I was on the metro recently (surprise) when it was not particularly crowded — there were no angry people standing, bracing themselves against walls and handrails, but just about every seat had someone in it. With The Great Gatsby in my lap, I was reflecting on how grateful I was to be in a seat facing forward while I was reading. Usually I get metro-sick when I read while facing backward and I’m forced to take a nap instead. I reflect on such things when I’m on a quiet metro.

Then the train stopped. This is not unusual — they stop all the time in between stations. But it stopped in a dark, dark tunnel. The track lighting was non-existent on one side of the track, and the train settled into silence. There was no air blowing loudly through the car. I couldn’t hear the train’s usually gurgling mechanics. Even the kid who wouldn’t stop asking his mother questions quelled his curiosity and his volume.

The setting sent my mind racing through a flashback from a childhood visit to Universal Studios in Florida. I don’t know if it was the whimsy of the book I was reading or if my imagination just felt like taking a joyride, but off it went.

It felt like a theme park ride — not a roller coaster that requires individual seats, shoulder harnesses and liability waivers, but the kind of ride that smells sort of musty and has only a lap bar that rests two feet higher than your thighs, doing about as much good as one swimmy in the middle of the ocean would do you.

And it felt like that moment where you’ve been riding along thinking Man, this ride is lame, then everything gets silent. And dark. And still.

And now you’re clutching the arm of the person next to you, thinking it was your dad’s but it actually belongs to a stranger, but you need something to clutch and you’re already committed to this arm, so you keep clutching. And you’re waiting in fear, in childhood terror, of what is to come. The tension and the impending doom are palpable. You can almost taste them.

This was going through my mind while I sat in silence on the metro. jurassicparkIt felt exactly like this moment I had on the Jurassic Park or Jaws ride at Universal Studios. I was waiting for the big drop, the plummet down a waterfall to the unnecessarily large splash below, the dinosaur to jump out at me, or a roar and breath of fire to come from behind my head and shoot goosebumps down my spine.

I closed my book and held on to my seat.

This idea – of the metro becoming a thrill ride and existing in a theme park (as if DC isn’t one in its own right) – made me laugh. Yes, in the middle of the silent metro I laughed out loud. And people stared. And the train revved its third rail connection and fired up the AC and conversations resumed.

Most of my fellow passengers who were focused on the silence like I was were probably running through scenarios in their minds of bombs, anthrax or ninjas. I wonder if they thought I was crazy, or not taking the situation seriously enough, when I started to laugh. I laughed like a child. Like a child in an amusement park (before the heat exhaustion set in).

I believe that moment was good for my soul. I also believe I will pursue a DC-themed amusement park with a metro-themed roller coaster. Instant gold. Who’s in?