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Friday, September 28, 2012

The DC Metro

I'm happy to announce that I started my new job on Monday; it's not the post as an editorial assistant with a university press or Norton that I was hoping for, but I am very glad to be here, and pleased as punch that my new job title is officially Writer and Editor. I'm getting PAID to write! I just sent off my first batch of shiny and meticulously edited articles to the design guy, and I can't wait to see them in print.

One of the biggest challenges of the first week has been deciding how to get myself here in the morning. Waking up, of course, is a good start. (Today I slept right through my alarm and had that horrible experience of blissfully and well-restedly coming to the certain knowledge that it was far too bright outside for me to still be in bed.) But once awake, there are so many choices. Bus? Metro? Bus and Metro? Metro and Walk? Drive and Metro? Drive and Metro and Walk? Which is the least expensive? Which takes the longest time? Which is the most reliable? I suspect, given the amount of variables, that it will take me more than just this first week to figure it out. And now, though it isn't about writing or reading at all, I have to make a few comments about the DC Metro.

I'm a small-town girl. I didn't grow up using a metro, and I'm still ridiculously excited each time I get on a train, and a little terrified each time one whooshes up to the station. My first regular acquaintance with such transportation was during my study abroad in Rome when I was 18. Now, if you have lived in Rome, I'm sure you have your own store of memories regarding their public transportation system. It's not just that the workers are always on strike, or that the trains are so overcrowded that your nose is forced into the armpit of a deodorant-ignorant man who unabashedly looks you up and down the whole time, or that you have to fight with miniature nuns to get yourself a spot on board. There are also the sweet little children who turn out to be vicious pick-pockets, the belligerent beggars with self-inflicted injuries, and the musicians who ride the cars all day with battered guitars and powerful voices. And, of course, there's the character-rich blue line, graffitied till kingdom come.

I cannot imagine anything so different from all that as the DC Metro. Things look mostly bright and clean and new, but all in sterile way. Everyone is silent. Everything is air-conditioned. Sometimes I can smell perfume and cologne. If a train looks crowded, people wait for the next one (except for me -- efficiency, people! Come on!). There are signs threatening fines if you play music that is not through headphones, or if you have a drink with you. There is no conversation, no emotion, no display of personality, and (here's the kicker), when going up the stairs, hundreds of people mechanically form two long, straight, orderly, single-file lines, stretching out across the platform. I almost laughed out loud when I saw that happen. Can you imagine the Italians doing such a thing? Unheard of.

The most interesting person I've seen so far was a little boy (I say little boy, but I guess he was probably in his younger 20s) who was just too adorable for words. His blond hair was neatly parted, Leave-It-to-Beaver-style, he was wearing a tidy polo shirt, a proper knit sweater with a solitary stripe across the front, carrying a backpack, stood about 5'5, and was earnestly engrossed in his big, white, hardback book on marriage. Part of me wanted to say, "Awww, sweetie, what a little cutie you are." Don't worry; I didn't. And then I noticed that he was holding his place with a boarding pass. Riiiight, I thought. You're not from here. That's why you look like a real person.

I had thought the morning metro ride would be a good time to listen to books on tape, but, in protest to the general lack of anything other than insularity, I'm sort of thinking that I won't.  Luckily I'm too disorganized to charge my Ipod, so I haven't had to make the choice yet. People assure me these feelings will wear off. I suppose they will. I mean, I used to read on the metro in Rome, so I guess they did there. I suppose having a physical book would be better than listening to one; I've noticed a couple of things people were reading and started to form character sketches of them based off of that. I know, don't judge a book by its cover and all that, but it helps!

Between moving all my stuff down from New England last weekend (and thank you all you wonderful people who helped me!), still recovering from that blasted tooth extraction, and the business of navigating a new job, I am sorry to say I've made absolutely no progress on The Idiot and very little on The Beautiful and Damned. Oh, and freelance work. And letters. So much to catch up on. Hah! That sentence ended with TWO prepositions! What are your thoughts on that rule, anyway? I used to be a stickler, but I find myself relenting.

Until next time.


  1. Wow.

    Are you sure we ride the same metro? Your description sounds more like a German metro station than a DC one. Once you're acquainted with the less pleasant aspects of Metro, such as the stench of urine in some stations, the occasional (and devastating) lack of AC, the single-tracking, the inefficiency, the crazy hobos who ride the orange line end to end and sleep the whole way, and many others, you will definitely be a local.

    For a much more artistic portrait of the DC metro than I can paint, please enjoy the Metro song by Remy (a local comedian best known for the Arlington Rap):

    My take on the sentence-ending preposition is that it ought to be avoided when doing so is not too awkward. So I would have written that sentence the same way.

  2. Well, Mr. Bloch, perhaps I am one step closer to becoming a local; the AC was out of order, and it was AWFUL. I suppose I need to ride different sections of it, though, to fully experience what you're describing. I do take the orange line, but only for 5 or so stops out towards the Vienna end of the line (right through the video-featured Clarendon, as a matter of fact). Maybe it's not so sketchy through Falls Church and Arlington as it is in other places.

    Next time you're in Boston, be sure to ride the T. Maybe you'll feel a little happier about DC public transportation.

    That video is AWESOME, by the way. I'll have to watch it at least 10 more times. "No, Announcement Lady, that is NOT my bag!"

    I'm glad you approve of my preposition placement. Thank you :)