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.

For the last 2 minutes of my orange line ride this morning, I grabbed a seat next to a large older man with gray hair, a red tie, and the scent of banana about him. As is my normal practice, I shoved my nose further into my book to avoid conversation — he looked like a talker. As we approached Metro Center where I was about to get off, he turned toward me, but kept turning until his lips met the cheek of the woman behind us, who was facing the opposite direction. I heard several smooches and must have looked as uncomfortable as I felt because when he came up for air he leaned toward me and said:

I kiss all the women on the train goodbye before I get off. Every morning.

I faked a pity laugh at what I’m hoping was a joke and willed the train to stop so I could stand up and run away. Of course, he was a talker, so he continued:

At least I kiss as many women as she let’s me.

As he said this he gestured toward his … wife? Ladyfriend? Mistress? They exchanged awkwardly suggestive glances. I forced another pity laugh and then sprinted for the door.

That was easily the most awkward conversation I have ever had on the metro. I would even prefer having to talk to a coworker the whole way. Or the claustrophobic woman. Oy.

Warning: Some content may be inappropriate for certain audiences.

A few summers ago — actually, three to be exact — I had surgery and spent several weeks devoted to my trusty old recliner, my TV and a stack of easy-to-read books. My reading collection was so generously enhanced by Julia who loaned me Something Borrowed and  Something Blue (which are not nearly as cheesy as they sound and were on the really good end of the chick-lit spectrum), My Sister’s Keeper which I only recently got around to reading and crying over (and I haven’t been able to bring myself to see the movie yet), The Nanny Diaries which was as mediocre as the movie adaptation (haven’t seen it, just guessing), and one book that broke the pattern.

The book was I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max. If you think by the name of it that it is a light-hearted account of some especially ridiculous college stories and a love of booze, you are underestimating this crazy work of R-rated non(ish)-fiction.

tuckermaxTucker Max is a glorified frat guy who, according to his website, “gets excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregards social norms, indulges every whim…” and something about experiences with women — make that heavy emphasis on a multitude of experiences with women.

Of course, this is where he started — sharing his stories, “The Tucker Max Stories,” online and calling it his contribution to humanity. Then his stories were made into a book, about which I had the wrong expectations when I first picked it up.  It had a similar feel to The Washingtonienne (the infamous blog-turned-book of a Capitol Hill intern and her personal exploits on and off the job), in which the story is mildly interesting, but the graphic detail I could do without. In both cases, I remained strong and finished the book but it was difficult and I am not a better person for it.

Tucker Max’s work of so-called “Fratire” is now being made into a movie set to release in September. I’ll pause for gasps of horror.

Alas, I’ll move on to the real reason I bring up this book.

Yesterday I saw a young gentleman (to use the term loosely) reading Max’s book on the metro. The young man was on the shorter side, slight in build, swimming in his oversized purple dress shirt, stepping on the hems of his too-long dress pants. He was leaning against the side of the car, book in one hand, unnecessarily large briefcase in the other (the bigger the briefcase, the more important you look), and he was smirking sometimes laughing audibly at the treasure trove of Tucker Max stories.thepickupartist

I smirked at him while I was guffawing inside because this is the kind of reader who would idolize Tucker Max like the contestants on the VH1 show “The Pickup Artist” bow to their almighty professor Mystery. I could see the lessons  of Tucker Max digesting in this young student’s head as he let out a grin that said, “So that’s how it’s done? Nice…” while bobbing his head in the “heck yeah” way guys do.

I returned my focus to my book, eventually nabbed a seat and settled in to rest my weary legs. The next time I looked up, the young student of pickup artistry was exercising his newly acquired skills on the young lady sitting in front of me. He was leaning down to speak to her, because she was speaking softly, and rummaging in his “I’m important” briefcase for something. I was on the edge of my seat wondering what sort of impressive item he would produce.

Keep rummaging…

What is it??

Here it comes…

Ah, yes. A business card for the lady. As he hands it to her from his half-bent rear-out clutching-the-railing stance, he says, “Here… I’ll just give you this. Here you go. Okay. Well. See ya later…”

I can’t imagine that was as smooth as he intended it to be, but I’ll give points for the attempt. I heard no response from the girl, but as he turned around to walk off the train, with his back safely to her, she examined the business card momentarily. When the doors opened and he moved to get off the train, she stood up slowly, let several people in front of her, then exited with a safe distance between her and TuckerMaxWannabe.

I don’t think he’s getting a call.

The student has not yet become the master. But perhaps the movie version will help him out?

And I’m back. Sorry for the hiatus, my July resolution is to get better at frequent posting.

I know I don’t need to tell you that the metro has been a charlie foxtrot since the red line crash on June 22. But let me tell you — it has been nuts.

Because metro’s automation feature seems to be at fault, all trains in the system have been running manually ever since the crash. This means stopping abruptly, maintaining a maximum speed of 35 mph, and keeping a space of several extra minutes in between each train. At some times, red line trains are only running every 10 to 15 minutes. This is unheard of in the realm of mass transit. It is inconvenient to say the least.

The combination of these speed bumps and the hot, sticky weather that translates to hotter, stickier metro stations, is having a profound effect on my commute to and from work. My primary gripe is that the people around me are forgetting their manners, thinking How dare metro inconvenience me, don’t they know how important I am, while failing to realize that everyone else is in the same boat.

There is more shoving, more shouting, more sweat, more disregard for common courtesies like covering your mouth when you cough and offering the seat from under your 25-year-old healthy bum to the feeble old man clinging to life in front of you. Every car is more and more like a can of sardines.

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Throw some tourists into the mix and things get interesting.

On Tuesday I wasn’t feeling so hot when I left work, so I decided to brave the red line and transfer to orange at Metro Center. Since the crash last week, I’ve been getting on and off at Farragut West and walking the mile-ish to and from my office, just to avoid the red line’s neverending issues. But Tuesday was hot, and I wasn’t feeling well, so I sucked it up and took the red line. It was not fun.

I got to Metro Center only to find that there were delays on orange and blue also. Apparently the whole system has gone to crap. When an orange line train finally came about 15 minutes later, there was a large crowd behind me and a packed car in front of me. As I tried to step onto the train, I saw a frantic middle-aged woman launching herself toward me, pushing herself through the brick wall of people, shouting hysterically:

I’M GETTING OFF THIS TRAIN!

I HAVE to get off this train! I can’t TAKE this anymore!!! Get me out of heeerrreeee!!

Meanwhile, a younger woman about my age was screaming at her from further into the train in a high-pitched, nasal whine:

MOM don’t do this! MOMMMM! Get back on the train Mom!!!!

Fine then give me your keys!! AND MY TICKET MOM YOU HAVE MY TICKET!!!

The woman was now straddling the doorway of the train, one foot in the car and one on the platform. The mass of sardines inside the car all had the same thought behind their death stares: Make a decision lady, the sooner we move the sooner this is over.

With some coaxing from a kind stranger, the woman was reassured that it is better to stay on the train now than wait for a less crowded one or take a cab all the way out to Vienna. The daughter was thankful.

Somehow the woman freaked out again at the next stop and pulled the same stunt. At this point people were angry, especially because we got lucky enough to be on a car with no AC. A large man grabbed her by the arm, yanked her back onto the train and held her firmly in his grasp until the doors were closed. We were only at McPherson Square and the daughter was getting increasingly more annoying than the frazzled lady.

I was in the very back of the car, where there are only four sets of seats and very little to hold on to. Because of this, very few people choose to crowd the area. I noticed Ms. Frazzle’s key chain, asked her if she was a Hokie, and convinced her to come stand out of the [larger] crowd with me, and focus on the one corner of the car that was unoccupied by people.

As we discussed our shared love of our alma mater, the things that have come and gone in the years between our stints there, and what we do now (she’s a high school tennis coach, I’m a… commuter), her daughter continued to whine. I learned that the girl graduated from college (not VT) last month and couldn’t help wondering whether she’d learned any social grace while she was there — every time the doors opened she complained (louder than I’ve ever heard someone speak on the metro) to the people waiting on the platform to get onto the train

Sorry guyyyyss there’s no more room on here. Noooo don’t try to get on there’s no more rooom. Ugghhhh

Oh no she did not…

1. There is always more room on the metro.

2. Don’t tell angry, sweaty, tired, commuting people what to do. Especially not when you’re so clearly a tourist. They will get angry with you.

3. Every time you speak you add more unnecessary hot air to the already unbearably hot train. So shut it.

I continued to talk to Ms. Frazzle to keep her calm. She was very intently focused on me, her eyes fixed on mine, her white knuckles grasping the top of a seat, her feet shoulder-width apart and her body assuming an athlete’s ‘ready stance’. We talked about Blacksburg restaurants, Tech’s newest dining halls, the beautiful campus. She asked me the inevitable questions about April 16, which I still can’t believe strangers ask with such candor. She told me she was a DG and a little sister of some fraternity (Do people still care about this when they’re grown? Because I never have and continue not to care in the least bit). She asked what, if I wasn’t Greek, did I even do all those four years. She asked if I do this “metro thing” every day. I said yes, but only to… hey, look at that we’re at my stop (thank goodness).

As I shuffled off the train I wished her luck on the rest of her ride to Vienna and in her attempts to metro the next day. She thanked me profusely for helping her out, the daughter thanked me for talking to her saying, “Sometimes she’s so crazy. She thinks she has claustrophobia.”

I said you’re welcome, good luck, have a good evening, okay great, yup thanks, sure of course, I said you’re welcome…alright, uh huh …

Bless their frazzled, whiny little hearts. I hope they survived Wednesday and didn’t drive in to the National Mall like Ms. Frazzle was threatening to do. I have had my fair share of claustrophobic moments but man did she ever show me up. Somehow I’m not envious of her win.

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.

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: