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The Washington DC Metro-Easy and Convenient

Updated on July 4, 2009

What do you do when you live 30 miles from work and your car suddenly becomes undriveable? I thanked God I live in the Washington DC metro area with an excellent public transportation system. I am still learning how to use it, but at least it was there when I needed it. Turns out it is pretty user friendly.

I don't know about most people, but I was nervous when I realized I would have to forego my commute in the solitary comfort of my car to the populated, busy Metro system.  How would I find my way, how long will it take, is it safe?  Questions started in my mind and would not quit. 

To answer my questions, I did what any questioning American does...I Googled it.  I searched for "Washington DC area metro" and found a gold mine of information.  The Metro home page which includes a trip planner, fares, routes...every question I could think of was answered here.

The First Day

Armed with my information I had a restful night and awoke refreshed the next morning.  Aahhh, my first day of public transportation.  Still a little nervous, but also a little excited, I got ready.  I was excited because I knew I was going to have a new experience.  Maybe a good one, maybe a bad one, but either way a NEW one!

I left my house in plenty of time to walk the 0.2 miles to my stop.  The sun was not up yet, but it would be any moment and I marveled at how clean the world seemed.  The air smelled moist and earthy and there was a cool bite to the weather.  Not an uncomfortable bite, but an awakening bite. 

It seemed most of the world was a sleep, but the birds were up!  Birdsong filled the predawn light with a harmonious blend of sounds.  Little birds flittered in trees, robins littered the field and larger birds soared overhead.  I saw more birds on that small walk than I could see in a month of my car.

Waiting at the bus stop, I noticed the sky brightening.  The day remained quiet and cool, except for the occasional car driving by.  (Curse you cars for destroying my peace!)  The soft pad, pad, pad signal the arrival of a jogger.  Then quiet again, looking at the sky, waiting...suddenly the sun appears on the horizon.  The clouds start turning gold from their previous pinks and purples. 

Shafts of sunlight explode in the sky.  The sun is waking now, higher and higher it goes.  The silver lining of the clouds revealed, the sun breaks over the land.  Morning has arisen.  A new day is born.  And I got to watch the entire thing!  How lucky I am, how blessed to see the dawn of a new day.

My metro bus comes, but I am on the wrong side of the road. I flag it down and the driver stops. As I pay my fair, he jokes with me for being on the wrong side. I smile and laugh and take my seat. I have officially begun my first Metro commute!

Reading my book, I sneak peaks at the other passengers. Some are reading, some sleeping, others look out the windows. The driver greets and jokes with each new passenger. You can tell he has done this route a time or two. He knows where many of the passengers like to get off, and bids them a good day as they exit.

We arrive at the Metro station.  This is where I will change from bus to rail.  I need to find something called a "farecard".  According to the website, I can buy one from a machine.  I find the machine and buy the card.  It only has five dollars on it and I need to add value!  My confusion must have shown and the lady at the next machine gives me some helpful tips.  I thank her and hurry off to catch my train.

I find a seat and start to read my book again.  I stop periodically and look around.  People of all walks of life are here.  Suits, jeans and sweats fill the seats.  People reading newspapers, self help and novels are scattered among others listening to music, looking out windows or snoozing.  The ones who catch your eye, either smile and nod or look away.  It is quiet except for the train noise.

OK, this is my stop. Get off the train and head for the escalator. The escalator seems to go up forever! Is that Samuel Jackson walking by me? I watch the people going down while I go up. This place is a people watcher's paradise. So many different shapes and sizes, styles of dress, hair, accessories...I wonder how she ever commutes in those shoes? With all the rushing, walking, up and down escalators, I am glad I have my sneakers on.

I dash for my next bus, but I've missed it. I take out my book and stand reading it while I wait for the next one. Soon, others start arriving. We wait quietly and ultimately the bus arrives. I swipe my new SmartCard (much easier than trying to put the cash in) and sit down in the first seat. Others get on and a few give me an odd look. Everyone files by, further back on the bus. We start off.

Looking around, I deduct I have sat in the seat reserved for elderly and disabled. Oh well, that explains the looks. If anyone that actually meets the description gets on, I will move. I do not need to move until we arrive at my stop and I get off. Well, I have survived the first half of my journey. YaaaHooo!

Going home, I notice the bus is much more crowded. I do not get a seat to myself. However, the bus was no warning for the train. On the train we were packed like sardines. Everyone displayed tolerant, if not friendly, attitudes. We were in this together and we were making the best of it. Standing on the train is balance challenging. It sways, stops, starts, and always abruptly. Or maybe the abrupt ones are the ones I remember.

I am glad to report that not one of the 3 people who's toes I trod shot, yelled or were otherwise mean to me. They were very polite when I said I was sorry. But then, I was polite when my toes were trod. We were in this together. I was extremely impressed by the politeness and civility of everyone I met. Considering it was the end of every-one's day and we were in each other's personal space, I was pleasantly surprised.

The bus ride home was uneventful.  As I walked home I reflected on all I had learned.  Commuting via the Metro was much easier than I expected.  It was considerably more restful than driving.  I was able to read my book, something I never have enough time for.  I watched the sunrise, something I never notice driving.  I was able to partake in extra exercise.  And the people watching had been fabulous!

I think that even after my car is well again, I will take the Metro a couple of times a week.  There are days when I need to be in work earlier than the Metro can get me there, but for those other days I think I will use it.  There are definate advantages and although it was not very pleasant being packed in like sardines, it was not very unpleasant either.

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    • k@ri profile image
      Author

      Kari Poulsen 8 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks JerseyNana! The metro is really very easy to use. I was surprised at how civil everyone is...just goes to show that people do know how to behave around others. I find this every time I use the metro! :D

    • JerseyNana profile image

      JerseyNana 8 years ago from New Jersey

      k@ri, excellent descriptions and pictures are great!! My son lives in Bethesda and travels on the Metro daily. Now I have more insight into his commute. Love your descriptions and I can almost hear the birds on your morning walk. Add me as another fan and thanks for joining my club!!! Keep up the enjoyable articles!

    • k@ri profile image
      Author

      Kari Poulsen 9 years ago from Ohio

      Dolores, The metro is surprisingly pleasant and so easy to use. I feel very lucky to have it available to me!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 9 years ago from East Coast, United States

      k@ri, I've used the DC Metro several times, once on inaugeration day, so many people and such a pleasant, peaceful bunch. I was impressed. I love DC Metro!

    • k@ri profile image
      Author

      Kari Poulsen 9 years ago from Ohio

      Haunty, I was very impressed with our public transportation system. Thanks for sharing your friend's experience. My opinion is that people are pretty nice all over.

      Hawkesdream, I was lucky to be where I am when my car broke down. Options are a wonderful thing! :D

      Birte, Thanks, you made my day!

    • BirteEdwards profile image

      BirteEdwards 9 years ago

      You took an every day even, tho not yet for you, and turned it in to a masterful hub.

    • Hawkesdream profile image

      Hawkesdream 9 years ago from Cornwall

      I used to be a 'postie' and love the early mornings, my job now means an early morning start, it's the best time of day. If my car breaks down, initially I would have to take time off until I could arrange an alternative .

    • Haunty profile image

      Haunty 9 years ago from Hungary

      A wonderful account of your first experience with public transport! Not just a joy to read, but very enlightening. You know, people in Hungary think about the States as a place where the streets are full of crime. But, of course, this is not the fault of the American people, but the Hungarian media. I've never been to the States, but a friend has and she says it was a wonderful experience. She was amazed at how kind and caring people were in the public transport. She said someone stepped on her feet and then went on apologizing for five minutes while cleaning her shoes with his hankies. She also visited a Night Club and was astounded to see how nice people were there too. She got engaged in conversation with the locals while she doesn't speak a word in English, and they understood each other. :)

    • k@ri profile image
      Author

      Kari Poulsen 9 years ago from Ohio

      Storytellersrus, I didn't take the photos, and the second day was just as good! The second day I left work earlier and did not have to face the crowds. I wonder what next week will bring.

      I would never have guessed that I would enjoy commuting via Metro so much...if my car hadn't broken, I never would have known. :D

    • Storytellersrus profile image

      Barbara 9 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      What an amazing read!!! I love this. Did you take the photos? They make me want to join you in your adventure. I hope you report back on this in a couple months, i.e., is it still the same adventure or was it the newness of the first day that was so motivating!

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