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.

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.

CSM106966CB010013

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.

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:

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.

I had a professor in college, in one of my English classes, who was Mexican and spoke with a thick accent and a very strong lisp. He was a short, somewhat rotund man, who had received a threat from his doctor that it was time to watch his diet and exercise. This became the subject of much of his mid-lecture fodder. He had a permanent smile which was more of a wily, calculating grin, and it was often accompanied by twiddling thumbs. He was always up to something.

Whenever possible, he used the word “monkeys” to refer to just about anything. He used it in place of “words” or “documents” or any other plural noun. “Monkeys” frequently referred to us, his students. He even made a series of videos –using photo booth– starring stuffed monkeys and posted them on Facebook (yes, I am his Facebook friend). Clearly his class was one of my favorites.

Since he was tight on funds and claimed to want to be “one with the students,” he rode the Blacksburg Transit (BT) –the public bus that was ‘free’ to students and faculty– to and from campus. It was the kind of bus with a yellow cord you had to pull if you wanted it to make a stop, and when you pulled that cord it said, “Bing! Stop requested.” My professor found this muy entertaining. As the bus approached certain stops it would say, “Now approaching Burruss Hall. Ask your driver for transfer information;” “Now approaching University Mall/Math Emporium;” and my favorite, “Now approaching Patrick Henry Drive time check.” Ah, home.

My absent-minded professor was so amused by this that he rode the bus for many entire routes and recorded all of its announcements. Then he did what anyone else would have done with his new wealth of sound bytes. He made a remix.

Yes, he remixed together some of his favorite BT announcements, to the tune of techno beats, complete with his own original voice overs. And then he played it for us in class with the overwhelming pride of a new father.

This morning on the metro, the “Stand clear, doors closing” announcement repeated for the entire trip between two stops. Over and over and over. And over. Without pause. And it reminded me of the BT Remix, and I thought of how happy Carlos would be if he rode the metro for any length of time.

Perhaps, in his honor, I will make a DC Metro remix. Stay tuned…

I love Virginia.

I was born and raised in Virginia, went to school in Virginia (go Hokies!), and have managed to move only 25 miles from my hometown. In Virginia.

670px-Flag_of_Virginia.svg

I love that it is one of four states in the country officially designated as a commonwealth — Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts are the others. The designation as a commonwealth has no impact constitutionally, it’s simply a testament to the history of the state’s founding. The four commonwealth states named themselves such because they were built upon the idea of government based on the common consent of the people, breaking away from their original founding as Royal Colonies under the governance of Great Britain. Sounds like democracy.

So, history lesson in mind, let me please reiterate — I love the Commonwealth of Virginia.

And I especially love the metro rides home in the evenings. As the train approaches Rosslyn, some enthusiastic drivers say, “This is Rosslyn, the first stop in the Commonwealth of Virginia.” And if you look out the left side of the train leaving Rosslyn, toward Vienna, there’s a “Welcome to Virginia” sign on the wall. Complete with a cardinal (the state bird, duh).

It makes me happy every time.

But in the same vain, I sometimes enjoy hearing, “This is Foggy Bottom/George Washington University, the first stop in your nation’s capital,” on the way to work in the morning. It always reminds me of last fall when I was a faculty advisor for a youth leadership conference. The opening session involved a short video that proclaimed, “Feel the power of this city – your nation’s capital!”

Cheesy, yes. But it always got the kids really excited (or really homesick).

It’s refreshing, because no matter how displeased we are with our government, DC is still the most powerful 63 square miles of city in the world. And that’s exciting to kids, students, tourists, wide-eyed new inhabitants, and even people who are occasionally fed up with the area and its transit system.

Virginia_signStill, nothing beats being welcomed back to the commonwealth at the end of the day.