Well ladies and gents, I’m nearly fully recovered after my bout with seasonal allergies and a really bad sore throat. I am Germy no more. 🙂 Back to the grind. I start my temporary new job on Wednesday, too. (yay!) Excited about that. I’ve also started my writing class offered through UCLA’s continuing ed online division. It’s taking up more time than I’d planned and, as a result, I’m going to be posting on a weekly basis. I need to pick something I know I can stick to, so this is it.
In my last 2 weeks or so at my current job location, I’ve had the opportunity to witness the arrival of the tourists. Oh yes. Each spring, the tour buses hit the trails to DC with their many many high school students and chaperones. Foreign and domestic family vacationers, too, flock to the Nation’s capital. This year, they came for Inauguration first. But more recently they came for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival and race, and just to visit the sites. As the weather gets warmer, it’s also the time that a group that I call the “local tourists” from the far-out suburban areas flock to DC to enjoy the museums, parks, national monuments, festivals and sporting events (like the Caps in the NHL playoffs!).
Living here, in a major metropolitan area such as DC with a pretty good public transportation system, I don’t drive to work often. I usually take the Metro (subway). I don’t have to deal with the vehicular traffic on the Beltway, complete with speed-then-brake-slammers, slow-drivers-in-the-fast-lane, non-turn-signalers, riding-on-the-brakers, uninsured motorists and the like. I get to completely avoid that kind of stress on my way to and from work.
Instead, I get to deal with the tourists on the Metro and walking around downtown DC where I work.
As yet, it is unclear whether the drivers or the Metro-takers are getting the better deal on reducing commute-related stress.
If you or someone you know is a non-city dweller that is going to visit a city anytime soon, please take a look at the following transportation-related complaints and try not to be that visitor, ok?
These offenses are equally egregious; they’re not in any order.
1) Can I park here?
After I’ve seen them reading the signage and the meter (which don’t always say the same things), I’ve had visitors ask me (walking down the street after work with my work bag) — can I park here? I always respond the same way — “I don’t know; what’d the sign say?” And keep it movin’.
If you can’t figure out whether you can park somewhere or not, then I can’t break stride and explain what “no parking/loading zone/7:30am – 6:30pm weekdays” means. I know – the signage may be confusing because it is unfamiliar to you. But, if you’re not sure if parking is allowed and don’t want to be ticketed or towed, then take the Metro or park in a garage or deck. Or try again and hope to get someone who is willing to entertain your question.
2) Stand to the right; walk to the left.
I thought this was common knowledge but apparently it is not. Just like on the freeway, “slower traffic, keep right.” Same thing for escalators or moving walkways. Stand to the right. Yes – YOU. You and your kids. And your bags. All of y’all – get over to the right and don’t make me nudge you with my umbrella. I use it unabashedly, like a cattle prod.
If you find yourself in the unenviable position of standing to the left during rush hour on the Metro in Washington, DC, you will definitely get pushed, may get your feelings hurt and will probably think that District residents are the rudest people on Earth. Not even. We’ve just got somewhere to be, some train connection to make, some meeting to attend — and we want you (with nowhere to be, because you’re on holiday) to stand over there, to the right. Stanks.
3) Stand clear of the closing doors.
This is a tricky saying. I know, it sounds like you should back away from the closing doors and wait for the next train. On the contrary, to the experienced Metro rider “stand clear of the closing doors” is akin to seeing a yellow traffic light and no red light camera — BOOK IT! Jam yourself into the train and push the people who are standing by the doors when there’s ample room in the middle of the car. They’re asking for it by standing in the doorway.
But please – this is only for the professional rider who can safely judge when it is ok to book it/jam in and not for those who get their body parts, clothing or accessories stuck in the doors and make the train go out of service and causing delays during rush hour. In other words, visitors and suburban novices, please stand clear of the closing doors so that we can rush past you and make our train. Again, we kindly ‘preciate it.
4) Get off the escalator and keep it movin’.
Once more, I thought this was not only common knowledge but a little physics too. Unless the escalator breaks down immediately after you exit it, there will be other people getting off right behind you. You cannot, therefore, stand in front of the escalator ending and not get mowed down. It’s physically impossible. To avoid injury, please keep moving and step out of the way of others before congregating to decide upon the next historic site you’ll visit. Much appreciated.
5) Walking, walking, walking, STOP.
Don’t do this. Just don’t. If you are walking and there are people around you that are also walking and you must stop, then move to the side and stop. If you are adults and are joined by hand-holding or the like, please be aware of others trying to pass you as you stroll leisurely through the city. DC’s downtown sidewalks are pretty wide, but if you get 5 or 6 tourists joined up like those cutout paper-people it’s hard to get by without a curt “excuse me” and a chopping motion to break through you.
Consider this a short guide as to acceptable (and unacceptable) transportation-related behavior in the DC area, although the same rules would likely apply to any major metro with a transit system. Travel safely!