“Just act like you know what you are doing…”

That’s what everyone said to me when I tried to get tips on what it would be like to ride the DC metro. I’ve never experienced the metro in DC, but now have to ride it for work, so advice would have been helpful. But no one seemed to want to offer any up—they just made generic comments like “you’ll figure it out” and “be confident”. One friend even told me “no matter what you do, NEVER trade your high heels for tennis shoes on your commute to work—it is simply not PC”. But what I really needed was information on where I was going, how to buy my ticket, etc. After all, I’ve only been in a subway once in my life and that was in New York about 12 years ago with my sister Kim taking charge of everything (including abruptly pulling me by the arm just as I was about to unknowingly slide into a seat with feces on it—YES, FECES.) But for the DC metro, I was on my own.

For some people, the idea of riding the metro for the first time is just another one of life’s little adventures. But for me, you need to know it was a source of anxiety for the entire week prior. Because I never experienced it, think my mind defaulted to every possible negative thought–I kept thinking about all those people crammed into the car, invading each others’ personal space. And I was paranoid about crashes and all sorts of scary things like being robbed or something (thanks mom for the paranoia gene, and I say that with tons of love). I daydreamed about my 2007 Infiniti G35 Coupe that was parked in my garage in Seattle, and while still committed to making this metro thing work for the long haul, wondered if I’d bail on the metro as soon as my car arrives in DC.

On September 14th, I departed my apartment sporting the new suit (yes Microsoftees, suits every day) and my fantastic pointy-toe 3.5 inch heels…Ipek Tunca style. The night before, I looked up my route online so I could be as prepared as possible. (getting on the wrong train might send me over the edge) I headed toward the metro and kept thinking ACT LIKE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING as I approached the escalator headed down to the tunnels. THIS ISN’T SO HARD. When I reached the bottom of the escalator, I had two choices, go through the turnstile and head toward a train or buy a ticket at the special metro machine. Let me explain this machine to you. It is as tall as a human and is VERY confusing if you’ve never seen it before. DO I NEED A FARECARD, FULL FARECARD OR DAYPASS? HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW? OKAY, DON’T PANIC. YOU’RE A MARKETER—A MARKETER LIKELY WROTE THE CONTENT WRITTEN ON THIS MACHINE. THERE MUST BE A DEFINITION OF EACH OPTION SOMEWHERE ON THIS MACHINE. (Nope.) CRAP. THERE ARE PEOPLE WAITING FOR THIS MACHINE AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO. LET ME LOOK AGAIN AND SEE IF I CAN FIGURE THIS OUT. (Nope.) OK. LET ME JUST GUESS WHICH ONE SEEMS MOST LOGICAL AND PUSH THAT BUTTON. (Oops.) I THOUGHT THE AVERAGE PERSON IS AT A 7th GRADE READING LEVEL—SHOULDN’T THIS BE EASY ENOUGH FOR SOMEONE WITH A 7th GRADE EDUCATION? I HAVE A COLLEGE DEGREE SO THIS SHOULD BE EASY. WAIT—DOES THIS MEAN I AM NOT SMART ENOUGH TO RIDE THE METRO? OK THIS IS NOT PRODUCTIVE—I NEED TO GET TO WORK. MAYBE I SHOULD ASK SOMEONE. DON’T ASK SOMEONE–YOU’ll FEEL DUMB. OKAY, I’ll GET OVER MY PRIDE AND ASK SOMEONE. OH GREAT–HE IS NEW HERE TOO SO HAS NO CLUE AND EVERYONE ELSE IS IGNORING ME AND RUNNING FOR THEIR TRAIN. I GUESS I’LL GO ASK THE MAN IN THE INFORMATION BOOTH. He sort of looked at me funny; especially when I asked a clarifying question that now in retrospect was in fact dumb, but I got the information I needed and successfully procured my first metro card.

Lucky for me, I CAN read signs, so I followed the sign to the proper train with little drama. BE CONFIDENT. What’s funny about this is that they tell you to make eye contact with people so they think you know what you are doing and are hence less of a target for crime. But what I’ve learned is if you make eye contact with men, many of them think that you are flirting with them so it gets awkward really quick. HMMM—NOTE TO SELF—FIGURE OUT A NEW STRATEGY FOR LOOKING CONFIDENT WITHOUT APPEARING FLIRTY. My first train arrived and I couldn’t believe what I saw as I looked through the windows—all the seats were taken and people were standing, crunched in like sardines. I’M NEVER GOING TO FIT IN THERE. WHY ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE WALKING TOWARD THE TRAIN? WE ARE NOT GOING TO FIT IN THERE. UM PEOPLE–WE NEED TO WAIT FOR THE NEXT TRAIN. Apparently you are supposed to get on the train no matter how packed it is if you want to get to work anytime between 7-10, so I gathered the courage to be assertive and make my way onto the train where I proceeded to invade people’s personal space and have mine invaded. I held onto the bar with a death grip as the train pulled out of the station. I quickly noticed that people don’t talk on the train. It’s sort of like what happens when you get on the elevator. THAT’S OK—I DON’T WANT TO TALK TO THEM ANYWAY—THIS IS TOO STRESSFUL FOR ME RIGHT NOW. I NEED TO WATCH THE SIGNS SO I KNOW WHEN WE REACH MY STOP.

We finally did reach my stop, which was a transfer station. (my commute requires 2 trains) I found my way to the next train and was delighted to find that there were seats available on this one. GOOD—MY FEET ARE KILLING ALREADY. AND I’M SWEATING. IS IT HOT IN HERE? THIS SUIT IS REALLY HOT. For security reasons, I can’t give more details about my commute, other than to say that I’ve got about a 10 minute walk to the office after my metro rides. Not long after my walk began, I realized that my feet were killing from the high heels and I think the inside of my suit was like 120 degrees. GREAT—I”LL BE A WRECK BY THE TIME I GET TO THE OFFICE. THERE MUST BE A BETTER WAY. AND WHERE ARE ALL THE PEOPLE? THIS COULD BE SHADY AT NIGHT. IF I GOT ATTACKED (thanks mom!) I WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO OUTRUN SOMEONE IN HIGH HEELS. COULD I EVEN OUTRUN SOMEONE WITH MY TENNIS SHOES? I NEED TO GET TO THE GYM.

By day three, I had wised up. Carried the heels and wore the cute black tennis shoes with the suit. Comfort over fashion (Sorry Kisha and all the friends who will be disappointed in me). It was great—I had a new spring in my step and pushed my way into the trains like I lived here for years. I also figured out that if I CARRY my suit jacket, I won’t be all disheveled by the time I get to the office. I can’t believe I’m blogging this. But this is my life—so many little changes make for fun daily mini-dramas. Welcome to DC. Next week’s task is to figure out how to get the guys who yell stuff at you when you are walking down the street to stop doing that……

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~ by amylucia on September 21, 2009.

7 Responses to ““Just act like you know what you are doing…””

  1. so proud of you! and fyi…i went sneakers with suits in NYC in the late 90s when it was sooooo 80s but i didn’t care b/c 1) i was comfortable and 2) i wasn’t ruining $100 shoes! my train strategy was a book. if i read, i looked comfortable but was always aware and no issues with flirting (though I will fill you in later on my flirting mistake nightmare!)! it is a new trick – hanging on with one hand and reading a book that is in the other…save that for a few weeks in! love you sis.

  2. ditto kim – so proud of you friend!! you sound just like a regular and i expect a full lesson in riding the metro when i come visit :). and your trainer says yes, get your butt to the gym! (strictly for stress relief) love you 🙂

  3. oh my! so sorry you had no one to help guide you. wish i had known i would have totally given you some help. it’s been a while since i’ve been on the dc metro but i could have eased your worries. my sister lives there too so i could have had her at least talk to you to give you some insight. i would love to connect you two. she could use some good fun loving girl in her life. i might come see my sis and fam there this next year so maybe i can connect you two. been praying for you and i hope i can see you when you’re back in seattle. i could use some of your humor in my life. as far as the guys that yell at you walking down the street just put a set of ear phones in and pretend you don’t hear them. miss you, love you… 🙂

  4. smiling (& laughing) with pride in you as I read this.. 🙂 Hope to see you soon.

  5. LOL! Ok so the trick for high heels in public transportation or ‘need to be on them all day’ type situations is to reduce the height and go half a size bigger on the shoe itself. Love you

  6. sorry you had such a rough start, Amy. I would have totally explained the Metro system to you. Have you gotten a smart card yet? It’s much easier and faster than the paper fare cards. You can get one online at wmata.com. Looks like you’ve figured out the key to commuting in DC: where comfortable shoes, then change; push your way onto a metro; wear layers to keep cool, then put your jacket/sweater on at the office. Good luck with your commute.

  7. i just now read this during my “break” (all the kids are down) and laughed my booty off. he he! well, you made it! i am so proud of you especially b/c i completely relate to having anxiety about it the entire week ahead of time!!! i love you girl. more blogs please!

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