I cannot ride the metro. It goes against nature. Or at least, against my nature. I am incapable of doing it without injury, panic, or confusion. Public transportation is, in general, something I try and avoid. If I can walk or drive, that is what I’ll do. Having to commute for work, however, the metro is all I have left.
I always try and start the day super positive about the experience that will soon unfold. I pull on my beast of a backpack for work and try and tell myself I will get to the office unscathed.
Also, that’s professional cartoon me. I look all pristine and nice like that when I get ON the metro. Not when I get off usually. I like how savvy professional cartoon me appears. She is much more sensible than my usual cartoon self and brings home the bacon that keeps this blog working. Usual cartoon me just wants to buy shoes.
Same as usual real-life me.
Anyway, the first problem usually becomes clear with my huge bulk of a back pack. As I turn and move in the station, I am nearly taking out my fellow commuters with a vengeance. I appear to be like some wobbly baby elephant, stumbling around and unsure what to do with the sheer weight of me. My paperwork and laptop threaten to crush my spine and then I in turn threaten to crush pedestrians. Whenever I walk around with that stupid backpack, I feel like an evil Ninja Turtle, intent on using this fridgin' giant shell on my back to dominate all.
If by some miracle there is a morning where I DON’T knock a stranger out with my backpack, I still usually struggle to stay upright. Not because of the weight of my bag, although that clearly helps matters, but because I am extremely clumsy and trying to stay steady on a train that jerks you around is almost impossible. This constant starts and stops of the car play with your G’s and make your body move forward with the train that WAS moving but HAS stopped if you aren’t careful. To try and not fall on anyone or anything, I try one of three techniques.
The third technique is by far the most embarrassing and least successful. I usually end up losing my balance and running into train windows or other passengers, next trying to stumble back into place like I didn’t just topple over. I also always have the song “Wipeout” stuck in my head for the rest of the work day because, inevitably, I am singing the song in my head as I strike my failing surfer moves.
Even if I am not falling on them, people on the metro always seem to hate me because I’m from the
Midwest and it hasn’t been beaten out of me with the city yet. I will say “excuse me” and “sorry” when bumping into people… and sometimes I will accidentally say it when bumping into things. I’ll offer my chair to others if they get on the train and there aren’t any, I’ll apologize for blocking the door, and sometimes I will get off a train and wait for the next one if there is no standing room and the person next to me seems desperate. Doing such things genuinely confuses the normal DC commuter but, they take it in stride. What they do not understand and actively seem to detest is morning conversation.
Which is a shame since, when someone is as in my face as the metro forces some poor soul to be every day, I usually cannot help but talk to them. For the morning commute, people are packed like sardines and it is hard not to make eye contact with anyone. I usually try to read but, sometimes your arms are pinned to your sides by other bodies.
Seriously. It can get so packed that you could lick two people without turning your body.
If you are claustrophobic, just avoid. Also, I would never lick a stranger. I wouldn’t even lick a good friend. As a rule, I don’t lick other people and you really shouldn’t either. You don’t know where they’ve been and, if they are on the metro, you probably don’t want to know.
As I said though, I make a ton of enemies every morning by speaking. And no matter how I try to avoid it, I seem to have conversation vomit when someone is 6 inches from my face and openly staring at me. I feel like other people would normally react that way too but, apparently not since the usual reaction is astonishment that I am speaking.
Me: A bit tight in here, huh?
Metro Companion: ...*blink blink*....
15 awkward seconds of judgment later
Me: Yeah… you wouldn’t happen to be getting off at the next stop, huh?”>
Metro Companion: ....*blink blink*.....
I was heckled once for bumping into a woman and saying “I’m sorry”. She freaked out and demanded I not be sorry for her but instead just say “excuse me” which is the proper phrase and also doesn’t take away any of her self respect and worth.
I was mortified. I think I almost passed out from the stress of making another person so upset with me. I try and be a really nice person and, despite my personality to call ‘em like I see ‘em and my humor poking fun at anything and anyone, whenever I have really upset someone in the past, the remorse and guilt are overwhelming.
I still apologize without thinking when I bump into people but since “the incident”, I have an aftershock of immobilizing terror that I may have just offended them.
Yay, being polite AND compulsive.
The worst metro moment for me though is the escalator. While I don’t USUALLY have problems on the escalator, the one time I did, it was so much worse than all my daily trials at the metro. Combined. I missed my footing and fell down about 5 steps, jamming my elbow down first, ricocheting my forearm on the step above that, cracking my back on the stairs and then my back pack, and ramming the back of my skull on the up- most step. The entire thing happened in 5 seconds and then suddenly a flurry of people were around trying to help me and making things worse.
My back is STILL covered in these blossoms of bruises from that and it happened 4 weeks ago. The stepping on my hair caused tearing too which is a GREAT look, lemmie tell ya. And for some reason, everyone asks which way the escalator was going (down) and then seems relieved with my answer. It makes me wonder if they are concerned that if it was going up I would have just been perpetually falling.
No, guys. That wouldn't happen.
All in all, public transport is not made for people who are as clumsy as I am. I don’t know how normal people survive it and it’s convenience. Everyday, there is a new battle against the train and surviving.
Thank goodness for the walk-ability of the weekends…