I'm a really nice person. Really, I am. I've never felt that kindness towards others - especially strangers - was an area of my personality in which I was lacking. I have no empirical evidence to prove this, of course, but the way in which children and animals generally flock to me tells me I'm smiling enough and doing something right.
I feel as though I regress for approximately 90 minutes each day, though, dear readers. Actually, it's for 45 minutes, twice each day.
This is when I step on the Metro.
Unlike many, for me "the Metro" encompasses both bus and train (That's LBJ standing in front of a mock-up of a Metrohttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif rail car in 1968). And I greet them with equal aplomb most days. And it's not for the reasons you might think! Oh no - I can deal with the delays, the fare increases, the broken A/C, the inability of Metro employees to efficiently communicate appropriately in times of crises. That's old hat for those of us who have been riding public transit for a decade or more.
What I can't stand a little more each day is the increasingly selfish and flagrantly offensive behavior of other riders. Now, some might say this is owing to a general Decline in Western Civilization As We Know It or some such nonsense. But I disagree. I think denizens of D.C. are just bad public transit riders.
Go to New York, for example. Some might say that New Yorkers riders are rude. I say no! They're efficient. Go to Chicago then (Love the EL! At left). You might think these riders are stodgy. I say no! They're practical. In both instances people know where they're going and how to get there. And they won't drive you insane along the way.
Riders here are spectacularly slow, consistently confused, and usually unaware that they're doing one of the following:
a) taking up a seat that should otherwise go do a person with a disability or someone who's elderly, or - heck! - a woman who looks really tired
b) blocking the entrance to an escalator/the bus's back door/a train's opening/any turnstyle/the forty-seven other people trying to just get somewhere for Pete's sake
c) using their iPhone as a boombox (the earbuds actually go in your ears), or having a very personal conversation on their mobile phone
d) standing when they should be walking; likewise, running when they should be walking is equally annoying (and, might I add, just downright dangerous)
Do other major cities with clogged public transportation arteries not suffer this fate? Of course they do! But here's the difference: we in D.C. consistently tolerate this type of behavior without questioning and without realizing how good we really have it. Let me explain...
Go ride the Chicago El or the NYC Subway. Wait two minutes. Somebody's gonna start asking you for money, I guarantee it. Whether they're trying to sell you something or they're just asking outright, that's a scenario that's rarely encountered here. And have you ever noticed a bit of cool air blowing around when you're on the train platform underground? Trust me, there's nothing even CLOSE to that in most major cities, and you'd really feel it if was gone. And how about the electronic signs telling you when the next train arrives? Sure, you might get mad when it's 16 minutes, but at least you have a clue as to the delay most of the time.
So it's time to rise up, D.C. Metro riders! We need to let our fellow riders what's what! We have it relatively good here, even with the lasting delays on the Red Line (although it was a terrible tragedy that brought us to this point). If you see an able-bodied young person taking a front seat on the bus, say something! If you encounter a consistent door-blocker, as them to move! We have a right to take back our system and enjoy our rides.
There IS a "Me" in Metro.