Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
Murphy, 51, arrived on a train from his job downtown with the American Sociological Association about 4:10 p.m. and found that two of the three escalators at the Tenleytown exit were out of service. The only functioning escalator was carrying customers down.It gets better:
A bit miffed but not surprised, Murphy, together with at least four other people, selected his route - the closest halted escalator - and started trudging up the long metal path. There were no warning signs or barricades at the bottom, and as a result they decided not to rope together for the climb.
Huffing and puffing, they neared the top, Murphy recalled, only to be horrified at the obstacle that lay ahead.
"Imagine our shock to find a giant HOLE where several steps should have been!" Murphy wrote in an e-mail.
Once over the crevasse, the group huddled, catching their breath, and a Metro employee approached.
Murphy and other customers told her of their ordeal, but she was cold and unsympathetic, he said. "All she really said is, 'You shouldn't be there.' She said it over and over," Murphy said. The businessman also tried to get through to her, but the Metro employee appeared unfazed. "She had her line and she kept repeating it," Murphy said.
I've spent about six years of my life, total, living car-less in DC and taking the Metro on a near-daily basis. Sadly, there's nothing in this article that I find difficult to believe.
To leave the station, one either had to take a cramped elevator (which might well have been out of service) or climb up a stopped escalator? Unfortunately, that's just about par for the course. Taking the Metro regularly gave me countless chances to thank Fate I was healthy and able-bodied.
The stalled escalator turned out to have a great big HOLE in it that was invisible from the lower level? That never happened to me, but really I can't say I'm terribly surprised.
But, for me, the real gem of this story, the icing on the cake, the final indignity for these commuters, was the attitude of the station staff after the commuters had nearly gotten themselves killed trying to get the hell out of the station.
I could deal better with a subway system that suffered from frequent delays, broken escalators, broken elevators, and various other annoyances if it were staffed by personnel who displayed even the slightest understanding that the people who rode their trains were actual human beings.
I feel like sympathy and empathy are sucked out of Metro employees as an administrative policy. My mother says she was in a DC Metro station once and she saw a bunch of tourists ask a janitor for directions. The janitor was friendly and he helped them out, only to then be chastised by an actual Metro employee. Apparently, as a janitor, he was not supposed to interact with the Metro riders.
My own favorite Metro employee experience came when I lived on Columbia Pike. One cold evening I was waiting for a bus at the bus stop adjacent to Pentagon station. A woman asked an employee about the bus schedules. She sounded a bit peeved; apparently she'd been waiting for over half an hour for a bus up Columbia Pike. The employee spoke to her in a soothing voice. Clearly he knew how to deal with an irate customer. In a tone that said he knew she was exaggerating but he understood her feelings anyway, he reminded her that buses up Columbia Pike departed every fifteen minutes, and this evening was no exception.
I'd been there for longer than the woman. I'd been there for about forty-five minutes. THERE HADN'T BEEN ANY GODDAMNED BUS.
The woman didn't pursue the matter any further. I still regret that I didn't confront the station employee; chalk it up to my own non-confrontational nature.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
So I’m at a loss about what we’re supposed to do in the world according to Jon Stewart. Hey, all you people working for gay and lesbian equality, all you women asking for equal pay, all you workers trying to unionize, all you peaceniks trying to end the war in Afghanistan, all you nurses and doctors and clinic workers trying to maintain reproductive freedom and keep women alive, all you teachers trying to teach science and history without censorship, all you citizens trying to build a rational health care policy, all you scientists and doctors who want our country to progress in medical research, all you damned secularists who want to keep religion out of our schools and government, hey, hey, HEY, you! Tone it down. Quit making such a fuss. You’re too loud. Shush. You’re as crazy as the teabaggers if you think your principles are worth fighting for.That's Pharyngula on the message of the Stewart/Colbert rally. Zunguzungu has similar thoughts here and here.
What am I trying to say? Well, let's look at the Tea Party brand. I don't agree with what the Tea Party stands for, but I don't think it's necessarily racist at its heart either. But it's impossible to deny a lot of loud people in the movement say a lot of really, truly racist things.
In the past I've wondered why the most prominent promoters of the Tea Party brand haven't loudly spoken out against this kind of moronic tomfoolery. Wouldn't that be leadership? But then (this is going to sound a little conspiracy theory-esque) I realized to just what extent the Tea Party brand was promoting the idea among Tea Partiers that they're looked down upon by elitist snobs. Tea Partiers are condescended to. Not understood. Not listened to. Oppressed. So it makes sense to get liberals to believe that Tea Partiers = Bigots and Morons. The better to encourage Tea Partiers to go into defensive formation and support Tea Party candidates all the harder.
If I had to summarize that on a bumper sticker or protest sign:
If you think your political opponents condescend to you, you'll enter a defensive formation. Defensive formations cause echo chambers. Echo chambers cause whacked-out beliefs. I wonder if climate change denialism would be so popular in the United States if not for the fact that it's big dumb liberals who are telling denialists climate change is something they need to be concerned about. Some people believe what they believe chiefly to differentiate themselves from segments of the population, real or imagined, that they hate and don't want to identify with.
I'm not an idealist. I don't want us all to join hands and sing Kumbaya. I like to think I'm pragmatic. And getting people to calm the hell down and talk in civil voices to each other is a big part of that pragmatism.