The Metrorail Commandments, Fin
February 19, 2004
Part Three: Farecards of Doom, Also, Amy Breaks All the Rules
For God’s sake be aware of how much it costs to get where you are going. This rule is in place to spare you the embarrassment of an Inadequate Fare Card that gets spat back at you as you walk into the orange turnstile thingie as they don’t open for you and you must take your Inadequate Fare Card and act confused and immensely puzzled and push through the all people back to the exitfare machines—when everyone knows there’s nothing to be puzzled about; you are an idiot who needs 80 cents added onto your card.
At the exitfare machine you will be embarrassed again if you don’t have 80 cents but only have a five-dollar bill. After you insert the aforementioned denomination, 80 cents will be added to your card, while 16 quarters and four nickels will be spat back at you and which jingle loudly in your pocket as you return to the orange gate things, with your fare card 80 cents richer and your pockets 20 times heavier and louder.
Metro has attempted to make knowing how much it costs to get where you are going fairly easy. At each stop there is a big shiny board with a colorful map and the fare prices for every station. But the passenger is expected to know how to spell their destination and I believe this must be where the whole system crumbles.
This might be a good point to tell all everyone that I’m not really that obnoxious of a Metro rider. Much. The Great and Mighty Metrorail System has the ability to make even the most seasoned Regular look like an immense fool.
Case in point. A plague of escalator troubles had knocked out a couple in Bethesda for quite a stretch of time. The Down escalator would only go Up, and the Up escalator went Nowhere At All. So the Mad Frantic Rush down to the train platform was rerouted to the left, and the Mass Exodus was rerouted to, well, their left. (For commuters, this is the walking equivalent to driving in England.)
This escalator switch was well-marked by pieces of paper with the word DOWN on them taped to orange cones. For days I abided by these signs to the point that I no longer noticed them.
Until the day I saw my train on the platform below and made a Mad Frantic Rush for it. I didn’t notice until I was about halfway down that this was no longer the Down escalator. I realized this when the mass Exodus was headed for me. Headed for me and hungry for a trampling.
I looked over and saw that the Down escalator that for days had been only going Up was now going Nowhere At All. And everyone who was calmly walking down was looking at me like I was an Immense Moron. And everyone who was Exodusing in the upward direction was looking at me like I was Satan. I tried explaining the situation in a British accent but I don’t think anyone heard me and I got squashed, stepped on and shoved all the way down to the platform where I was greeted by the doors slamming in my face. Doors Closing. Ding Dong.
Second case in point. My Dumbass Self got on without realizing that Peak Hours are now in effect. Peak Hours are during Washington, D.C.’s three-hour-long rush hours in the morning and afternoon. Since more people are riding the trains are full and you can’t get a seat, and because you get the privilege of standing and hanging onto a bar with 237 other people in the same three foot area Metro feels it is only fair and just that you get charged more to ride during these times.
So I got off, slipped my Inadequate Fare Card into the turnstile thingie which spat it right back out and told me to go to the extifare machines. So I took my card and acted confused and immensely puzzled and pushed through the people who were in a Terrible Hurry back to the exitfare machines.
And I thought about the very harsh and arrogant words I had written about people in this very situation and laughed a bit. Oh well silly me. Until I realized that I needed a dollar added to my card and I had a $10 bill and a nickel in my wallet. I groaned at the thought of nine dollars in change but laughed again. Oh silly dumb me.
Until I realized that the Exitfare machines only take one- and five-dollar bills and there was no one to make change for a ten. Oh silly dumb me, who now had absolutely no way of getting out of the damn Metrorail system. I considered jumping the turnstile. But this was the Shady Grove station in Maryland and you just didn’t jump turnstiles in the suburban stations -- they watch you too closely because there aren’t any murders or important crimes happening nearby.
I had to beg my fellow passengers for change for a ten. And of course no one had it. Everybody was like me -- coming back from a big money-spending excursion downtown. Finally a couple took pity on me and just gave me a dollar, which I then proceeded to put into the exitfare machine in the wrong direction no less than five times. The Station Manager came over and put it in for me. As I finally left the station, I thought of every mean word I had written about idiots on the Metro and vowed to rewrite this essay and dedicate it to the couple that gave me a dollar.
It was kind of like a late night promise to God to never drink again if He will just make you stop vomiting.