Tag Archives: dc metro

Hilarious Morning Encounter

Today, because I have a flight at 3:00pm – ish today, I took my luggage, personal laptop, my work laptop with me on my daily commute.  Fortunately, my luggage had wheels and a place where I could strap one of my laptops down, so it wasn’t too bad.  My neck is killing me from carrying my other laptop bag, but I’ll live.

I arrived at the Pentagon Metro stop without too much trouble and decided to take the elevator down to the trains instead of trying to navigate the really big escalator with my bags.  I was waiting for the elevator and a woman comes up to me and says, “Excuse me, but can you tell me how to get to the Metro?”

I looked at her like she was mad and said, “Um, this…is…the Metro.”

It was all I could do to not laugh.  I nearly asked her if I was being filmed for some crazy Youtube video where they go up to people and ask them ridiculously obvious questions, but I didn’t. 

Then she asked me, “Yeah, but where are the trains?  I can’t figure out how to get to the trains.”

OK, so that’s fine.  If you’ve never been to the Pentagon Metro stop, it can be kind of confusing, I guess.  I mean, you could just follow the other 1.5 million people getting off buses and crowding themselves onto to the escalators to get to the trains.  Or read the signs and follow the arrows, but you know, that’s just me. 

I did point out the very obvious escalators she had to walk by to get to me.  And I told her that the elevator that I was taking will get her there, too.  I was a good fellow commuter and helped her on her way, but I still thought it was funny and I appreciate the bit of levity it provided for an otherwise crazy morning commute.

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Commuter Colleen

“This is my right; it is the right of every human being. I choose not the suffocating anesthetic of the suburbs, but the violent jolt of the Capital, that is my choice. The meanest patient, yes, even the very lowest is allowed some say in the matter of her own prescription. Thereby she defines her humanity.”  (emphasis mine) – Virginia Woolf, The Hours by Michael Cunningham.

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I love the violent jolt of the morning commute into our Capital city.  I don my commuter gear, my sunglasses, my ipod, and a thick veneer of commuter indifference to protect myself from the crowd, screaming street vendors, and panhandlers alike. I take a bus to the Pentagon every morning, which is cool in and of itself.  I arrive one minute before my blue line train arrives.  Today I had to charge my fare card again, but being a pro by now, I can add money to my card and run (yes, I said run) to catch my train, weaving between yellow line commuters to get to the doors.  Because I have done this 1,000 times, I know the perfect place to stand so that  am as close to the doors as possible. 

I stand on the train because there is nowhere to sit.  Besides, sitting is for sissies.  Commuter Colleen stands.  I hold onto the rails for dear life while sifting through songs on my ipod and turning epages on my electronic device.  I wear my sunglasses on the train which helps me ignore the crushing hordes of people on either side of me. 

I exit the train at Foggy Bottom, the center of GWU and GW Hospital.  I push my way up the escalator.  I know the unspoken metro escalator rules.  Stand right, walk left.  I emerge from the metro tunnel in blinding sunlight, weave through the crowds to begin my 5 1/2 block trek to my office, my feet pounding on the sidewalk in time to whatever fast-paced music I am listening to.

I know it is a grind.  Waiting for the bus, dealing with the crowded metro trains that are forever delayed.  The crowds in the city.  The increased potential for crime.  But still, I love it.

Some days are worse than others.  One day on the way home the trains were so crowded that I was crushed up against the exit doors.  I had to step out of the train at the Rosslyn station to let other commuters off.  But that station was so crowded, I could hardly take a step back.  One guy, in his frustration reached out and pushed me hard as he exited the train.  I pushed back and loudly called him an asshole.  Commuter Colleen is aggressive and tough.  She takes no crap!

My brother and sister each live out in the ex-urbs of DC in a far away land called Sterling, which is a mere 25 miles from where I live in Arlington.  It might as well be a different country.  My sister lives about 2-3 miles from where she works and would not have it any other way.  My brother does work in Tyson’s, but still prefers to live as far away from the city as possible.

I have to admit, where they live is very nice.  They each have a big yard and land.  They live in nice, quiet neighborhoods with lots of children.  Play dates and nice leisurely strolls through well manicured streets and parks galore. 

I pay probably about the same, maybe a little less, for a studio apartment.  The best place to go walking has many shops and restaurants.  And I’m not far from a bike path.  The area where I live is pretty nice, but just down the road is a much more modest neighborhood that is sometimes kind of sketchy.  Still, I love living this close to the city.  True denizens of DC consider where I live in Arlington to be the boonies, and I am six miles from my office.

When people ask me why I live here or why I don’t move out to nowheresville, I am always surprised.  I usually give them my stock answer…it’s closer to work and I would hate to commute into the city from out in the middle of nowhere.  And that is true.  It’s more true, however, that  I would probably die a slow and lingering death living out in the safe, calm, anesthetic land of manicured driveways and safe clean parks. 

The most exciting part of the commute for me is that I am able to do it at all.  Just a couple of years ago, I used to commute into DC for my job.  I worked a block from the Metro station and I really struggled to get there.  Between back pain and an inability to breathe made the short walk and ride on the metro train unbearable.  I used to sometimes take a cab into the city just to avoid the hellish commute.  But that’s $20 each way, and I cannot afford that often.

Now, the commute is not quite so hellish.  I look forward to my morning and afternoon walks to and from the metro station.  I’m thankful, even that I have such a hike to give me a chance to get some exercise in.  I even find that long walk is not enough.  I am going to have to add an evening walk through my neighborhood or even on the treadmill, which I can hardly believe.  Before the surgery, I could barely walk to the bus stop.  Now I’m standing on the metro, running to catch trains, walking through the city, and planning additional walking because apparently 10 blocks a day is not enough.

Besides, not every commuting experience is stressful.  I was in the “commuter zone” during one of my morning jaunts into the city.  The blue line train was taking forever.  I can take a yellow line to L’Enfant Plaza, which by-passes Foggy Bottom.  I then have to change trains and back-track through the city to Foggy Bottom.  It’s not my favorite route, but sometimes I just cannot wait.  I had to do that one day.  I walked onto the crowded blue line train in L’Enfant Plaza and nearly tripped over a baby stroller that was sticking out from under someone’s seat.  A man with a baby on his lap apologized to me and told the child sitting across from him (clearly his other child) to make sure she kept the stroller folded and under the seat.  I told him it was fine and stood there tuning him out for the rest of the ride. 

Shortly into the ride, I felt a tug on the front of my jacket.  I looked down and this adorable little girl who was maybe ten months old with cute brown eyes and little brown pigtails looked up and smiled at me through her pacifier.  She reached up with one hand and took the pacifier out of her mouth and curled her cute little fingers on her other hand into a small wave.  She smiled again and said “hi.” 

What could I do.  I felt the commuter veneer of indifference melt away and I smiled and said “hello” back to her.  Her father immediately corrected her and said, “Leave the nice lady alone.”  I just smiled back and said, “She’s just fine.”

Commuting in DC

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So, now that I am able to walk some more, commuting to DC is not the hassle it was a year ago.

When I used to work in DC at a client site, my office was located about a block and a half from the nearest Metro station.  I also had to walk across the street from my apartment building to catch a bus.  I did not have to walk a lot, but it was still more than I could handle.  I had to sit when I arrived at the bus stop.  After I got off the Metro in DC, I had to stop at least twice to rest my back before getting to the office.  It was awful.

Now, I am back to working in DC and no longer working from home.  My office is nowhere near a Metro station.  It is at least 5.5 blocks from the nearest station. Well, OK that’s not entirely true.  There are two stops that are about 4 blocks from the office, but then I have to go two stops out of my way and take another train, and the stop where I change trains is still adds another two stops to my trip.  It’s worth the extra block to not have to change trains and keep my metro stops down to three stations.

Five blocks are really not that far.  Normal people walk this much all of the time without even a thought.  I used to before I became so morbidly obese.  Now that I have lost 81 pounds, (OMG 81!!!!!), walking this much is easy.

I am also standing pretty much from the minute I leave my apartment until I get to the office.  I stand out in front of my building to wait for the bus…OK that’s not true.  I sometimes sit at the bus stop.  But once I get on the bus, I stand until I get to the metro station because there is often not a seat.  Then the metro train is so full, I stand for the three whole stops until I can pry myself out of the train.  There is not even time or quite frankly the room to read anything on my kindle app.  Seriously, some days you need a shoe horn to get people out of there we are packed in so tightly.  Then I fight to get up the escalators and out of the station before I begin my hike to the office.

Sometimes, I go to the little French café (where they play middle eastern music, btw…not that I mind middle eastern music, it’s just that Americans have fanciful notions that every French café should be playing Edith Piaf singing Non Je Ne Regrette Rien all day long, but I digress), that is next to my office to get a cup of decaf.  There I sit and enjoy my last moments of solitude before entering the snake pit.

Honestly, the three stops are not bad.  Even the 5.5 block walk to the office is not bad.  I just hate being crammed on the train with about 10,000 other people with nowhere to move or breathe.  I am convinced with every jerk of the train that I will lose my balance and fall into the person next to me.  There is no real room to fall, so I would probably just body slam into the person next to me and cause people to tumble into one another like dominos.  Then there is the constant stopping and waiting for no reason without explanation.  And I haven’t even mentioned the broken escalators and elevators.  The train ride is stressful.  I thank God I only have to go three stops.

I am also thankful that I can do it relatively pain-free.  I still have some pain in my feet.  And occasionally my knees and back hurt a little.  But for the most part, I am enjoying the fact that I can do this.

Two other points…I lost 81 pounds!!!!  Omg I can hardly believe it!

The other thing I wanted to mention, I kind of put on my Facebook Page yesterday.  Yesterday, upon exiting the Metro station in DC, I ran into a friend of mine whom I have not seen in about two years.  She had a gastric by-pass 9 years ago.  We used to work together.  She looks great.  I also did not know her before the surgery.  She told me over and over again that she has no regrets.  I thought about her often before and since my surgery.

Well, I saw her and walked right up to her and made eye contact and she looked at me like she has never seen me before.  Then I told her who I was and seriously, her jaw dropped.  She asked me what I had been up to so I told her that I had the surgery.  We only had a moment to talk because we were both in the mad-commuter-rush-to-work mindset, but she told me that I looked great.  I have her email address, so I am going to send her an email.  I need to tell her how her experience really helped me make my decision when I reached my breaking point.  I may not have been ready to do it when she and I talked in the past, but I thought of her often through everything I have experienced.