I am a Metro commuter.
They should have meetings and/or support groups for our little subculture (well, hardly little), for the sole purpose of me standing up in the middle of a room and making that statement, followed by people who nod and say, “yes, YES.”
Anyway, as a Metro commuter, I have moments where I scratch my head out of the confusion and frustration of it all, and I have moments when I smile at seeing the most intriguing and interesting slices of life and the human experience. As a rider, it can be thoroughly stinky. As a writer, it can be completely inspiring. A veritable cocktail of madness and marvel.
- Unfortunately, riding on the Metro has proven something I sadly knew but didn’t want to see evidenced almost every day: chivalry is, indeed, largely dead. Never have I seen more men lacking in courtesy to women, especially those with special circumstances, such as pregnant women or the elderly. I once watched, horrified, as a hugely pregnant woman stood and lurched backward and forward with each movement of the train while men sat all around her. (Once a seat became available, I nearly pushed her into it, I was so desperate to see her off her feet. There is no way, anywhere, that a pregnant woman should be mashed between people on a train.) Anyway, I’m not generalizing, by any means. It’s not all men, but some. Nonetheless, scenes smiliar to the above happen more often than not, and I find it incredibly sad and infurating. And utterly maddening.
- Let’s be equal opportunity here: I’ve seen some women show their discourtesy to other riders, as well. Blind individuals; people with special needs; OTHER pregnant women; the elderly—the list goes on and on. What’s worse is when they’re sitting in the seats reserved for those with special needs and then someone walks onto the train and requires those seats…and they pretend to be oblivious.
- The Metro doors are monstrous. They aren’t like elevator doors with sensors. No, if you wave your arm between Metro doors to keep them open, bid farewell to that precious arm. The doors will close. Everyone who rides the Metro is aware of this. Even tourists pick up on it fairly quickly. That said, I cannot understand, for the life of me, why people race to those doors to try to beat them. I don’t get it. I don’t get potentially risking your limbs to get on the train. The doors will not release their hold on the Jansport bag belonging to Mr./Ms. I Don’t Care About My Limbs, which is stuck between the doors. (I’ve seen an entire group of people trying to help one person remove their object from the doors. Quite a sight.) Some doors will malfunction completely, causing an off-boarding (removing all of us from the now defunct train) and trapping us at a station until the next train comes, which invalidates the crazy attempt to get on the train in the first place. Ugh. Ugh!
- Um, stinkiness. Enough said.
- At times cramped, uncomfortable, having to look up at the ceiling to avoid staring at the person standing inches, micro inches, from your face…
- Public displays of affection from plenty of amorous couples. Unfortunately, escape is impossible, so my eyes return back toward the ceiling…
- The Metro is by no means the library. Silence is not a requirement. However, the morning commute is traditionally not loud. People are reading their newspapers, still trying to wake up (yours truly), etc. So a raucous conversation with your friend about the crazy night you had the night before…it’s just not cool.
But…sometimes, amid all of the above, we have…
- Alternatively, people do help each other. People give up their seats. People steady other riders who nearly fall over. People attempt to hold the door for mothers with strollers or others who need to get on the train, despite the danger and risk. People stand aside and clear a path for those coming off the train. When the Metro endured a terrible collision last year, I read about the most beautiful acts of heroism and just pure decency. So it exists.
- I watch families smile and laugh with one another. I watch loving, non-crazy PDA couples (thank you) tend to each other; whisper and hold hands; and generally behave in a manner that kind of touches my little cynical heart.
- The men/women in fatigues and camouflage? On their way to the Pentagon? They stand on the train like armed guards. I feel protected.
- Lots of people do say “thank you” and “excuse me.”
- I have a part-time job as a people-watcher. The Metro is a grand employer, as far as that’s concerned. I see all kinds of gems and fascinating moments in human nature, all of which can be creative perks.
- When we’re above ground, I sometimes see the traffic on the street, where a million cars snail towards their respective destinations…and I’m super grateful. By and large, we keeps it moving on the Metro.
- Once in a while, despite all those strangers, someone I actually know sits next to me! Totally and completely awesome when that happens. It’s definitely nice to share the ride with a friend.
Smiles or frowns, such is life. And such is life as a Metro commuter.