This Guy I Saw on the Metro Today
December 21, 2003
Red Line: Union Station to Tenleytown
Errand—Bucks County Coffee Kiosk for Embarrassing Amounts of Coffee to Make it Through the Holidays
A very harried businessman gets on at Metro Center. I don’t even notice him until I hear his audible sigh of exhaustion as he sits—make that collapses—into the nearest seat, as if completely overwhelmed and irritated by just how far one must walk on public transportation.
Two rows back, a small bald man gazes wistfully at the back of his head. This guy does have amazing hair. It’s thick, curly and golden brown. He’s probably the only middle-aged man I’ve ever seen with hair that could be described as “lush,” although I don’t think I’d use that word to his face. He looks a little pissy.
He’s good-looking in a rotund, jolly way. He’s wearing a very well-cut wool dress coat over a bright blue tailored shirt. A yellow tie hangs undone around his neck. The rest of him is obscured by a seat, which is disappointing, because I wonder what kind of socks he’s wearing. Business-like or whimsical? (I’ve been surprised before, so socks are a must-see for proper people-watching now.)
His face is round; his eyes are blue. I picture a cherubic little boy with bright eyes and a halo of blond curls dressed, inexplicably, in a little blue sailor suit.
He pulls a crumpled magazine and gold wire-rim glasses from his breast pockest. He puts the glasses on, licks his thumb and pages through the magazine. Then he pulls the glasses off and lets them dangle from one ear. Licks his thumb; turns a page. Rinse and repeat. I can’t determine whether it’s a nervous tic of if he just needs new glasses.
He’s poring over the magazine in a way I’ve seen few people read anything—much less on Metro. No, most people on Metro read in a distracted, leisurely way. Almost as if their reading material is only a tad more interesting than staring at their own reflection in the greasy windows. No one ever gets too engrossed in anything on Metro—reading, sleeping, cuddling—lest they get distracted and (horrors of horrors) Miss Their Stop.
(Cuddling is actually very common on Metro. Young couples slide into the gently yielding orange seats and fold themselves around each other. Often they’re tired from a long night out—these are the couples that burrow deep into each other like pillows. And then there are the couples who are just on the way out—they cuddle gingerly so not to muss freshly ironed clothes, carefully arranged hair and newly applied lipstick.
But no matter what, one half of the couple is always on the lookout, mentally checking off the station stops. You’ll know it when you see it—the boy gazing cautiously out the window with his cheek resting on his beloved’s hair, playing with her fingers. He lets her doze on his shoulder, and she's content with the knowledge that he’ll softly nudge her and whisper, “This is us” at the proper time. It’s a D.C. sign of trust.)
The man with the terrific lush hair is really engrossed in his magazine. He holds it close to his face, furrowing his thick lush eyebrows. He reminds me of someone from a montage of a movie—perhaps a lawyer poring over thick volumes in an 11th hour attempt to save his client. Or a college student in a hijinks film who has one night left to study for exams (which are all curiously scheduled back-to-back the next day) and he must pass them all or be kicked out and lose the heart of the pretty Dean’s List co-ed.
And of course he suceeds and much partying commences.
At this point I’ve become so distracted by the inaneness of college hijinks movies that I completely miss the strapping young man in biker shorts who got on at Cleveland Park. But Lush Hair Man sure didn’t. He yanks his glasses off his ear and holds them in front of his face like a magnifying glass. (Wedding band, check.) He looks up, down. He twists in his seat in order to watch Biker Shorts all the way down the aisle.
I just barely see the Burberry scarf that has fallen into the aisle. Lush Hair reaches for it and his glasses drop from his ears. As he picks them up, he drops his magazine. Scarf falls again. Just as I think how boring this routine is getting, I realize that his magazine is an old copy of Soap Opera Digest. (How old? Well, the actress on the cover has been replaced twice since it was published.) (Shut up. I was laid off in the dot.com bust so I know these things now.)
Van Ness/UDC. Doors opening.
He stands up. He ties the Burberry scarf around his waist. It appears to be holding his pyjama bottoms up. The cuffs have been rolled up several times and are just below his knee. His legs are covered with the same curly, golden hair. His socks a strictly business-like and navy, and his shoes are ladies’ Keds with pink polka dots.
Dinnnnng. "Doors closing," the Metro lady sings.
Out on the platform, he stops to knot his tie. The next stop is mine and I’m glad. Because that was just Weird.