daily commute

Dear Metro executives,

I have a very simple solution for you to cut costs instead of making us pay higher fares. Hire more people. Seriously.

A WMATA employee recently suggested to me that the metro is hemorrhaging money because it allows its employees to rack up thousands of over-time hours a month  rather than hiring new employees. I mean why shouldn’t you hire someone when you are already paying another person a time-and-a-half rate to stay on the clock?

If this is true, it’s the most asinine thing I’ve heard. The metro should hire more people and eliminate managers who allow employees to rack up overtime like a slot machine.

I understand that WMATA had a couple of major unexpected costs in recent years, what with the HUGE metro train accident and the winter storm that cost it rider fares and snow removal expenses.

In addition, the metro board never really thought out prior to implementing the SMART trip card that people would take advantage of the fact that they could get off the metro with a negative balance. I’ve had plenty of out of town guests over spend their card and then leave town.

But my biggest frustration today, in thinking about the metro and the state of Maryland raising transit fares, is that the metro clearly is improperly managed.

My conversation with that metro worker kept reappearing in my mind all day.

So again, here’s my suggestion to the metro board.

Instead of making it nearly impossible for low-income families and the unemployed to get into the city or surrounding areas, make a few hundred employees unhappy by cutting their annual income down to five digits instead of six digits, and spur the existing economy by hiring more workers to take up the hours that you are making your current employees work.


Have you ever avoided getting in a cab because you see the vehicle bears the scratches and dents of a fender bender? Yet have you ever heard yourself saying to a cab driver: ” I’m in a hurry so the quicker you can get there the better.”?

I have.  But until a cabbie started ranting about it to me the other day I failed to realize how often they are asked to hurry. The cabbie told me that he’s sick of being stuck with red light camera tickets and speeding fines for a couple of extra dollars.  Since then, I’ve tried to refrain from mentioning my time crunch when I slip into a cab.

I also have this fear that the cab will get in a car accident. As a result I’m always surmising from the outside and inside of a cab what I believe to be the driver’s recent road record. And in the interest of full disclosure, I’m always a little disappointed when I get in a cab that is slightly run down… just because I like to feel posh.  Silly me.

Today, for example, I climbed into a dark blue cab that on the outside seemed to look safe enough. Yet when the driver started moving I heard this grinding noise of metal on metal and felt every little bump in the road to the point that my back started to ache. The guy was driving fine but his car wasn’t in the best condition. It felt like his alignment was off and that something was loose under my side of the engine. I tried to ignore the rattling noise until we arrived at my destination near Georgetown.  It was with a sigh of relief that I paid the driver my $6.50 and exited the car at my reporting event.

Oh and one more thing. Even though I’ve lived in the area most of my life, I never know how much to tip a cabby. If the trip is bad, I usually give them a dollar but if they get me there fast and without making me reach for the “oh sh*t handle,” I sometimes give them $2.

On Friday night I caught a cab from near DuPont Circle out to Glover Park. I didn’t end up leaving the guy a tip and he made a noise of disgust at me that sounded something like the air being let out of a tire for a split second. I felt guilty when I realized I’d failed to tip the guy but from the way he acted it didn’t make me feel too bad.

Still, I must admit that today I gave an extra dollar to a cabbie just to get my cab Karma back in sync.

Do you ever find yourself wondering why you feel awkward in a situation?

This morning on my way in to work I was in the right-side “standing” lane of the Metro Center street escalator.

My mind was in auto drive until the girl directly ahead of me turned her body to face in toward the escalator, not up toward the street. Huh?

I felt a little weird when I realized she hadn’t done so for the standard reason, to see when she could step into the “walking” row. There was no one climbing the escalator steps.

I told myself it was because she was from out of town. But she didn’t act or look like a tourist.  She was dressed in business attire, she wasn’t looking at a map or gawking at her surroundings. She generally looked completely at ease in her surroundings.

I tried to act like I didn’t notice so I looked around. Until that morning I hadn’t really noticed that everyone else on the escalator was facing forward. I told myself I was being silly for letting it freak me out that she wasn’t matching the worker’s commuter morning norm.

I’ve seen people turn in when there are other people to chat with or when they had a little to drink late in the evening, but I was completely thrown off by her.

We reached the top of the escalator and we headed different directions.

That was it.

I  do not understand how the city’s metro system can handle more than a million riders on inauguration day but finds itself crippled when it comes to a couple of snow days.

Today is the second day we’ve had snow in these parts and I’ve found myself crammed into metro train cars with other work commuters, stuck in tunnels and at stations for nearly 10 minutes several times in one trip, and more Red Line “alerts” in my email inbox in the last two days than I think I accumulated in the last month.

What happened?

Did the metro cut back on staff because of school closures? Did they assume that less people would come into work? Are more people taking the metro because one of the spouses needed the car for the day to take the kids somewhere? Did more people take the metro to avoid driving in icy conditions?

I’m not sure and I’m not really upset. I’m just confused about the cause for 11 or more minutes between trains, crowded railway platforms and delays, delays, delays.

If tomorrow is another snow day, I’m seriously considering driving into the city to avoid the icy conditions on the metro.

p.s. I promise I will eventually write a follow up story to the inauguration festivities.

Sometimes I miss for myself the unfiltered joy that I see in the eyes of a child.

While riding the metro to work today a group of children and their teachers walked onto my train car. They were a generally properly behaved and relatively quiet group, which was a relief to my still in early-morning-defrost mindset.

A boy with a dark blue puffy coat sat in the row facing mine. He looked out the window just as we crossed a bridge that made the train seem like it was moving magically suspended in air (except that you could feel the track rumble under your feet).

His brown eye widened, his mouth spread into a grin and his body shifted forward and to the left to get a better view through the fingerprint- and hair grease -pocked glass.

I watched his private joy and realized I was smiling. I checked myself and looked back at my paper. Then I stopped and wondered… when did I loose that part of my innocence? The part that doesn’t care whether people will reject your happiness. The part that doesn’t even let such a fear cross one’s mind.

Where did my childhood eyes go?

True, the eyes appear now and then.

When I was in Belgium I went through a 12th Century Hospital museum that featured vividly colored and wonderfully preserved religious triptic paintings. I moved slowly from each triptic to the next feeling in awe and joy welling up inside me at the privilege of seeing such Flemish masterpieces.

I turned a corner and there was a painting of a skull against a deep (multi-shaded) red background. There is no way to do the painting justice for how it made me feel was nothing short of overwhelmed.

I sighed an “oh” and sat on the bench behind me.

I took out my journal and started describing my feelings in black ink. I was alone in that room with the painting.

Just then a hand touched my shoulder and I turned to see a guard.

“Excuse me but you can’t sit here,” he said.

“Oh I’m sorry” I responded, stood up and turned to see what I had been siting on.

Behind me was the tan and slightly worn headstone of a saint, which had been removed from a hidden crypt and laid flat elevated above the floor so people could read the inscriptions.


“Oh I’m sooooooo sorry,” I repeated several times feeling my face turn hot. He nodded and walked to the corner where he could keep an eye on this silly foreigner.

I continued on, yet the feelings I experienced through the rest of the museum were somehow held in check because I knew I was being observed and because I had to be a responsible adult with no one to keep track of me like they would have were I still a 7-year-old.

Perhaps that’s what makes us loose our childhood eyes. There is no one there to keep up safe from making such mistakes or for us to turn to for help when we do. No one on earth, I mean.

p.s. Don’t get enough of Esther now-and-then-some? You can follow Esthernow on twitter.

Exhaustion. The state of having so little energy left that I’m not sure if I will make it home to my pillow. Fear that I will sleep on the metro for the entire 2 hour loop (not only miss my stop but stay on the train when it turns around and goes back the other way).

This week has been hard. Truly. There’s not much more to say.

Right now, I’m still trying to recover from being sick all week when I had to push my mind and body to do more than I do when my body is at top health.

I’m going home to sleep.

I’m also tired of going without a phone.

I went to buy a Blackberry Storm this morning at the Verizon store, which opened at 8 a.m. I was there at 8:20 and there must have been at least 200 people in line ahead of me. By 8:30 they were announcing they had sold out.

I’ve ordered the phone on-line but because STUPID Verizon decided to release the phone on a Friday, I won’t have the phone at my doorstep until Monday.

I can’t write much more. I have next week off so I don’t know if I’ll write or not. It all depends on what happens with the phone situation.


Today I just feel like recapping a couple interesting things I’ve seen or heard this week.

1. Blue Jay

I’ve sometimes heard it commented that there is very little wildlife in DC (excluding Rock Creek Park) other than pigeons, sparrows and squirrels.

I was walking back from a work assignment Monday and I was in a pretty good mood. The sun was bright. I had a new pair of shiny heels on and I had just come from a press briefing where I had sat at a table asking questions (better ones, in fact) along side reporters from the WSJ and NYT.

As I walked along the outside of the Treasury Building on 15th I looked up and happened to see a Blue Jay sitting on the ledge of the tan building just staring at me as I passed. I had to take a double look to be sure I wasn’t imagining. He looked like he was king and he knew it. I know how cruel this particular bird can be yet in that moment he was a beautiful sight and he made my heart long for a second to try to make his loud raucous call to see if he would respond…but then I remembered I was not a little girl frolicking barefoot in the woods behind my house.

fav color Pictures, Images and Photos

This picture is not mine, I got it on Photobucket but he looked just about like this guy..

2. My fear

I love having long hair. I love how it caresses my back when I’m in a tank top or laying in bed reading a book. I love how I can feel it swinging back and forth when I’m walking with my hair in a pony tail and I love being able to play with it when I’m bored.

Well today I had to confront a fear…. female baldness.

I was walking to the DC public library this afternoon to get some travel guides for Italy and the Netherlands when this woman walked in front of me. She had a bow in the back of her head but I couldn’t tell you what it was attached to. She had some hair on her head. They were tiny wisps of white-blondish hair that formed a fuzzy halo around her head when the sun rays hit her head. And I wondered what a horrible feeling it must be to have lost her hair. Maybe she has cancer, maybe she’s had this trouble all her life but it scared me to think that I might end up that way. And I realized what a vain world we live in and how much I am a part of that… then I turned back into a mental zombie and crossed the street.

3. Heard on the train

This morning I heard two girls talking on the metro. They got on the train at Union Station. I have a general dislike for women who talk like teenagers. By that I mean that it makes me flinch when I hear a woman talking in a nasal girlie voice sightly raised. Grow up, I think. That kind of cute only works for so long.

Well I was trying to ignore these two girls who were distinctly using their “cute voices” to talk and I assumed they must be in college.

I ignored the conversation until I heard one of them say that she was still learning Arabic and French. If they could have, my ears would have perked up. Perhaps these ladies have more to them than their voices portray, I thought. Then that idea was shattered when I heard the other girl say… well I think Arabic makes sense but why French. I think the French are arrogant.

As a knee-jerk reaction I swiveled my head around to look at them in disapproval.

So here goes my rant (a rant I couldn’t give them on the train……)

“Listen carefully kids. You’ve got it all wrong,” I wanted to say to them. “It’s Americans like you two who are arrogant, rude and who don’t understand that each one of us is just a freckle in time with very little importance and very little suffering compared to many others in this world.”

“I love this country. I would sacrifice my life defending this country if need be, but Americans need to wake up and get a little humility.”

We need to wake up and do something to help each other.

We need to educate ourselves about other countries and the events happening on other continents.

The financial crisis and its impact on the rest of the world has made it abundantly clear that we are not on an isolated, insulated island. And it’s time for us to act, to use a little humility and to get to understand the other people on this planet.

Yes, the French often don’t like Americans. But can you really blame them? We come into their country and expect them to speak English. We expect to be catered to and to be served three sides with each entree. We assume that our medicines and sciences, our education and humanitarian activities are superior and we assume that our lives amount to more than “a hill of beans.”

Ok, I’m spent. I’m done my rant and I’m calm again. If you made it to the end of this blog, thanks.

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