Reflections on Travel: Metro MANIA!

3 03 2009

This morning I left home at 8:20AM and caught the Washington DC area Metro train at the Court House stop on the Orange Line en route to a meeting downtown.  I had not caught the Metro at this time before and was amazed at the number of people using the system during morning rush-hour.

The first train arrived precisely at 8:25AM (as advertised by the online Ride Guide).  Unfortunately, I had not positioned myself right at the exact spot where a carriage door would open so there was absolutely no way I could squeeze into the “sardine can” that was bursting at the seams.  Before the next train arrived at 8:28AM, I strategically positioned myself at the edge of the platform where I’d calculated a carriage door would open.  BINGO! As the door opened I was first in line and there was a small space available into which I sandwiched my body sideways before the inevitable  announcement: “Stand back, the doors are closing.  Stand back, the doors are closing.”

As the doors jammed closed, barely missing my briefcase, I grabbed an overhead rail before the train lurched forward.  As two other people on either side squirmed for a better grip on a side rail near the doors, I was able to turn to face the sea of humanity inside the “sardine can”.  Apart from the rattle and low-pitched squeal of the steel wheels on the tracks, absolutely NO-ONE was saying anything!  Some were reading, others were “zoned out” listening to their iPods, while others were staring into the air with a poker-faced expression.  At this point, I decided to conduct an experiment to see if I could make eye-contact with a smile to hopefully receive some indication that the recipient was actually receptive to any form of non-verbal communication.  But alas, five people within a five-foot radius did not offer any response and decided to turn their gaze in another direction or look at the ceiling, again with an expressionless face.

Some thoughts then flashed into my mind.  Is everyone totally numbed by this morning travel ritual?  Have people become introspective and unresponsive to a smile in order to escape the monotony of the travel and/or the prospect of starting their day at whatever work location?  Has everybody turned into a robot and lost their ability to connect and interact with others at a basic level?

Is this what the daily ritual of traveling to work via Metro MANIA has become?  Hopefully the next time I travel on the Metro I’ll be able to elicit some response from at least one person.  Hope springs eternal.

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