June 2009


I know you know, but just in case you missed it – Yesterday around 5 p.m. (you know, peak rush hour), two metro trains on the red line collided in northeast. As of this morning they’ve confirmed nine or seven casualties, depending on who you ask, and many many more injuries.

I can’t even imagine.

I got to Dupont Circle metro station around 5:15 yesterday, and waited 15 minutes for a train. This seems trivial, I know, but they normally show up one right after the other with a maximum of three minutes in between. The platform got more and more crowded as people piled in and the electronic train status signs remained blank.

There were no announcements, no alerts from WMATA, nothing.

So when a phenomenally crowded train showed up after what seemed like an eternity, everyone piled on. It was reminiscent of the failblog video I wrote about once. People were actually holding onto other people to keep them in the train while the doors attempted to close.

At Farragut North, when even more disgruntled, uninformed people tried to cram on, I thought I was about to witness a metro mutiny. There was shouting, lecturing, arguing, shoving, and even more squishing of smaller people (me) into larger people’s arm pits. Sweaty armpits, because the air wasn’t on.

I thought to myself, I might blog about this tomorrow.

It wasn’t until I got to Metro Center that I even heard an announcement that there was “a situation” on the red line, and that you should expect delays in both directions. But there’s always a situation on the red line, so I casually, like every other day, filed onto my orange line home-bound train and opened my book.

When I got above ground and regained cell service I started to get worried. I had numerous texts, missed calls and voice mails from various friends and family. One text from a coworker asked if I made it home okay, “I heard about the red line.”

I got off the train and headed out toward kiss&ride to wait for my shuttle and heard another announcement about a portion of the red line being shut down, shuttle service, delays, etc.

I called my mom, assured her I was fine and asked what in the world was going on. I had an all too familiar pang in my stomach, one that’s lived there for two years now and flares up when it senses disaster. Sirens, triage stations, media, questions, chaos. Casualties.

Yes, it was a freak accident. It was nowhere near where anyone I know rides the metro, and it was nowhere near where I ride it (for which I am exceedingly grateful). But, as such things always do, it opened a limitless box of questions and what ifs. What went wrong? Who’s to blame? Equipment failure or operational error? How do we know other trains on other lines are safe? What if it had been underground?

Being in the dark, literally underground, having no idea what was going on and no source of information, is a metro fault. We’re all used to hearing announcements of delays or single-tracking or “malfunctions” and not finding out what really happened until you get home and check the news. Some metro officials argue that telling passengers, via station and train announcements, the details of what’s really going on could cause panic. I would prefer if I could first have the information and then be able to decide for myself whether or not to panic. I know plenty of people agree.

My heart goes out to the people on those two trains — the ones going into the city for Monday evening fun, and those coming out after a day of work — their families, friends, loved ones. I understand what it’s like to have something mundane and normal, a staple of your everyday life, be disrupted by something traumatic.

This morning I avoided the red line, walked about a mile from Farragut West to work, and was thankful to no longer be on the train or underground. I’m also thankful to those of you who read this blog and checked in yesterday, it’s much appreciated.

For the details, coverage of all angles (of particular interest is the ‘The Probe‘ article), and some intense photos, check out the story at the Washington Post.

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It has come to my attention that this city is now crawling with summer interns. It doesn’t bother me so much, because I don’t generally ride the metro down near the Capitol so there are relatively few lost young’ns on my commute.

The first encounter I had with interns was mere steps from my desk at work. We have five or so, working in one room that is conveniently situated very close to my cube (I have the ultimate location, sandwiched between the boss and the interns…). And boy are they a chatty bunch.

Now, I never really interned, but I did spend a good amount of time working as a filing-and-data-entry minion at my mom’s office. And I was always petrified of the quiet in that building. I was worried about breathing too loudly, so I considered it kind of audacious to loudly chat it up with other people. I just put my headphones in and went to work on my filing. Real exciting stuff.

But now that I’ve become aware of the intern invasion in the streets and restaurants and bars of DC, I’m worried about one thing in particular:

I really hope I’m not mistaken for an intern

I have one very strong advantage in this effort, and that is that on any given day the interns in this city are much better dressed than I am (need I reiterate, I wear jeans to work). But I frequently get mistaken for a high school student, even though I’m a college graduate and in my 20’s.

Just last weekend I was out to dinner with my parents in a small town whose high school had just held graduation. The waitress asked me, trying to be nice and congratulatory, if I had just graduated. When I replied, “From college… over a year ago,” she was a combination of shocked and embarrassed and recovered with, “Well bless your heart honey, you look so young!”

Thanks, lady.

I just don’t want to be mistaken for a member of the group that is mercilessly exploited for our entertainment on this DC Interns blog, where people post instances of intern sightings and overheard conversations.

Every Wednesday morning when I step off the escalator at Dupont Circle metro, I’m greeted by my favorite Express distributor’s weekly chant:

HUMP DAAAYYYYY

Happy HUMP Dayyyy

EEEXXXpressss

GET YOUR HUMP DAY EXPRESS

GOOOOOD morning it’s HUMP day GET your paaaperrr

Gosh I love that guy. Last Friday I had a day off of work and on Monday Express guy asked if I was out sick or had vacation. He’s awesome.

The area he works is pretty competitive. There’s a guy selling umbrellas for $5 (one of these days I’m going to give in and get one), there are usually some people from some organization selling boxes of Krispy Kremes for $5 (I refuse to give in to that one), and one day there was even a man handing out free pocket-sized bibles, but I picked up plenty of those on the Drillfield.

There is also a guy distributing the Examiner, who I usually snub but began to like at one point (here). Well I liked him until one day when I came up the escalator and he was fighting with my Express guy over which paper was better. I heard this exchange before politely interrupting and retrieving my Express:

Examiner guy: Get your paper! They’re both the same anyway…. get your Examiner!

Express guy: They’re not the same! Express is a smaller version of the Post! What’s the Examiner? …. Not the Washington Post that’s for sure

Examiner guy: Express is not at all like the Post

… and so on …

It got intense, but I do have to say that Express is not the Post and sometimes I can’t believe it’s even associated with the Post. The writing is pretty bad and has a ‘young, sarcastic’ tone, the likes of which I only saw on the Opinions page of our college paper. But it is somewhat entertaining and a nice compact size for metro reading. And at least it’s free and a lot of people are reading some form of the news because of it.

Anywho, this morning when Express guy was doing his normal Hump Day paper peddling, I thought of how – even though his papers are free – he and Examiner guy are kind of like Newsies — the 2009 version at least. Newsies was a 1992 Disney film (ahem, musical) starring a young Christian Bale (Batman!) that took place in 1899 New York City and followed the plight of poor, hungry orphans turned newsboys. The newsies form a union and strike against the newspaper publishers Pulitzer and Hearst (you might have heard of them) when they raise the distribution costs of their newspapers, putting an undue strain on the already thin pockets of the boys.

Anyway, the newsies are precious and the movie is one of my favorites (only since befriending Jessie). To help illustrate my point, I’m including a video of the opening scene (or close to it) called “Carry the Banner.” I honestly imagine all the paper distributors in DC participating in this scene…

Here’s a bonus, because it’s Hump Day and it makes me happy:

Some mornings there’s a song that I think about. I first heard it on my drive to work, when I used to drive for an hour to complete the first leg of my two-hour commute. It’s pop-country. It’s twangy and upbeat. It can be annoying.

But I love this song, because the opening four lines make me laugh (primarily at myself) every time. Not only is it so, so true, but it happens. And I know it doesn’t just happen to me.

It goes like this:

Missed my alarm clock ringin’, woke up telephone screamin’
Boss man singin’ his same old song
Rolled in late about an hour, no cup of coffee, no shower
Walk of shame with two different shoes on

I have never gone to work with two different shoes on, and my boss has never called to inquire about my tardiness, and I’ve never actually been late to work. But the point is: I am always a disheveled bundle of stress scurrying to work in the morning, and this song makes me laugh about it.

In fact, my morning routine upon arriving at work is what most people do before they leave the house in the morning and it usually involves:

1. Put bag at desk, log in to computer.

2. Make a stop at the bathroom to wash hands (metro germs!).

3. Put on make-up in the bathroom, hopefully before saying good morning to anyone.

4. Adjust wardrobe; Add sweater and belt from tote bag stash, remove cat hair from clothing with scotch tape.

5. On rainy or winter days, change out of boots into acceptable shoes.

6.  Return to desk as if I walked into work put together.

Here is a bad video of the song “It Happens” by Sugarland, if you would like to get the full effect. I think it has a good, light-hearted message that is necessary to keep in mind when you get caught up in the nine-to-five-rush-around-look-important-and-busy phenomenon in this area. Enjoy!

This morninwill-smith-the-fresh-prince-of-bel-airg I woke up after a thoroughly enjoyable three-day weekend relaxed, rejuvenated and ready for the week. In fact I was so relaxed that I felt little need to rush around. As I meandered through my morning routine I realized I would not be leaving at 7:15 for the metro, and resigned to the idea of watching a little more Meredith Vieira (can’t stand her, but I watch anyway) on the Today Show while I ironed my shirt. As the great Will Smith once said, I was “chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool…” or something.

I eventually caught the shuttle and walked calmly and in a half-sleep into the metro while the masses bustled around me. Sometimes it’s refreshing to slow down.

I guess I disturbed the natural order of things by going about my morning at 1/3 of my normal pace, because things started to get weird as I turned toward the entrance. First, I got stepped on while waiting for my SmarTrip to register on the farecard machine and let me through. No big deal, I get stepped on a lot.

When I got to the left side of the escalator down to the platform and realized no one was walking (escaleftors, all of ’em!), it didn’t bother me too much because as I said before, I was taking it easy this morning. But then a train pulled up and I was still stuck in the immobile line of people on the escalator, and as easy as I might have been taking it, I was determined to get on that train. So I started the stand-on-my-toes look-impatiently-around-the-person-in-front-of-me thing to see what the problem was.c_rueben

The source: An old couple that had to be pushing 90, one with a cane and the other with the largest eye glasses I’ve ever seen. Think Reuben from the Ocean’s trilogy, but much much older. They were standing bewildered on both sides of the escalator, unknowingly blocking traffic while the people behind me yelled things like “Ya gonna walk today?!” and “How about MOOOVING!!”

Right as the train stopped and the old couple hobbled off the escalator and safely into seats, the escalator sped up causing everyone to grab something. I resisted.

Then it came to a seriously abrupt stop, causing me to grab the shoulder of the man in front of me as I was launched forward. Oops.

The huddle of people left on the escalator used the momentum to get onto the train which thankfully was not crowded and I secured a seat without any effort. I made myself comfortable thinking Man, that was stressful and decided this was not a reading-on-the-metro day. I closed my eyes and continued to try to take it easy.

Once I got to metro center I learned that the red line in my direction was delayed due to a problem at the Bethesda station. It turns out a woman jumped in front of a train at Bethesda yesterday, and today it was still causing problems? Anyway, it was  one of two metro fatalities this weekend and one of three red line suicides that has affected my commute. It’s really unfortunate.

To end on a much happier note:

1. It’s a beautiful day outside

2. My sore right wrist/arm combination from batting a thousand at the cages yesterday is causing me to type really slowly and really poorly. Trust me, it’s much more comical than it is pitiful.

3. I got an iced coffee from Starbucks for breakfast (at the Starbucks or the Starbucks or the Starbucks or the Starbucks) …If you haven’t already, enjoy:

I don’t usually like to post about work, but this topic is exceptionally ridiculous and I can’t help myself.

MTV’s “reality” show The Real World — you know the one about seven strangers, picked to live in a house to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start being real — it’s coming to DC. And this week someone scooped the location of the huge, pimped-out house they will occupy during their 5ish-month stay.

The building is next to my work.

Literally, steps from the door I walk in and out of every Monday through Friday.

Of course this has caused a humorous reaction as the news has snaked through the company. Some people are angry about the potential to lose parking. Some are star-stricken by all the local places the cast-mates might show up — “Our Safeway! Our Starbucks! The Big Hunt!”

As for me, I fully intend to catch the background of a few shots when the kids are stumbling home at the same time I’m zombie-walking to work.

I’m not sure if it’s known when the filiming is to begin, or whether people have been cast already, but I do know the $6 million row house is still under renovation. And I just commented to a coworker last week that I hate that we walk through a construction site to go to lunch every day. Voila, it’s MTV’s fault.

They have covered all the windows so you can’t see in, but sometimes they leave the doors open (for drying paint?) and I sneek a peak. It’s very much still under renovation and is consequently boring.

Here is a link to some pictures of the house. I assume these were taken a while back, because I’m almost certain it’s empty of its former office-ware now.

Sometimes it seems like there are election days every other week. This primary, that primary, a caucus or two. I mean Newt Gingrich is already testing the waters of a campaign run for the 2012 big show.

So if you’ve missed all the blue signs around Northern Virginia, and all the sassy campaign commercials, then today probably snuck up on you.

It’s Deomcratic Primary Day in the Virginia Gubernatorial election race, of course.

And it snuck up on me too. That is until I got to the West Falls Church metro this morning and there were button-donning suits blocking the entrance, forcing literature on unwelcoming metro patrons.

“Have you voted today?” they said. Really, sir? You think I voted this morning before I got to the metro at 7:30? Really?

Well I didn’t vote this morning, and although I am a firm believer in exercising your right to vote — whether you believe in its impact or not — I am certain I will not be voting today. I only vote when I have done enough research on the candidates to make an informed decision as to which to choose. I think it is the responsibility of every voter to do adequate research on their candidates, and not just rush into the voting booth armed with propaganda or swooned by a celebrity politician. Plus, I would have to drive out to Manassas to vote and I have vehemently sworn off 66 rush hour driving.

At any rate, I didn’t do research yet because like I said, today snuck up on me. Until the pesky suits outside the metro asked if I was voting for Terry McAuliffe today. Before I could explain that no, I wouldn’t be voting for anyone today, the suit said, “Because if you’d like to meet him and ask any questions, he’s right here.”

And there he was, standing behind the army of pamphlet-weilding suits. Shaking hands, hugging strangers, smiling that token vote-for-me grin. He’s also supposed to be appearing to meet his constituents at Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington today. Jealousy.

Anyway, A for effort Mr. McAuliffe. I should mention that McAuliffe (former DNC Chairman) is one of three candidates in the Democratic primary — Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran are the other two. Since the Republican party has only one candidate for governor, they have no need for a primary, so you can look forward to hearing more from them as Nov. 3 gets closer. (And don’t let Nov. 3 sneak up on you!)

If you do plan to vote today, I recommend checking out the Washington Post’s procrastinator’s guide here. You know me too well, Washington Post.

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