The Red Line. For any Metro-commuting DC area residents, those three words are truly cringe-worthy. It’s not enough that nearly every day there is something going on with the Red Line—delays, single-tracking, escalator out, elevator out. But it seems to be the line on all of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Metro Rail System that is prone to some major incidents. From crimes, suicide attempts, injuries, fatalities and a disastrous crash that claimed lives and devastated many others just last summer—the Red Line has made quite the news. That’s the heavy side.
And here’s the lighter side—sheer comic relief. Though it seems that the Red Line has a knack for bringing about migraines and tears, it has also proven to be rather entertaining. I’ve spent many rides on this train, observing people, then trying my best to hold back the laughter threatening to burst out at the wrong moment. And then there are those incidents, involving me but so amazingly random, that later I laugh and chime, “only me.”
I board the Red Line at the Silver Spring stop close to my home and ride the train straight to the Dupont Circle stop beside my job. Most times the encounters I witness are fleeting and just make me scratch my head in wonder. But there are two that left me dumbfounded. Curious? Well, here are my Red Line stories.
I consider myself a pretty creative and fairly imaginative chick. But I swear to beans I couldn’t write the stuff that happens to me! And let me tell you why . . .
Heading to work, I drag myself down the block and around the corner to the Silver Spring metro—one of those days where I simply am not feeling up to it. I swipe my Smart Trip card, go up the escalator and wait on the platform for the next train. It comes within minutes and I board and find my preferred seat, parallel to the car and directly beside one of the doors.
I remove my hat to let my loc’d hair breathe as the train can get rather warm as people pile on. I push my locs back behind my ears, readjust my earphones and listen to my music. I notice that the train is unusually empty this time of morning. There’s no one sitting across from me, so no need to avert my eyes. Empty seats all around my immediate zone, with the exception of one guy sitting off to the right against the window. The train stops at Takoma Station (the next stop over) and a tall, slightly slovenly man—sunglasses, baseball cap and backpack—boards. He’s pale and sweaty and, bypassing the many empty seats, he plops down right next to me. As close as we are, he avoids looking at me, not even to acknowledge my presence. No biggie. The train starts. The ride continues, with the usual stop and go and jerky motions.
I work to calm my growing annoyance as he refuses to observe the etiquette that REQUIRES one to avoid leaning against the next person with the ebb and flow of the train’s movement. He is practically laying on me—dead weight style! But, you know, some people are just that way. So I let it go. I notice the guy near the window is observing everything.
Then, apparently he-who-leaneth-all-over-me reaches across me (you know, all up in my personal space and now that I look back on it, I wonder if he was trying to achieve a boob grazing) and grabs for the pole to assist him in getting up. One could assume that his stop is approaching. He stands in front of the door, right beside me, waiting for it to open. I close my eyes, relieved to have my space back—bobbing my head to my music. The doors open and as he steps off the train he reaches out and runs his fingers through my hair!
At first I think that someone’s bag is hitting me, until I feel his fingers FAN OUT so the locs could run through them. I am shocked and stunned! I freeze! I immediately make eye contact with the guy across the way and his jaw is on the ground! We both look at each other in total disbelief . . . neither of us can speak. I never saw it coming. Further, if someone told me that it was about to happen, I wouldn’t have believed it. Before I can react, the doors close and the train moves on. The guy across the way shakes his head and hunches his shoulders. And me? Well , all I can say is—only me!
Dupont Circle. It’s one of THOSE days. Train delays = overcrowded trains. People fighting and pushing and rude from Silver Spring through every one of the nine stops to Dupont Circle. And I have an attitude with a full blown stink face on. As I WALK up the broken escalator (and anyone in DC knows that Dupont Circle is one of the Mt. Everests of escalators in the WMATA system), I decide that the only thing that will truly soothe me at that moment is a trip to Starbucks for my signature Triple Grande Skim with Whip White Mocha. So, I go into the Starbucks and I’m about to get in line when I’m approached by a gentleman—in a nice suit, briefcase and already holding his Starbucks.
He looks at me with a straight face, but it’s one of those Tracy Morgan (actor/comedian, 30 Rock) straight faces, actually kind of funny looking, his straight face. I remember seeing him on the train. So he asks me, “How are you doing today?” I respond, “I’m tired.” He nods then says, “Well, let me give you a power hug.” And he extends his arms. I pause for a minute, but then I’m like—what the hell, I can use a hug, so I go in. And he hugs me and holds me very tenderly for about five seconds (you know, up to the moment directly before discomfort sets in) . . . then proceeds to kiss me on my cheek TWICE!!! Not the quick short pecks, but the lingering pecks and the proverbial “mmmmmm” that go with. Then he leans back, holds me by my shoulders and says, “You have a good day.”
Please allow me to give you a little more perspective; he never smiles ONCE, still the Tracy Morgan-straight-face. He then proceeds to grab a couple packets of sugar and walks out of the door. I stand there, stunned!!! Oddly enough, I don’t feel violated, but it’s just weird and I still don’t know how to react. I can’t, for the life of me, attach the proper logic to that incident. Perhaps if he asked for my number or invited me out on a date. If, maybe, he expressed an interest in getting to know me better, then it might have made a bit more sense. But nothing! Again— only me.
Some of you reading this might be most appalled by these incidents. And I understand. But I’ve seen and experienced so many other things that a hand in my hair or a hug and kiss (frankly, when I really did need it) from a stranger seem far less offensive. To me, these two encounters seem funny. In life one has to pick and choose battles and laugh as much as possible. Even sometimes—maybe, most times—at your own expense.
The Red Line has brought misery, but it’s also brought hilarity. I’m grateful for my laughs and I hope that you got a chuckle or two!