Thursday, February 08, 2007

Misadventures on the Metro

chapter 25
Nowadays every Joe Shmoe dreams of becoming a hero (or gaining fame and adoration blogging—-apparently “hero” and “famous blogger” are synonymous). Whether or not the former was inspired by Cops or Heroes or maybe even reruns of Kojak (because there is no disputing TV as the culprit behind these notions of grandeur), millions of real-life Clark Kents daydream about their day in the sun (preferably wearing red, stretchy tights).

In fact, there exists an entire underground society of Metro vigilantes poised to enact justice and order. Normally fading into the homogeneous black jacket-clad landscape, they channel their inner superhero and spring into action on first sight of commuting shenanigans. Despite an evident lack of superhumanly powers, unless you consider astute situational analysis extraordinary, they are first on the scene when problems arise.

It is these self-styled Metro heroes who direct crowds on brimming trains to “MOVE TO THE CENTER OF THE CAR!” so more commuters (including themselves) can squeeze onboard. When the passengers don’t move, they amp up their shouting and begin shoving. The result: not a square inch of unfilled space on the train. Catastrophe averted!

Yesterday, after a severe winter storm piled up a heaping quarter-inch of snow across the city, it was clear I needed a miracle to get to work. Bundled up to my eyeballs and power walking in arctic conditions, I was awash with relief as I entered the Metro station. My limbs began to thaw and I waited for the delayed train, but ice crusted over my heart when the train de-boarded its entire load of passengers. Shoulder to shoulder with a station full of displaced Metro-riders, I inched forward to position myself for first entry on the next train.

Minutes passed. Several minutes. I was ready to turn around, get my car and drive to work when a light appeared in the tunnel. Palpable electricity flowed through the anxious crowd, each person devising an entrance strategy for boarding the sure-to-be-crowded train.

Barely in sight, the train stopped. The conductor mercilessly laid on his horn; the throng started. The train resumed its creep forward, seconds later jolting to an abrupt stop and blurting out a deafening honk. The stop-start-honk cycle continued five or six times.

Then, as if transported directly from the Xavier Institute, a Metro vigilante sprang to the rescue. She turned to face the crowd and yelled across the silent station,

“MOVE BACK! That’s why the conductor is HONKING. You need to move AWAY FROM THE EDGE. Come on people. MOVE. BACK.
With a sea of people seeping over every inch of the platform, no one could move. And the train continued stopping and starting. Eventually, though, the train arrived, the doors opened and many boarded (including those heroes shouting and shoving their way through the doors). I’m somewhat certain that without Madam Metro Superhero’s little speech I might still be standing on that platform.

I just wonder where she went a few stations later when we had to de-board the train because of mechanical difficulties. We really could have used a hero! Or at least another speech.

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