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.

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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.

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:

Early last week we saw wonderful summer-like weather in the DC area. Monday and Tuesday temperatures reached the mid-90s, my shoulders turned light pink, and the hope that April showers had finally given way to May flowers ran rampant. That is, until something else ran rampant. Ahem, I mean “rampant.”

An apparent almost-pandemic, then definitely pandemic, then a maybe-not-a-pandemic strain of swine flu took over the human race and wiped out populations in mass, including all of Mexico. Oh wait. That’s not true. Some people caught a bad flu, one U.S. citizen died of the bad flu, schools shut down due to students with suspicious symptoms, and Joe Biden encouraged everyone via the Today Show, to avoid public transportation. Thankfully I was watching the Today Show when Biden shared his words of wisdom and doom, which was approximately 15 minutes before I got on the metro.

Amid all the media flurry over the swine flu, I learned a few things:

  1. I should wash my hands frequently. Of course, I already came to my own conclusion that the metro is dirty and I should wash my hands as soon as I get off of it every day. But since news of the swine flu, I’ve gone through even more of my Purell supply than I budgeted this month. Dagger.
  2. I should be afraid of anyone who coughs or sneezes. I was reading on the metro one morning and some poor unsuspecting person sneezed and everyone immediately shot her a death stare of disapproval.
  3. I should be afraid of confined spaces and breathing the air inside them. I’m fairly claustrophobic, so the news media confirming my fear was not good for my mental health. Despite this, I haven’t resorted to wearing a SARS maskbaconator yet.
  4. All this talk about swine flu has made me seriously crave bacon. I also learned that I cannot contract swine flu by eating bacon. I’ll be heading to Wendy’s after work for a Baconator.

So anyway, I set about my normal business on Monday last week, remembering to wash my hands frequently and be cautious of everyone’s snot. Fortunately, the swine flu hysteria had put me in a good enough mood to last the day, because it quickly turned into a prime example of Murphy’s Law. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

The evening commute was a stress, because the shuttle to our apartment building comes every 30 minutes, and I was on track to barely make it to West Falls Church for the 5:10 shuttle. I rushed down Connecticut to the Dupont Metro, thinking to myself that it’s going to be a long summer if I don’t start hanging out for happy hours in the city until the heat cools off. By the time I was half way down the escalator, half way under ground, I was at least 10 degrees cooler. I was thankful for the shade and the cave-like atmosphere in the metro station and thought that it might actually be a pleasant ride home.

When I switched lines at metro center, it was considerably more muggy and disgusting underground. I told myself to stop complaining because in a mere three minutes I would be on another train with the air conditioning on full blast.

Unfortunately when I got on my orange line train bound for home, not only was there no air conditioning, but there was no air to speak of. All of a sudden I had a mini Joe Biden on my shoulder saying “If you don’t want swine flu you better not breathe! I told you not to ride public transportation!”

Deep breaths, Lauren. Deep breaths.

Of course it was peak evening rush, so the train got ridiculously crowded, and I got increasingly angry at every new person that got on for taking a portion of my air. And as the train emerged from the Ballston underground, it got instantly hotter with the sun’s proximity, and slower for an unknown reason. We had one of those drivers that never tells you what’s going on – he just lets you sit there and ponder the possible reasons the train is stopped and wonder if you’ll make it off alive.

Inch by inch we made our way toward East Falls Church and inch by inch I checked my watch thinking  I could definitely still make the 5:10 shuttle… If we pick up speed right now, I’ll make it… Stopping at East Falls Church shouldn’t take that long… I’m right by the doors, I’ll definitely be up the escalator in a hot second…

And then the driver enlightened us, just when the station was in sight.

Customers, we will hold here until further notice. There is a train offloading at East Falls Church due to a sick customer, we are operating on one track through the station right now. We will move when we get the go-ahead.

Well I still kept my hopes alive of making it to the 5:10 shuttle. I also wondered if the “sick customer” had swine flu. I got really nervous about this possibility when we finally stopped at East Falls Church and everyone who had offloaded the sick person train crammed onto the one I was already crammed onto. It had to be topping 100 degrees on that train and there was less and less air to be breathed. And every one of those new passengers could now possibly be sharing a swine flu infestation with the rest of us. Oh great.

But I turned my thinking toward the silver lining and that was that I had stealthily secured a stance directly in front of the door so I would definitely be the first person off the train. I took great pride in this quick thinking of mine.

The train stopped at West Falls Church at exactly 5:10. I stood facing the doors waiting for them to open when the driver said, “This is West Falls Church, doors opening on the right.” What?! The doors always open on the left at West Falls! Murphy’s Law.

Behind all the people who were lined up at the right side doors, I bolted off the train thinking maybe Phillippe (the shuttle driver) is caught up in a lively conversation with someone on the bus and has forgotten to leave yet. This is completely plausible, it happens all the time.

I basically ran to the escalator, but I was already behind a thick crowd. We shuffled shoulder-to-shoulder in a massive huddle toward the escalator. I was queued up on the left side, lifting my foot to step onto the escalator, when all of a sudden the person in front of me was moving backward toward me. I looked to the top of the escalator and people were grabbing for something to brace themselves with and simultaneously they let out a “Whoaaa.”

It was a rapid reverse.

The escalator had instantaneously switched — while overcrowded with angry, sweaty people — from going up, to going down. I tried to move backward as the people on the escalator were shifting toward me, but the crowd behind me wasn’t catching on and wasn’t moving. Finally, everyone started hiking the escalator as it eventually came to a complete stop. I looked at my watch on the way up: 5:12.

I had to wait for 30 minutes for the 5:40 shuttle in the unbearable heat after breathing little air for the last hour. I didn’t have a book that day, so I was left to sit with my thoughts and consider the possibility that I just contracted the swine flu from seven different people whose snot ranges I was riding in.

I came to two new conclusions while I sat on the curb waiting for the shuttle:

  1. Quit whining, 30 minutes is not that inconvenient.
  2. Always heed Vice President Biden’s advice.

Oh man am I sick of hearing that word.

At any rate, WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) is finally organizing its progress on its $202 million stimulus plan into a readable, understandable format on its website. I have been searching for this information ever since I read WMATA’s first news blurb about the burgeoning plans for the millions – it seemed to disappear afterward and only recently showed back up on WMATA’s site.

On Feb. 18, Metro released its first musings about the $202 million plans, including a list of some projects that would get a chunk of the stimulus cheese in the coming months. The goal was to stimulate “the local and national economy by creating jobs and building a stronger regional transit system,” according to the release. Metro also stated that its “strategic goals” included improving quality of service, safety, and security, and that the following list would help reach those goals (this is a direct quote from their press release):

Some examples of Metro’s stimulus projects include:
• Replacing Metro’s oldest buses
• Replacing crumbling platforms
• Installing SmarTrip purchase capabilities at more Metro fare vending machines
• Enhancing bus garage security
• Installing technologies to improve bus route and schedule information
• Rehabilitating the oldest stretch of track in the rail system
• Building a rail car inspection and test facility to speed up the process of putting rail cars into service
• Updating the train arrival signs on platforms and mezzanines
• Replacing the Metro Center Customer Sales Facility
• Expanding and replacing vehicles for para-transit service

When I read this list back in February, I was increasingly outraged. I understood that it was only a preliminary brainstorming step toward the larger goal of what seemed like fixing everything, but it also seemed to me that the more prevalent of Metro’s issues were buried toward the bottom of the list.

For example, as you may have read or experienced first-hand, there have been many instances of single-tracking on various metro rail lines in the past few months, due solely to train derailments. I can think of three that specifically burdened my commute – on only one line, in only one month.

Why is “rehabilitating Metro’s oldest stretch of track in the rail system” resting at #6 on the list? This ancient track is between the Rhode Island Avenue and Judiciary Square stations on the Red Line, which is not where the four most recent derailments have occurred. Where is the funding for the stretch of track or the piece of equipment that’s causing derailments on Orange Line?

A possible band-aid on this boo-boo might be a rail car inspection and test facility, which by the way, is lower on the list than adding more vending machines for SmarTrip cards.

Which leads me to the kicker…

WMATA still has a $154 million gap in its operating budget to patch up, which means that the idea of service cuts is still being entertained as a possible way to cut spending. The stimulus funds can only be applied to Metro’s capital budget, so even if this list of projects sounds great, is executed perfectly and results in newer, better-working rail cars, we still might be facing service cuts and [even higher] fare hikes.

All that complaining aside, I am sure Metro’s stimulus plans will help the area’s economy – even if it succeeds at nothing else, it should be great for creating jobs. Of course all this hinges on grant approvals and permit approvals and the like. The new Economic Stimulus Program page on Metro’s site is marginally helpful right now, and will hopefully grow as more plans become concrete and more hurdles are cleared.

This is all part of Metro’s six-year transportation improvement program, so I have high hopes for the “Time line of Milestones” on this page which is currently only detailed through June 2009 and is so far pretty unimpressive.

I would also like to see the “Where is your money going” get more detailed when actual individual projects get rolling. I want it to tell me that one million of our dollars this year are going toward repairing the holes in the tiling at the Shady Grove station, and I want it to say, “Hey Lauren, guess what! We just started deploying extra Metro security officers in the dark, seedy parking garages at all of our stations, for your security! And it’s going to cost you and your fellow commuters another million.”

I just want to thank the Metro Genie for hearing and fulfilling my wish for this information to be made readily accessible to Metro patrons like myself. I would like to issue a second wish to the Metro Genie for this site to be updated and with details!

Thanks in advance.

My third wish is still under consideration.

As you may have read in Single Tracking, Part 1, metro’s orange line posed a very time-consuming commuting dilemma – called single-tracking – Thursday morning. Well that was just the morning ride into DC.

Let’s go to my co-orange line correspondent, Mark, for a brief description of what the issue really was, and how it continued:

“Right before leaving work, I learned that the cause of the extended commute was a derailed service car. Of course, said car had derailed again when headed back to storage in the afternoon, thus extending my commute home as well.

I returned home and drank beer.”

Thank you, Mark. [You can find the rest of Mark’s account of the a.m. O-Line fiasco in his comment on ST1]

Indeed, the very same car – a vacuum car being used for overnight track work – that derailed around 4:30 a.m. Thursday near the Court House station, derailed again while on its way back to the West Falls Church rail yard. 

But this single-tracking delay was much worse than the a.m. delay. If something is keeping you from getting to work against your will and there’s nothing you can do about it – oh well. It’s just work, and when you get there 45 minutes later than you usually do, the work will still be there. Your boss will still be there. Your cubicle will still be there.

But if there is something holding you against your will from getting away from work and enjoying the freedom of a Thursday evening, it’s a problem. The only thing that could possibly make the hold-up worse, was the driver. And he succeeded.

Whereas the driver in the morning was very nice, kept us continually informed and left the doors open so we could breathe real oxygen, the evening driver was his antithesis. I will say that the lack of oxygen may not have been his fault, since the majority of the time we were immobile, we were trapped in between stations. And I will give the driver the benefit of the doubt that this is probably an unsafe place to keep the doors open. However, while we were trapped there, not once did the man make an announcement. Not even the blatant lie, “Customers, we will be moving momentarily.” Nope.

We sat there in silence for nearly an hour – just three stops away from where I needed to be – with little to no idea what was going on. I rocked back and forth hoping the momentum I was creating would help the train move. I also assured the lady next to me that I was not crazy. I talked to my mom on the phone as she was driving past the East Falls Church metro station on 66, and she confirmed that yes, trains are backed up. Thanks.

I took out my Express to do the sudoku and crossword, but I didn’t have a pen or pencil. I started to get angry and irritated. And then the driver made his first announcement of the entire ride.

“Customers, we will be moving momentarily. Thank you for your patience.”

First of all, metro driver, I know you’re lying. I know you don’t think we’ll be moving momentarily, or you’ve probably just received word that we’ll be able to move in ten more minutes. Ten minutes is a lot more than ten moments.

Second, you don’t need to thank me for my patience. I’m no longer being patient, I just have no other choice. I did begin to imagine how I would escape, although I skipped over the minor detail of getting the doors to open. I looked at the fences on either side of the track, blocking the train from 66, and thought to myself that I could probably climb them, if I weren’t wearing a skirt.

Plan B – I’ll walk along the side of the track until I get to the next station. That’s reasonable, and my fare will be cheaper too. Then I’ll either call someone to pick me up from there or walk the rest of the way to my car at Vienna.

In between plans B and C, the man behind me started singing. Loudly, and in Spanish. All I could do was shake my head, because of all the noise that could have been consuming that silent car, it had to be a Spanish opera.

I started rocking back and forth again to get the train to use my momentum to move forward when all of a sudden we started creeping, ever so slowly. And the rest of the way to Vienna we crept slowly into the stations and even along stretches of open track. And when we finally got to Vienna, the train doors opened and out poured the fastest, most intense group of people I have ever witnessed. They were focused, heads down, bags in hand – running to the escalator then running up it, jumping over the turn stiles, taking no prisoners. 

The flow of fresh air in and out of my lungs was surprisingly satisfying. If I hadn’t been greeted with flowers in the morning, it would have been the highlight of my day – just breathing.

Yesterday I learned a new phrase: “single-tracking.” I was watching channel 4 news while I was getting ready for the day – I like knowing what’s going on in the world before stepping out into it, rather than waiting to check headlines once I get to work. A lot can happen in those two hours, so I do both. So I was watching channel 4 news and while I’m perusing my closet for a sweater I hear Doreen Gentzler say in an urgent tone, “If you’re planning on using Metro’s orange line this morning, we have breaking news on a developing story that’s causing at least 40 minute delays in your commute.”

Excuse me?

A few months ago I waited for nearly 20 minutes at Metro Center for a red line train to take me to work, while trains in the other direction came and went and came and went. It turns out that a man had jumped in front of a train at the Shady Grove station (and survived), and that mishap was causing a ripple effect of delays. I didn’t find this out until I got to work and read the area’s headlines. If I had known, I would have walked the one-mile uphill hike from the Farragut West stop.

But the problem with delays on the orange line is that I can’t avoid them (unless I’m taking VRE, which I couldn’t do yesterday). So I sucked it up, said to myself, “shift happens,” and decided just to get on my way up 66 and deal with the metro when I get there.

The “40 minute” delays were apparently caused by a track malfunction near the Court House station, although later in the day I heard over the system in Metro Center that it was due to a train derailment – which I only heard that one time and have yet to confirm. When I parked at Vienna Metro, I prepared myself for the worst. And as I was walking like the commuting zombie that I am up the sidewalk toward the station, I was envisioning inauguration-style crowds and delays.

lilies

I turned the corner from the sidewalk onto the walkway that crosses 66, and out of the corner of my eye I saw color. Yes, color is in fact that much of a rarity in the morning that I would notice it and turn my head. It was a guy holding flowers, and when I did a double-take I realized it was Hugh (who has no reason to be at the metro at this time of the morning) with yellow lilies. What a great guy, and what a perfect day to have such a surprise.

Flowers in hand, I marched through the gates, down the escalator, and onto a crowded train where I managed to find a seat to wait out the “track malfunction”-induced delays. To my surprise and delight, the train moved within 5 minutes, which I took as a good sign. It wasn’t until Ballston that we started to linger at stations a little longer.

Then the driver made an announcement while we were holding at Clarendon.

“Attention customers, we will be holding here for a few minutes. We are currently single-tracking through the Court House station area, which means that trains in both directions are sharing a track at this time. We will hold here until it’s our turn to move through the single-tracking area. Thank you for your patience.”

Sigh. Alright, we wait. At least the train’s doors are open, there’s a little breeze flowing through the car, and by some miracle I am not sitting next to a person with noise pouring out of their earphones. And I have flowers.

“Customers, I’ve been told that some people are reporting two-hour delays right now. I think they’re mistaken – we should be moving through this single-tracking area within five minutes, not two hours. Again, thank you for your patience.”

Some sighs and some giggles populate the crowded air.

“Customers, that was just an estimate. I repeat, five minutes was just an estimate.”

Everyone laughs at this becuase we all know that every single one of us would have started to get irritated if we weren’t moving after exactly five minutes. And after no more than five minutes, as the doors closed the driver said, “Customers this train will be moving, we have the signal to move through the single-tracking area now. Thank you for your patience, customers, and I regret any inconvenience this has caused you this morning.”

We made it the rest of the way to Metro Center with little delay, however my total commuting time ended up totaling over two and a half hours. As I got off the trouble-ridden orange line and made a hard left toward my red train that would inch me slighlty closer to the office, a man turned and smiled to me. “You’re holding spring in your hands!” he said. I was glad that he was upbeat, despite having been trapped in the metro with the rest of us, and I was also glad that my yellow lilies weren’t just making me smile. I replied with, “I know, aren’t they beautiful?” as I nodded and walked away.

I strolled into work just after 9 a.m. (uncharacteristically but unavoidably late), thinking that it wasn’t so bad. Sure it took a long time and now I had to leave work later, but I kept thinking it could have been a lot worse. Doreen Gentzler had me fearing the apocolypse was coming, but only for people riding the orange line.

When I got to the elevators, one was propped open and Luis was inside with a bundle of wires spilling out of the elevator’s panel. I pushed the up button as someone joined me by the elevators, also waiting to go up.

“I guess we’re just using one today,” she said.

I smirked and replied, “Yes, I suppose the elevators are single-tracking today.”

“Ah, you must have been on the orange line this morning, huh?”

Yes. I certainly was.