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.

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 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.

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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.