Monday, January 26, 2009

The train ride.

The train quickly filled as we passed Reagan National Airport, Crystal City, the Pentagon. A family with two children boarded, a son and daughter, I’d guess about 8 and 10 years old. They were poised, relaxed, comfortably and smartly dressed. Our destination was the now infamous L’Enfant station, one of the nearest Metro stops to the mall. We’d used it the night before and because it was almost to the Washington Monument, we thought it a good place for us to get off. It was going to be a hike to get to our designated Blue Gate, but we were up for the challenge and felt as long as we were on foot, we were a little bit more in charge of our destiny. At this point, it was standing room only on our train. It filled quickly and there was no shortage of personalities and eccentricities. A young girl was explaining wildly what was going on to an elderly gentleman in front of us. I wasn’t sure if they knew each other or not, but he seemed to not know what was going on that day and she was hell bent on decoding everything for him. There was a very serious man with equally serious recording equipment. He had a camera, a heavy looking backpack, and a female sidekick to boot. She carried one of those ominous looking microphones that hangs off a stick and sports fur. Not just casually recording the events. A documentary perhaps, but he wasn’t asking any of us on the train any questions. Kind of bizarre. My mind wandered to conservative public access TV shows and conspiracy theories. Do we really have to worry about that shit today? I moved on.

There were a few African-American women in their sixties riding together next to us. It was clear they wore their warmest clothes for this occasion. They probably hadn’t donned these clothes in years, but had them in their possession for an occasion such as this. At some point they stood in the aisle, anticipating their stop. The train was making frequent stops in the tunnels, the announcer informed us, because other trains were slow in leaving the stations. The first clue of gridlock at 6:00 AM!! At some point the train lurched alive, sending one of the women backward into the arms of a much younger gentleman and he miraculously caught her. The jovial nature of the crowd had us all asking if she was all right, she was apologizing profusely, the young man was making sure she was all right, and all were nervously reassuring her that we all make that mistake at some point. The commotion died down pretty quickly, but some ice had been broken. We heard her apologize once more and he said, “No, no don’t worry about it. I hope I didn’t squeeze you too tight.” This blue down coat covered, stocking cap wearing woman responded, “You didn’t squeeze hard enough,” and gave a wink that sent all into stitches.


  1. This is going to be SO fun to read! Thanks for doing this Joe and Joanne, and yes -- it will be a wonderful piece for you to have to remember and share with the kids too when they're older! I gave Melissa the link to read your blog too, as she was so excited to hear that you were at the inauguration!

  2. thanks for the great blog - great for the expats

    love l & f