I have often spoken of the fine gentleman who gives me my daily Express at the Dupont metro stop. He is wonderful. I cannot applaud him enough for his morning attitude and our brief conversations about the day’s news, weather, metro delays, etc.

I also enjoy the green windbreaker-material track suit he dons on rainy days. There is also a poncho. Man is he stellar.

And then there was a crash on the red line and it’s only recently “recovered.” For about a month I’ve been skipping the transfer to red line and simply walking the mile from Farragut West (I figure even if the delays aren’t so bad, at least I’m above ground breathing real air). When it was too hot and sticky humid and I was too tired from vacation recooperation last week to make the long walk, I revisited the red line in the mornings.

Perhaps even better than the shorter walk was seeing my main Express man again. He’s the apple of my morning’s eye.

Heyyyy long time no see miss! Have a great day! So good to see you!

It broke my heart. I missed him so. But I didn’t stick around long to explain where I’d been because the truth is that I wouldn’t be entirely honest with him.

You see, when I wasn’t visiting him every day I had to get my Express somehow. Well I didn’t really need to, because I still don’t actually read it most days. But West Falls Church metro got a new distributor. And he’s precious. So sweet. He’s a young’n and I can’t avoid him like I used to avoid the older one (who’s still there, and still shouting his annoying “Double double, Express and Examiner double double”).

The young’n looks up at me from his stack of papers with a sly little smile and a sparkle in his eye and says, “Would you like an Express ma’am?”

Certainly I don’t condone the use of ma’am in reference to young people like myself, but he reminds me of a younger, more innocent Lil Bow Wow — before he dropped the ‘Lil’.

lil_bow_wow1

I can’t really explain what I find so endearing about Lil Bow Wow and his Express distributor look-alike.

I also have a hard time explaining why I put two copies of the exact same newspaper in my recycle bin every day.

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.

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: