Friday, September 19, 2014

My Descent into Madness on the DC Metro

“I feel great today.”

Those were my regrettable thoughts as I bounded from my apartment, headed to the Judiciary Square Metro station. I did feel great. I had worked out the night prior. My Frosted Mini-Wheats hit the spot. The weather was a postcard – creeping up through the 60’s with bright sunshine and not a hint of humidity.

I walked at a leisurely pace – I wasn’t just on time, I was early. I took a deep breath to soak in the beauty of the day. What did “About Time” teach us about life? We must savor every good moment, no matter how small.

As I walked past the National Building Museum, I saw people exiting the Metro station. This is always a good sign because if people are leaving the station en masse, that means people have been delivered en masse.

I felt so good I even stood to the right on escalator – why rush? Today is a good day.

Upon entering the station and swiping my SmarTrip, I realized I had gravely underestimated the Metro’s power to destroy. It was the Red Line to Glenmont was on time. But I take the Red Line to Shady Grove for a connection and that platform was too crowded. The upcoming train sign flashed the worst possible option. It was all blank. Terror takes over.

Ding! Ding! The PA speaker in the station grabbed my attention. “We are now experiencing delays on the Red Line to Shady Grove. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

The Metro is always apologizing. Much like the NFL, they always say sorry but never do anything to change.

I fire up Interpol on my iPod and hope for the best. I don’t have meetings at work until 10 a.m. so I have time to play with. My panic level is medium. It is not for others.

“What is happening?” one rider asks.

“Who the fuck knows?” answers his friend.

“Is a train coming?” a blonde woman asks the crowd.

“Who knows?” answers the previous friend, cleaning up his language for the lady.

Five minutes pass. I’m now listening to “No I in Threesome” and nervously pacing. The upcoming train sign still has no update. The loudspeaker apologizes again. The natives are growing restless. I’ve read this story before.

Ten minutes have now passed. The “Henreich Maneuver” is about to begin in my ears. I long for the West Coast. I realize I am now biting my fingernail. The descent has begun.

15 minutes have now passed. The upcoming train sign still has no update. There have been four apologies without any information. I am getting no cell service. I am cut off from the world.

The sign finally updates after 19 minutes. It says the next train will be there in…15 fucking minutes.

“Give me a break!” I scream to no one in particular. I’m done. I will walk to my Orange Line connection. I storm up the broken escalators – because of course the escalator is broken – and walk briskly back to civilization.

“The train is holding at Union Station,” a Metro worker tries to console me.

“So…” I stutter, “Who gives a…” I pause, “That doesn’t….” I give up. “It’s been 20 minutes! Ridiculous!”

The Metro worker seems unconcerned. I swipe my card again on the way out. I have paid WMATA $1.40 for the pleasure of waiting 22 minutes for nothing. They just stole my money. I am angry.

The sun greets me and the anger subsides. It’s still a beautiful day. A 13-block walk may do me good. I stride with pace but I feel my urge to kill fading. I will be okay.

I walk into Metro Center and hit a glorious Silver Line train as I enter the platform. It is now past 9 a.m. and the train is nearly empty.

“Ahh,” I audibly sigh. We’ve made it. Life is good.

For six stops it remains so. I will be late but not late enough to warrant the embarrassing “Metro Fail” email to work. I have surviv-

Nope. No I haven’t. Our train stops outside of Virginia Square and doesn’t move. It doesn’t move. It doesn’t move.

I begin pleading with God. “Just let me get off this train. Please. I beg.”

I have not been a good Catholic because the train doesn’t move. The conductor alerts me to the fact we are now holding so they can begin single-tracking.

I hang my head in shame. Our Love to Admire is finishing. I do what any sane man does when needing to unleash aggression – press play on Kanye’s Yeezus.

If I can go overboard complaining about train delays, then Kanye is my spirit animal – comparing himself to a slave while raking in millions and having his wedding televised. His anger is misguided and pure. I understand.

The train finally arrives at Ballston Metro after another lengthy wait. I show up in the office 53 minutes late. I left my apartment nearly two hours ago. It has been a long, terrible, awful morning. But I survived.

Or did I?

“Fucking Metro!”

That’s the text I receive as I walk out of the office to conclude my day. I am not fazed. She takes a different line than me in a different part of the city. When I arrive back in Ballston, a Silver Line train is arriving.

I plop down in an empty seat in the first car and lay my head back. It has been a long frustrating day but—

We stop.

“God dammit!!” I yell in the empty car.

“We are holding. We are awaiting further instructions. We apologize for the inconvenience,” the conductor says.

Jesus Christ. This is it. This is the end.

I start contemplating my life’s failures. What if I died right now? What if I never get home? My mind races a million miles an hour, thinking about how I should be a better man, or at least a less crappy version. I grab the fat on my side and desperately wish I was in better shape. I rub my forehead in an attempt to make the pain go away.

It is of no use. My descent is complete. That’s what delays do to you. They beat you down. They capture you alone with your thoughts. No one wants that. I want to be home.

But I couldn’t leave if I tried. The train is stuck in a tunnel. I have no cell service. The train car is nearly empty. Life could end in the most depressing way possible.

The train finally starts to move. It will start and stop frequently over the next 35 minutes to get me back to Metro Center. Every stop brings more feelings of doom. Every start a cruel tease of freedom.

Upon arrive to Metro Center, the weary Orange Line passengers – yes, the train somehow changed from Silver to Orange without notification – are greeted by an angry mob of delayed riders on an overcrowded platform. The Red Line is fucked up too.

I push my way out of the station, struggling to find room in the dangerous conditions – a brief thought of a fire overtaking the station urges me to leave even quicker.

I begin the 14-block walk home. I will stop at the McDonald’s by Gallery Place because, shame or no shame, I need a God damn cheeseburger and fries.

I wasted nearly four hours of my life on Tuesday traveling to and from work. For nearly half of that, I was waiting.

Yes, for 120 minutes of this precious thing we call life, I was standing or sitting still – awaiting a Metro train to move for me. This makes me very sad. This makes me very angry. This makes me mad.

If you like reading me descend into madness, here’s when I did so at the DMV.

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