Tuesday, August 3, 2010

In Defense of Metro

Dear DC Metro whiners,

Far be it from me to tell anyone to stop their complaining, but I'm sick of listening to you bitch about your public transit. I'm tired of having this conversation:

You: Ugh, the Metro is SOOO unreliable.
Me: Actually it's pretty great compared to the trains in New York.

Then an anvil falls on your head and I run away laughing.

Yes, it sucks that the metro stops running at midnight. Just like it does in Boston, San Francisco's BART, most of the lines in Chicago, and
Cinderella's pumpkin carriage.

Hi. Is this your first time riding with us?

If Cinderella could drag her magically enhanced ass away from Prince Charming before the clock struck 12, what the hell is your excuse for not making the last Saturday night train at 3 am? Go home early or catch a cab like the rest of the country.

To complaints that it's hot, clearly you have never been in an NYC subway station in the summer. As riders tromp down the Subway stairs, they descend into the steamy bowels of the city -- trains passing through dank tunnels like great steel turds in the dark,
plowing through the humid air hanging thick with human urine.

I rode the Metro last Saturday. It was 104 degrees out, but the ride and the station were air conditioned and bearable and I didn't feel like I was going to die -- a marked improvement.

Calling on my imaginary background in engineering and architecture, I'd guess the temperature difference can be traced to the fact that NYC subway tunnels are closed in, like a maze built to test the effects of hopelessness and futility on lab rats. Metro is far, far, FAR less claustrophobic because the entire system is built inside the whale from Pinocchio.

There's your philosophy nugget for the day.

And don't even, do not EVEN, try to tell me the metro is dirty. Why? Your train cars are carpeted.

Not the most aesthetically pleasing choice, sure. But the pure janitorial science behind carpeting proves that your public transit is pretty damn clean. Have you ever tried to clean vomit out of a carpet? Pee?

No? Clearly you have never owned any of these things.

A clean New York subway car is one where nobody is actively defecating and there's no drunk hipster that can't hold his irony splattering the doors with PBR. Serving as a citywide litter box, the subway requires an easily moppable surface.

Maybe I don't get out enough, but since arriving in DC, I haven't seen one poor boyfriend trying in vain to cover his girlfriend's no-no while she's slumped on the floor, her head swaying violently back and forth, a pendulum to the movement of the speeding train, ticking out the seconds until she will sit bolt upright and glaze the floor with vodka cranberry.

On this scale, the very fact that the carpet wasn't ripped out of your trains after day one says to me that Metro riders are doing something right.

So right, in fact, that it's wholly unsettling to see a Metro rider doing something wrong.

The other day an old lady sat down next to me on the Metro and snapped into a Slim Jim.
I was shocked. Partly because Slim Jims are still a "food," and partly because Macho Man Randy Savage appeared out of nowhere, dressed like a steroidal cowboy lately in some sort of hot dog condiment shoot out at the WWF Corral summer BBQ.


Although Slim Jims really only just barely violate the "no eating" rules by being just barely edible, I was totally surprised to see someone eating on the Metro.

Sure, there is NO food allowed on the PATH train. Eating is strictly prohibited on PATH, as is smoking, boomboxes and magic.


But none of those rules -- especially that last one -- has stopped me and Simon from eating a full Chinese takeout dinner combo on our way to Newark. When I got to DC, I was totally floored that people genuinely do not eat on the train. Six months later, I am now totally floored to see an old lady whip out a stick of jerky and start chowing down.

Herein lies the magic of the Metro:

People ride the Metro like it's a train, a mode of transit that they're taking somewhere, shared by someone else. They observe the public in public transit.

What the Metro looks like to a DC rider.

People ride the PATH and the subway like it's their home (which it clearly is for some) -- a home where they don't have to clean up or pay the bills.

What the PATH looks like to a Jersey rider.

I'm not saying I didn't take advantage of it while I lived there, but
people do all sorts of shit on those trains that belongs in private. Like vomiting, for instance. Or listening to loud obnoxious music, fighting a bitch, or--swear to god--cutting their nails. Say nothing of the multitudes that use it as their bathroom, evident when a packed train pulls up with one suspiciously empty car.

And you know what might be the reason people don't treat the Metro like their own private outhouse?

It doesn't run all night.

Lastly, on the issue of reliability: some of you Metro riders claim that your public transit is just not reliable. It's inconvenient. It takes too long. To you, I'm going to say this once:

Have you not seen the glowing beacons that tell you precisely how many minutes there are between the next three trains? Am I the only one who can see this magical mirage? Yeah, it sucks when the count down hits 2 and then climbs back up to 3 again, but you know what you get in New York? Either the L train, or a sweaty, smelly wait, wallowing in a cloud of body odor and loathing with no foreseeable end.

The one area where I am willing to concede the justice of your complaints, DC, is, unfortunately, safety,,,,,.
I've heard about occasional derailments on the Metro, and I will gladly give up the glorious incoming train board if you'd rather focus on, say, keeping the trains on the track. I'll also grant DC your precipitous escalators, which are wholly terrifying and frequently out of service.

But really what scares me is
your train car doors.

This is a sign from the PATH train.

The Photoshop comment -- added by whoever posted the photo on Hoboken411 -- illustrates what a joke the concept of getting stuck in train doors is to Subway riders.
On every train, there is inevitably some idiot standing halfway inside, successfully holding the door for his buddy while the door bell rings over and over like the train is manned by eager trick-or-treaters.

The metro, on the other hand, will chop your fucking arm off -- which is why it's important to have another hand. When we first came to look at apartments, I almost lost my boyfriend to a metro door. Since then, I've seen several people with arms up to the bicep, as well as sneakers, backpacks and strollers, lodged in Metro's no-nonsense doors, seconds away from shit-staining that beautiful Metro carpet until other passengers pry them free.

In fact... merciless and impatient, uncompromising and unyielding, hellbent on crushing anything that stands in its path... DC's Metro doors are the most quintessential New York thing I've ever seen.

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