Wednesday, July 6, 2011

OT: Tips for Tourists; Part 1: Metro

The Dalai Lama is in town for the next 11 days. I think it's kind of funny since I'm feeling especially stabby this week. Since his holiness preaches love and helping each other, I've decided to take my stabby-ness and hopefully turn it into something more productive. With the influx of locusts invading tourists visiting the nation's capital for whatever reason - be it Dalai Lamas, field trips, masochism, or National Treasure/Lost Symbol theme tours - here are some tips to help you avoid angering the locals.

Riding Metro
The DC metro is one of the cleanest and easiest to navigate systems in the country. Those are pretty much the only two good things about it. Washingtonians have a love/hate relationship with our metro system. Its frequent rate hikes, escalators of death, and continuous track work are a constant source of grumbling for all who have to come in contact with the 30-something year old system. Unfortunately, it is the only alternative to the snarl of traffic and construction work that plague the area (more on that later). A few hints to make your ride more pleasurable:
Yes. Seriously.
  • Escalators: Stand right, walk left. This unwritten rule of escalators often spills over into malls and other buildings, but it's most strict in the metro. For many DC denizens, scaling the often stopped moving stairs is part of a daily workout regimen. You can still talk to your group-mates when standing in a line along the right side - trust me, I've done it many times! If you decide to stand on the left, be prepared for locals to sometimes give a polite "excuse me," and don't give them trouble lest you want a laptop bag shaped bruise on your arm.
  • Train doors: You'll hear it a million times: Metro doors are NOT like elevator doors, they will not bounce open when obstructed. If you put your bag in the way, hoping to get everyone in your party on the train, say goodbye to that bag, and maybe your arm. I hope you didn't have an iPod or smartphone in that bag - it belongs to the teens of DC now! But seriously, trying to jam them open will break them and put that train out of service. If that happens, everyone on the platform will shank you!
  • Getting on and off: along the same lines, if you have a big group of people trying to get onto the train together, don't try to all get in one door. People are going to be coming out, and chances are the "door closing" chime will ring immediately after those doors open. Each train car has THREE sets of doors. Spread out. It's nicer for everyone
  • Typical rush hour
  • Times: PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING HOLY DO NOT RIDE DURING RUSH HOUR! Trust me, better for all involved. Locals won't be cranky and stabby when they get to work/home, and you'll save money by avoiding the peak and peak of the peak (seriously - that's a thing) fare periods.
  • Other rules: Don't eat/drink on Metro. It's an arrestable offense. Really. Seriously; Avoid the Red Line when possible. There's no reason you should be on it unless you're visiting someone in Maryland - and why in hell would you want to do that?; Do your research beforehand. Surprisingly, is actually fairly well put-together and has a lot of information. Get to know the train routes, the fares and the areas around the stations.
For other Metro tips and all-around metro shenanigans, follow @fixwmata and/or @unsuckdcmetro on twitter. You can also follow @metroopensdoors, but there's not much on there. Who knows, someone might catch you in the act of doing something stupid great and your picture could end up immortalized in the annals of the twitterverse!

I've decided to go ahead and break this up into a series. Be on the look out for Part 2 coming soon!

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