I squished into the Metro this morning, trying desperately to get all the old (and yet very important to the fate of our country and who probably have Jack Bauer-esque lives even though they look like they might have a heart attack RIGHT THIS SECOND) men around me not to step on my toes. Flip flops are dangerous in crowded Metro cars, y’know.
The driver was making the cars go so fast that people could barely hang on to whatever they had managed to grab a hold of; we were jerking left and right, and the suits clung desperately to the handlebars and made accidental eye contact with each other (OH NOES! Metro Etiquette Rule 1: Do NOT acknowledge the people around you. The car should sound and feel like a cathedral mid-prayer. Or the detention hall. Heads down, books open or Blackerries engaged, absolutely NO TALKING.) I was pinned up against the door and I studiously avoided make eye contact too, but I couldn’t help snorting when it happened the first time. Dude next to me did too. I mean, seriously, we were getting flung around like a box of puppets on an airplane. Lucky for me I wasn’t perched on four-inch heels. (By the way, I saw my first successful execution of the wide-leg, high-waisted trousers this morning–kudos, random Asian girl on the train. You are the ONLY PERSON I’ve EVER seen pull that off. Seriously. A+.)
Anyway, this was my favorite driver, or at least the one I have to listen to most often… his voice is low and gravelly and everything he says gets drawn out about twice as long as normal: “This is the bluuueeeeliiiinnneeee tooo LaaargoTooowwwnnn Cennnterrrrrr…” I like to imagine that his name is Raphael, and in his normal life he speaks quite rapidly and clearly, saving all the drama for the train. He’s an actor part-time. I don’t want to believe that’s how he sounds all the time. His poor mother.
We stopped at the Pentagon and about a 100 people got out of the car, rushing to get off the metro and into their offices to save (or blow up) the world. I almost got pushed off onto the platform, but I clung to the rail and used my bag as a shield against the furious onslaught of suits and sensible heels. Wtf?? What is wrong with these people? This isn’t Roslyn; why is the Pentagon stop so popular today?
Then my eye caught the Examiner and I felt real, real stupid. Happy Patriot Day, everyone. Today’s a memorial (fyi, click that story, there’s a great blurb about father/son Buzz Lightyear fans surviving being stranded in the ocean), people haven’t forgotten the Pentagon, probably remember the World Trade Center, too, and the front page of the paper reads “SAFER?” for a good reason. (I didn’t read the story, so I don’t know if we’re actually safer, but if anyone knows they should tell me!)
I feel okay. Not as safe as I could feel, but hey, my toes were exposed and in significant danger of being stomped, and it’s hard to feel safe when that’s a real, tangible threat. I wonder what those editors must have nixed to get to that headline. “MORE SAFE?! SAFE!! DANGEROUS?! NOT SAFER?! LESS SAFE BUT STILL ALL RIGHT?!” Examiner editors have fun with puns, and I like to sneak peeks over peoples’ shoulders in the morning just to get a good look. Do it next time you’re bored on the train–it’s better than the crossword, man. Fun with words!
Anyway, I guess people in DC always feel a threat of some kind of danger hovering around them, and that’s why we all act so stupid quickly when ANYTHING happens. You get used to it after a while. You even get cynical. I’ve gotten used to it since Sept. 11 and since I started reading the news on a regular basis. When you live next to one of the most obvious targets in the country, you just learn to live your life with a certain sense of caution and try to have a little bit of awareness about what’s going on around you–other people in the country don’t live this way.
To be honest it feels a little bit like being one of the anonymous citizens in a comic book or something. You know shit’s happening, you look up in the sky and there is… some mysterious-looking airplane! And you don’t know what its mission is or why it’s there, but you have enough imagination and you’ve sneaked some 24 often enough that you can make something up, and feel once again like you live somewhere important… even though you’re an anonymous bystander. There’s a flurry of significant “will be in a historical fiction novel or Important Person memoir someday” type of activity around you, even on the Metro at 8 in the morning.
I can’t say Sept. 11 feels like a more dangerous day than any other, but it does make you think a little bit about where you were, where you live and what might happen. I remember where I was on September 11, but since I was about 16 and, needless to say, living through this tragedy in my formative years, I’ve grown up with these kinds of feelings. And been living in the DC bubble all the while. You get used to it.