signs that fellow sanity restorers had made.  (I had exhausted my creativity for the weekend on my Colonel Mustard costume and had made no signs.)

We were more prepared the second time we rode the metro that day.  At when we were heading back, the trains were just as full, but I had suggested a different plan.  The first time, when we tried to all get on the train, we had formed what at best was an amorphous blob but was probably closer to a 1x8 line of people.  We had picked up Jon at that point, so I suggested that this time we form a 3x3 square of people, with the right and left flanks defending any jippers who may try to get in the doors ahead of us.  The plan worked, and we were the first nine people on the train!

I have to admit, I was a little embarrassed by the Metro experience my friends had this weekend.  Having grown up in suburban Pennsylvania and having gone to school in rural Pennsylvania, I want my friends from those places, as part of visiting me in my new home, to have a positive experience with public transportation that is quick, efficient, and effortless—not long, overcrowded, and miserable.  I understand that Metro set a ridership record this weekend, but I worry that for some of my friends, their impression of our public transportation system may be solidified.

Later this week, I’ll take a look at the other de facto carless experience my friends and I had this weekend, a trek to Adams Morgan…


  1. Jim and I moseyed over to the Shady Grove station at around noon and holy crap were we unprepared for the mob of people trying to get fare cards (took us maybe 45 minutes). If we'd been smart we would've picked them up the night before. Getting on at the end of the line was the only saving grace; I can't imagine having done that trip standing. But fear not, that's not my impression of the DC Metro! I remember riding with Miss Ferry in the college days and being impressed by how clean and efficient it seemed. I hope your out-of-towners were not totally turned off by it.

  2. "After the train pulled away, I joked with my more assertive friends that had made their way on to the train that we had just witnessed an exercise in public transit Darwinism."

    LOVE IT!!