I Was Kicked Off the D.C. Metro For Life. Twice.

The metro system used to close at midnight every single day of the week, including weekends. So it was when I was at school, and so it was when I begin my story. There also used to be no movie theaters in Georgetown or Foggy Bottom, so we movie buffs of The George Washington University were routinely taking chances by seeing later shows at either the Union Station theater or the Courthouse theater. Union Station was at least in the District, but it was a very long walk through some very sketchy areas that perhaps one didn’t want to be walking through after midnight, although I have done it. The Courthouse theater was across the river in Virginia, so you really didn’t want to be stuck over there, although that happened to me too. Once.

I was seeing a movie with my visiting girlfriend, a 9:something show that got out at 11:almostmidnight, and we knew we were going to be cutting it close, but I had calculated the schedule and I knew when that last train was going to be a-rollin’ through the station. The movie let out, we tore up the stairs out onto the plaza and ran to the metro entrance as fast as we could go. It was locked. Chains, gates, fences, and bars, they had closed the entrance early, and hung a sign indicating that we should use the other entrance. I had no idea where the other entrance was. I had never used the other entrance. Now we were frantically zooming around the neighborhood, looking for that hitherto unrevealed entrance that would lead us to our only way home. We had no money for a cab.

When we finally found the entrance we could hear the train pulling into the station, so my girlfriend and I raced down to the turnstiles, where we were assured that the train would hold for us. We inserted our metro cards, ran to the train, only to see the doors close literally inches from our faces. The train pulled out of the station, leaving us there tired and sad.

Now, not only did we have to walk home across the river, but there was also the matter of our metro cards. We had come into the station, but we had not gotten a train ride. What to do? The station worker told us that the cards would still be good, and to just explain to whomever was around what had happened, and I could use them later. We were let out of the special gate of shame and began the long journey home.

Fast forward to the following weekend. The girl is gone, but the movie remained. It was such a good movie (It was “The Wedding Singer,” in case you are interested), that I had to go again, but this time I would take one of my a cappella friends, Berry Carparts. And this time we would choose the 7:something show. And best of all, I wouldn’t have to buy a metro ticket! I had two prepaid cards in my pocket. Feeling good about it all, I slipped my gently used fare card into the slot, where it was spit out angrily at me. That was okay. That was to be expected. I walked over to the gate attendant and calmly explained what had happened. They worked their magic, and I was let through with no problems. One card down, and one to go.

The movie was, once again, hilarious. Berry enjoyed it as well, and we walked out of the theater with no worries at all that we would not be able to get home. I wandered over to the machine, inserted my card, and once again it did not work. No problem. I mentioned my issue to the woman who was working there, expecting to be let through once again. Only this time I was refused. The woman told me that these cards, when something like that happens, need to be used within 24 hours, standard metro policy, and that this was certainly expired and I would need to buy another fare. Oh ho ho ho ho no she didn’t.

I calmly explained to her that, in fact, I had just used an identical card at the Foggy Bottom station not two hours prior, and that yes, I did expect to be let through. This set into motion an escalating war of opinions that ended with the two of us hating each other very much. We were not going to budge. She had her rules, and I had my knowledge that I had paid for that ride, been told I could use it, actually just used it, and now was being robbed based on the capricious whims of this villainous buffoon. Berry, who apparently does not share my passion for truth, justice, and the American way, suggested that perhaps I ought to forget it and just buy another ticket. But no, it was the PRINCIPLE of the thing! Also, I did not have any money.

Eventually Berry, who had wandered off and pretended not to know me, came back and gave me some money so that I could buy a new ticket. Very reluctantly I agreed, and I purchased a new fare card from the machine. There was an error. The ticket printed too short, so the turnstiles would not read it. Fabulous. Now I had to go back over to this woman, my sworn arch-enemy, and beg for help once again. Oh, the smug look of satisfaction on her face as she decided whether or not to help me was too much to bear. After she fixed my card, I turned to her and asked for her name. When she asked why I needed it, I told her that I was going to take this matter up with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority itself, and I was going to demand my $1.10 back, and that they could decide whether or not she was following the rules or actually just harassing me for no reason.

The woman stood up to her full height, which I remember as being about 8 feet tall, but this was a long time ago and memories are faulty. She could have been taller. “Are you threatening me?” she barked, in a very threatening manner. No, I explained that I was not making threats, but I wanted her name for my report. “Are you physically threatening me?” she asked, louder this time. And of course I was not physically threatening her at all, which I tried to explain, but at this point she got onto her radio and called for the metro police. She stepped out of her booth, and started towards me, at which point I just completely lost it and took off running for the train, which luckily happened to be pulling in right at that moment.

As the doors closed, I saw her and two officers coming down the escalator towards me, pointing, yelling, and on their radios. She shouted out “You better not come back on the metro no more!” Berry had, as I recall, sensibly abandoned me long ago and had taken the previous train. I was alone in the crowd, happy to have gotten away, until I remembered a terrifying fact. I had specifically mentioned to this woman that I had come from, and was going back to, Foggy Bottom. I stepped off the train cautiously, wondering if I should maybe just keeping riding it for a few more stops, just in case, but no, the doors had closed, the train was gone, and I started walking up to the exit turnstiles.

When I got there, I saw the gate attendant on her radio. It was a different woman than the nice one who had let me go to the movies on my busted pass. This one was scanning the area, and then spotted me as I was trying to slip through the barrier to freedom. She started to come out as I ran up the final escalator to the surface, and I didn’t think she had gotten a great look at my face. I was home and safe, but apparently banned from the metro. How would they police this? Would my picture be plastered all over every station? Was there a little book in each one of those booths, full of faces that the attendants had to memorize? Unclear. But I stayed off the metro for a few days, and I didn’t go back to Courthouse for months. The woman had never given me her name, and I never filed a report. I figured it was kind of a wash at that point.

Eventually I did go back to using the metro without fear, and after I graduated I stayed in the city, taking the metro to work every day. I mean, how could they possibly enforce something like that?! I was no longer worried that an angry metro cop would be lurking around every corner, waiting to arrest me or kick me off the train. Until it happened again.

I didn’t get into another fight or anything, but I broke a cardinal rule of riding the D.C. metro. And to be honest, I didn’t feel like I was really breaking it, because people bring food and drinks on all the time! There’s no eating or drinking allowed, but you can buy some groceries or a lunch and then take it with you to your destination and consume it there! That’s all I was doing! I had no idea, when I placed my full-to-the-tippy-top 32 oz. Coke underneath my seat for future non-metro drinking, that the train was going to lurch to a sudden stop, causing the beverage to hit the floor, popping the plastic lid off of it, and flooding the train with its contents! And I certainly did not know that there was a police officer on the car, directly in the line of fizzy fire.

More yelling. More running. More being banned for life. Eh. It happens. All of this is just to say, I’m sorry world, for being an obnoxious, self-righteous, privileged, entitled college student once. It won’t happen again. Because I graduated, so I am not a college student anymore. Also, metro, you owe me $1.10.

Posted in College, DC, Metro, Movies, Police, Subway, Throwback Thursday, Washington.

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