Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I slipped onto a crowded Metro train this morning, and made my way past the people crowded around the doors, to find a place where I could easily hold onto a pole with one hand and balance my book in the other, as the train pulled out of the station. (I’ve decided to read Taylor Branch’s civil rights histories. I am finding that 1,000-page books are not the easiest books to manage on public transit.)

“Excuse me, girl,” the man sitting to my left said, as we pulled into the next station. I looked down at him, a stout, older man, probably in his seventies, with white hair and a mustache. “Excuse me, girl.”

“Yes, sir?”

“What station is this?”

Arlington Cemetery.”


Arlington Cemetery,” I repeated, raising my voice.

“Thank you, dear.” When he said that, he reminded me of The Husband’s grandfather. No one got off the train and the station was empty. The train pulled away, and I went back to reading my book.

“Excuse me, girl. Excuse me, girl.”


“What station is this?”

“Rosslyn.” I started out loud this time.

“Rosslyn?” I nodded. “Thank you, dear.”

People behind me were trying to exit the train, so I moved ahead of them and stepped off, then reboarded. It was less crowded now, but there were still no seats. I leaned against one of the poles across from the old man, trying to finish my chapter as the train crossed below the Potomac. Looping my arm around the pole to keep myself steady as the train slowed, I tucked the book into my backpack as we approached the Foggy Bottom station

“Excuse me, girl.” His voice seemed louder this time, now that the train was emptier and I was a few feet away. Perhaps he felt he had to raise his voice to be certain I heard him from where I was. Or perhaps I was beginning to feel self conscious. “Excuse me, girl.”

“Yes, sir?”

“What station is this?”

“Foggy Bottom.” I hoisted my backpack back onto my back and touched my coat pocket to make sure my wallet and farecard were still there.

“Is this your stop?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Thank you for your help, dear.”

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