Scenes From the Metro

Scenes From the Metro

There is something eerie and magical about the D.C. Metro. It is a transient place, much like an airport or rest stop along the interstate. People use these spaces as stepping stones from one place to the next, never pausing long enough to leave a lasting impression beyond occasional graffiti. These are places that suggest movement and a resulting impatience when progress is delayed.

Old Metro car interior

 

Though the experience of the Metro can be easily overlooked, I recommend taking the time to observe the myriad human activities that can be seen here.

 

 

DuPont Station, Crowd for Pride 2017


MorningIt’s 8 a.m. and my hair sticks to my neck, slick with sweat. The air hangs heavy with moisture despite the early hour. Two men standing by the NoMa Metro station to me using American Sign Language (NoMa Station is located near Gallaudet University, the first higher education school to specialize in education for the deaf and hard-of-hearing). Having no free hands to sign with, I mouth hello and smile to them as I pass.


There are times when, by some miracle, it is possible to find a seat on the morning train. More often than not, however, stepping onto the train feels akin to stepping inside of a sardine can.

Though personal space is encroached upon, feeling claustrophobic during rush hour is not an option. People involuntarily press against one another like fish caught in a necessary net. The atmosphere is oppressive but there is no quicker way to get to work. Passengers distract themselves with music and, if they are especially coordinated, books that they hold close.

Woodley Park Escalator


EveningUnion Station is a perpetual hive of activity. The tracks act as a conduit of human movement, a current of energy at all hours. On the escalators, confused tourists meet the stares of unamused residents and sheepishly shift their gaze. Outside, taxis form an endless line as they wait to pick up travelers arriving by Amtrak. Horns blare, sirens wail. Reunited family members embrace one another.

 

Passengers boarding the Metro

NightAt night, the Metro is quiet when contrasted with the day. Strangers wait silently on the platform with their faces illuminated by cellphone screens. No one bothers with small talk. Tourists, tired from a day spent walking, have retired to their hotel rooms. A young man walks by, taking with him the distorted sound of music heard through someone else’s headphones. Soon, the rumbling of the platform and a distinct metallic scraping signals the arrival of the next train. People from all walks of life board the train together and wait for it to carry them swiftly through the night.

 

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