Tag Archives: commute

Metro delays

It is ironic that in my last week as a regular metro rider, I had the single worst delay I’ve experienced since I began riding Metro almost 6 years ago. I left the office just after 5 PM yesterday (I had a training session I had to attend all afternoon) and headed down to the metro station. I called Dad–who is in town visiting, and who was going to pick me up at PG Plaza–to let him know I was on my way and would be there in 30 minutes. When I got to the platform, I saw that there were delays on the Orange and Red lines. It was odd, too, that the next Yellow line train was listed as 10 minutes. During rush hour?

Long story short, the entire metro system seemed to melt down. Delays on the Orange line was due to a power problem. Delays on the Yellow and Red lines were due to problems with trains. As time passed the platform at Pentagon City filled like I’ve never seen it before. There was no chance of cramming into the first Yellow line that came through. When I finally could get on a Yellow line train, 40 minutes had passed.

Crossing the bridge over the Potomac, I texted Dad to let him know of the delay. At Mt. Vernon Square, where I switch to the Green line, things melted down further. By the time I got there, there were system-wide delays due to a computer malfunction. Eventually, a Green line train arrived. I texted Dad one more time at Fort Totten. I finally got to PG Plaza at around 6:40 PM! If I were superstitious, I’d suspect that the metro was being petulant at my giving it up after all of these years. What a baby!

Lots of mail today, including the latest issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, AOPA PILOT, and ANALOG. In the latter, it was announced that the first part of Rob Sawyer’s new novel, Wake is appearing in the next issue. I can’t wait!

Dad and I headed up to Hard Times for dinner. I had a real craving for chili and I cleaned my plate! Then back to the house where I got a little packing done. And then I was in bed by 9 PM.

Hump day

Up at 4:20 AM. Since I had Kelly’s car (from the weekend), I drove into work this morning and got there right at 5 AM. I was still tired, but I started working right away, and except for an abbreviated lunch break, I worked straight through. I actually felt pretty good about what I managed to get done today. I managed to squeeze in a 25 minute nap at lunch and it really helped.

I left the office at 4 PM. It was $16 to park there fore the day, but it only took me about 10 minutes to get back to Kelly’s. Kelly got home around 4:40 and we took advantage of the pleasant evening to walk over to Whole Foods, where we did a little shopping and got salads for dinner.

We also booked our holiday travel. Yes, it’s 8 month before Christmas, but with crazy fuel prices, and unpredictable airfares, we decided to lock in our fare now. We’re heading down to Florida from December 20-27 and we have our tickets. Should be a lot of fun!

Not much reading today.

Take the long way home

This afternoon, for the first time since I’ve been living out here (5 years now), I screwed up and got on the wrong train coming home from work.

For those not familiar with the area and who can’t understand how this can happen, let me explain. There are two trains that come through my station at work, the Yellow line and Blue line. My train is the Yellow line. In addition to up-to-the-minute train signs on the platform, Metro has recently added this information to signs on the main level. These signs show the next three trains that are coming. When I got into the station this afternoon, it said the next train was going to be a yellow line train in 1 minute.

I was wearing sunglasses. Also, a couple of the escalators down to the platform were out of service, which meant I had to go to the farthest one. As I swiped my card, I saw a train coming into the station, and figured that was the Yellow line. The sign had said 1 minute and I figured I’d caught it when most of that minute was up. I raced down the stairs to make the train, which I did.

I was listening to my iPod so I couldn’t hear any announcements.

The train left the station. The next stop was Pentagon. At this station, I had a slight suspicion that I might have conceivably gotten onto the wrong train. So I looked at the sign as we pulled into the station (being too stubborn to pull of my earphones to hear the announcements). The sign was indicating elevator outages. I waited. And waited. The doors closed and as soon as they were closed, the sign changed back to the train status and I saw that I had, in fact, gotten onto a Blue line train.

I took a deep breath and decided not to back track. Instead, I took the long way home. I rode the Blue line 9 stops to L’Enfant, where I switched to the Green line and took that home. Even with my error, I was still in the door by 5 PM.

Still, for someone as conscious of their surroundings as me, this is pretty embarrassing. But it’s only fair that I share my embarrassments as much as my accomplishments. I don’t expect this to happen again, however*.


*Something similar happened to me when I lived in L.A. Sometime in 1995, I was driving into work and my mind was preoccupied by something. I missed the 4th street exit and ended up having to take PCH all the way to Chautauqua and then figuring out how to loop back around to Ocean in order to get to work. It happened once and it was the only time it ever happen in 8 years of driving that commute.

Seeing double

While people were getting off the train at L’Enfant Plaza this evening, I caught a glimpse of a guy about my size and my build. There were two specific things I noticed about him. (1) He was wearing a Yankees jacket, just like the one I was wearing; and (2) he was carrying in his hand, the same book that I am currently reading, Rob Sawyer’s Hybrids. That was all I could make out and then he was lost in the crowd, the doors closed, and the train continued on.

There are two possible explanations: either it is a complete coincidence; or at some point in the future, I will be sent back in time and end up being seen by my past self while trying to make a quick getaway.

Moon River

The Potomac has really looked pretty the last couple of mornings, what with the full moon descending in the western sky and the moonlight shimmering off the water. Yet another reason I love my commute into work, even after four years; and another reason I don’t think I could go back to living in L.A. (The L.A. “river” does not shimmer.)

Concentration

I was reading Humans on the train ride home this evening. I take the Yellow line to Mt. Vernon Square and then switch the Green line. It is so routine for me that I can do it with my eyes closed. I have an internal sensor that tells me when I’m at my switching point, which happens to the end of the Yellow line. But today, I was so engrossed in what I was reading that I almost didn’t make it off the train on time. In the 4+ years that I have been commuting this route, I have never missed a stop by accident. Today was the closest I’ve ever come.

And besides, it is a really good book so far. I’m likely to finish it up by Friday and it will be the first book that I’ve finished in nearly 2 months!

Cubes

Waiting for the train home after work, I noted the sign indicating the arrival of the next three trains had the minutes listed as 2, 4, and 8 minutes, respectively. I smiled to myself because I recognized the pattern immediately and had never seen it line up on the platform like that before: 21, 22, 23.

What a difference an hour makes

It was light out crossing the Potomac on the train this morning and so I guess that means we really did “fall back” an hour this weekend. I’m not sure however. My phone still says it’s 8:40 AM, even though the time on it is sync’d with my local T-Mobile network. Perhaps T-Mobile decided to say on Daylight Saving time for one more week.

UPDATE: On a whim, I decided to “reboot” my phone, something I never do. When I turned the phone back on, it had the proper time. So I guess that means that the phone doesn’t turn off daylight saving mode unless it is turned off and turned on again. That seems like a flaw, if you ask me.

I managed to get a pretty good night’s sleep–something on the order of 8-1/2 hours! At one point, I had a dream that I went into the front yard to see that my entire DirecTV apparatus had been stolen–the whole thing was just gone. If I believed that dream analysis had any symbolic value, I’d say it meant I was stressing too much about this whole DirecTV thing. Someone is coming to fix it tomorrow and that will make it all better. (I realized this morning that I have to work from home tomorrow. For some reason, I didn’t make the connection when I called customer support yesterday and agreed to the time.)


The building in which I work is being “refaced”. That is, they are essentially sawing off the outer layer of “skin” and replacing it with new skin. All of that sawing seems to be centered, at the moment, just outside my window. My jaw is vibrating from the noise. Fortunately, I have no meetings today or this could be a problem. Already, I wonder how I am going to be able to read during lunch.

Morning commute

A mildy interesting commute this morning for two reasons:

  1. The green line was running 8-car trains, which is pretty unusual on that line in the DC Metro.
  2. The train car in which I rode was a new “6000-series” metro car. About the only big differences I noticed (aside from it being in pristine condition) were: (a) a pair of seats had been removed from each side of the center of the train to make more room for wheelchairs; and (b) there were more digital displays of the next stop–in the center of the car as well as on the ends.

Of course, the new train is not any faster than the previous train, so I suppose the only practical improvement is that it will seem less crowded with 8 cars than with 6, but I’m not complaining. I was still able to spend the entire train ride reading Lunar Prospector, which I could never do if I was still commuting in L.A.

The faces of the river

My favorite part of my commute is when I cross the Potomac River. I cross it twice a day, once in the morning on the way into work and once in the late afternoon, on my way home. When I cross the river, I usually stop what I am doing (usually reading) to stare out the window. I like the river better in the morning than in the afternoon, unless it’s raining. What’s great about it (and I’m sure about most rivers) is that the river seems to have many personalitities, and after crossing it an estimated 1,800 times in the last 4 years, I’ve come to give names to several of them.

For instance, yesterday morning, the river looked like its surface was a layer of slightly wrinkled serran wrap. I call it the “plastic wrap” river. Yesterday afternoon, the river had a distinctly green look to it, and I call that the “Chicago River” look. On some mornings, it’s good a rich brown and muddy look to it, something I call the “Mississippi” immitation. After it rains, you can see lots of junk floating in the water, and at those times I call it the “East” river. On windy days you can see white caps and on cold, cold mornings the river is almost perfectly still and the reflection of the bridges that span it are nearly perfect.

There was nothing like this river on my commute when I lived in L.A. and it says a lot, I think, that after four plus years of commuting on the train into work here in the Metro D.C. area, I still always pause to look at the river and see which of its faces is looking back at me.

More Metro Woes

With the extreme heat, the D.C. Metro is running less frequent trains, at slower speeds. During rush hour today, after I left work, this was pretty obvious. The platform at Pentagon City was packed. The Yellow line train that came was pretty full, too, and not only that but one of the cars (the one that stopped in front of me) was out of service. So it was a crowded ride.

I switched to the Green line at Gallery Place, instead of Mt. Vernon and when the Green line came, it was also packed and it also had a car out of service. So it was an unusually crowded ride for the D.C. Metro (but par for the New York Subway). It’ll probably be like that tomorrow, too, but I won’t be catching the train until late tomorrow because of the softball game.

Still, I don’t mind these rare annoyances, compared to the commute I used to have in L.A.

Metro woes

After the gym tonight, I climbed onboard the Yellow Line as usual for the quick trip to Mount Vernon Square where I waited to transfer to the Green Line. And then something strange happened:

Not one, but three Green Line trains came through the station and they were all packed solid. There was no chance to get on. Not only that, but two of the three trains were 8-car trains, the first time I’ve ever seen that on the Green Line.

Finally, after about 30 minutes total, a Green Line train came through that had standing room and I was able to get on board.

But seriously, what was going on with the Metro this evening? Are they now doing longer trains at less frequent intervals, or what?