Hot Days With Metro
If the heat wave was not enough — the Metro was single tracking, stations were sweltering and multiple cars lacked air conditioning. It was not a system in which you could “beat the heat.”
If racial tensions were not enough — people were just shot for being Black and shot for wearing blue. I encountered two station managers whose behavior was beyond horrific!
Keeping in mind that it’s the evening rush, I was heading to Tenleytown on the Red Line. A problem occurred at Woodley Park, so the train shut down at Dupont Circle. I thought to myself, “I’m already late and now I have to do that long escalator ride. Oh well, I have to do what I have to do.”
I and others, some with disabilities, proceeded to show our badges and go through the gate. The station manager was looking away and talking to a lady rider. As I neared the dreaded “sky lift,” I heard “hey you.” I kept walking, confident that whoever it was could not have been calling me. Then “hey you” echoed from the PA system.
I turned around and saw the station manager’s finger pointing in my direction. I also saw several pairs of curious eyes looking at us, and some of them had pegged me as a perp! My first thought was “I must have dropped something.”
As I approached the kiosk I heard, again over the PA system, “you didn’t pay your fare, you have to pay to ride!’
Now I was incensed! This jerk didn’t see me when I flashed my Metro Access Card and he didn’t want to give a Black man the benefit of the doubt. I showed him my card again, only to be told that I have to wait there for him to finish assisting the lady.
I told him that he was making an unreasonable request of a customer forced to depart at the wrong station during evening rush, but he said that he had to “read my card.” Between 4:30 and 7:00 p.m., no one in his right mind would stop a traveler to read his or her card while thousands of people flowed through those gates. “If you don’t stop to check anyone else, you have basically just profiled me,” I said.
It didn’t seem to matter that my card was valid, that he made me later still or that I was just trying to get to my destination on time. I felt violated and insulted.
Insult was added to injury a few days later, at the end of a frustrating day of 100 degree weather. I had spent more money on water than I earned, lugging my sales gear (including my esteemed assistant, Lydia) to work.
At my Eastern Market the exit is simple and uncomplicated for the mobility impaired. You just stop off the elevator and go left through the gate and onto the escalator. That’s it! Simplicity at work. Right?
NO! Not tonight! As if the world had not kicked me enough, the station manager, for some reason, told me I had to walk all the way around to the other side of the kiosk to be swiped out. (Metrorail’s way of counting the number of Metro Access travelers) A rider flashes his card and the station manager taps the card reader. Not a problem unless you have further to travel to exit the station.
There are very few station managers that would subject a customer to some unnecessary pain when they could simply tally riders and swipe later for the count. I ride all the time, and if there was some consistency I would not have a problem. To ask his elder who is carrying a very burdensome load to endure unnecessary procedures is, to me, unreasonable and done only because the manager COULD get away with it. I explained the whole thing to a cop who was passing through.
Now, every night when I exit, I bite my nose (to spite his face). I walk around to the turnstile and stand, patiently waiting, to force him to stop whatever he is doing. It is now my understanding that he should get up, come out, and swipe me through the exit!