Monday, November 22, 2010

The DC Metro

From the Washington Post: Commuter describes harrowing climb on Metro escalator, as he found himself climbing up a stopped escalator as the only way to exit Tenleytown station:

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.

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.
It gets better:

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.

1 comment:

Jenna said...

you know I would have gone up to that employee and said (possibly verbatim): "You are so full of shit that I bet I could pull your ear and you'd flush". :)