by Tom Folkes
After arriving at Dulles, not sure if Steve Banks was going to still be there or pick me up in a rental car, I texted him, asking where he was. He replied that he was already at the hotel, and he included directions for getting a bus to the Metro station, which train to get on, and where to get off and take the skywalk to the hotel. Easy peasy, right?
Well, maybe not.
First you have to navigate the steps to get a Metro Smartrip card, then put sufficient funds on the card for your intended commute, and only then can you proceed to the platform for boarding a train. Fortunately I, and about a dozen other newbies to the system were ably assisted by a Metro employee, who was remarkably not snide, even though it was very apparent that he had made the instruction speech countless times and had every reason to see us as a bunch of dumb bumpkins.
Which is exactly what I felt like very soon after getting off the escalator that took us to the lower level platform.
In short order, the Silver line train that Steve had instructed me to board arrived, disgorged a slew of people, and I pulled my little rolling bag through the door and took a seat. A) It escaped my notice that I was the only person now on the train, and B) as soon as the doors closed a voice repeated over and over that the train was “out of service”.
I didn’t know what to do, or, indeed, if I should do anything. So, I sat there as the train rolled away from the station. Since it was moving, I took that as a good sign and turned my attention to the outside, only vaguely aware of a feeling that we (plural?) might be going in the wrong direction.
After a very brief run at slow speed, the train stopped. There was no platform, no station, no signs, nothing. I sat there with that uneasy feeling that all was not according to plan, but admittedly didn’t really know what the plan was either. The train was stopped, the doors were closed, and……. What the?
Then a female Metro employee came walking briskly though the car in front of me, bent down and used a key of some sort to open the door to my car, and started to walk past me. Not sure if she was even going to acknowledge me, I quickly asked if this train would take me to Tysons Corner. She barely hesitated, answered “yes”, and strode off toward the opposite end of the train from which she had come.
A few moments passed, nothing happening, and again I didn’t know what to do, or, indeed, if I should do anything. So, I sat there.
Then the train started moving again in the reverse direction. Ah, now we’re cooking!
Well, maybe not.
The train rolled through the station where I had boarded originally, all the while a voice informed those people on the platform that “this train is out of service” several times.
Meanwhile, I sat there….alone… wondering.. what the..?
At the next station, the train actually came to a stop while informing all listeners that “this train is out of service”. This time there was a platform where I could exit the train. All that would need to happen is for the door to open. It did not open. Instead, the voice repeated that “this train is out of service”. OK, already, I get it! Just open the door! The door did not open.
I stood up, rolled my bag along behind me, stood in front of the door, and started to examine the door and the surrounding structure, looking for the button, lever, sensor, or whatever might be there to open the door manually. Silly me. There is no way to open the door manually.
Unless, of course, you have a key like the female driver had used earlier before she passed by, answered yes, and moved on. As you might expect, I did not have a key.
I must have looked like a little lost boy as I stood there wondering…. What the…?
Then, from the end of the train where the female driver had disappeared, came a male driver moving very quickly toward me. He was excited and said, “I didn’t know anybody was on this train”. Wait, what?
So, I told him about the female driver and asked if she had mentioned me to him earlier. He was very apologetic as he said no, she had not said anything about a passenger. I told him that I had asked her if this train would take me to Tyson’s Corner and she had said yes.
As he was bending down to open the door so I could get off the train, he looked up at me and said, “You need to get to Tyson’s Corner?” I replied, “Well, yes.” He immediately reclosed the door and said to follow him, and that he would take me to Tyson’s Corner.
I followed him to the far end of the train where he told me to take a seat right behind the driver’s cab, and so he took me to Tyson’s Corner. Bless his heart!
Lessons learned from this Metro misadventure?
Pay attention to voices on the speaker system.
Oh, and also, never trust a female driver.