Friday, February 27, 2009

I went someplace. I came home. The end.

I don't have anything to write about today, so I'm just going to type. Something will occur to me. I'm writing a paper, so I think I've used up all the words I have. I could just not blog, but that's ridiculous, right? What's going on, what should I write about?

Here's something. I took the Metro today to meet a friend at a restaurant in Capitol Hill. Public transit usually is the mother lode of blogging material, but I was the only person on the train worth writing about, and that was because I reached dizzying heights of ineptitude taking what should have been a routine trip. I don't usually have any difficulty with the Metro. I get lost driving all the time, and that includes trips that I've taken more than once. The fact that I've driven someplace five times does not guarantee that I won't get lost on drive number six. But Metro is simple, as long as you remember a few basic rules. I violated the following two rules today:
Rule #1: Sometimes, it's NOT on the Red Line!
Rule #2: DON'T park in a Metro garage unless you're SURE you have enough money on your ironically-named Smarttrip card to pay for the parking as you leave the garage. This one is especially important.

Metro has a Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, and Orange line. 90% of my destinations are on or near the Red Line, and I'd always rather walk than change trains. It's been so long, in fact, since I've changed trains that I completely forgot that Capitol South is (see rule #1) NOT ON THE RED LINE. Normally, I'd get off at Union Station and walk, but I was running a tiny bit late, so I thought "Capitol South is a block away from the restaurant. I'll just stay on the train til Capitol South and walk so I'm not late". Just as the train pulled out of Union Station, I heard "next stop, Judiciary Square". Crap. Now I'm even farther away. My options are keep going to Metro Center, change trains (hate) and head back to Capitol South, walk from Judiciary Square (I'll be way late), or get off at Judiciary, cross the track and ride back to Union Station and walk (I'll still be late, but less so). I went back to Union Square and walked, having already texted my friend about my idiocy. Lunch lunch lunch, talk talk talk, time to go. This time, I took Capitol South and changed trains (still hate) because it was raining.

Did you know that when you purchase a (yeah, right) Smarttrip card, you're charged $5 just for the card? So $10 buys you $5 worth of actual service and $5 worth of plastic. You didn't know that, did you? I didn't either. I had a $10 card, and was even smart enough to use an old farecard to go home, because I was afraid I'd exceed $5.25 in fare because I'd ridden a few extra stops and because my trip would end after 3 pm, triggering peak fare. I'm brilliant, right? And if not for the $5 charge, I'd have been fine. But there WAS a $5 charge, meaning I had $2.85 left with which I had to pay $4.75 in parking. The parking exits are unattended. They don't accept cash. They don't accept credit cards. They don't take old Metro passes or farecards. You need to have four electronic dollars and seventy-five electronic cents loaded on your card, or you just can't get out.

When I flashed my card, I was still unaware of the $5 charge, so when I got the "negative value" message, I thought "silly. I have more than $7 on here! This exit must be experiencing technical difficulty!" Very luckily, it was only a few minutes past 3, and the exit was not busy. I backed out and pulled into the adjacent exit. "Negative value". Hmm, I thought. Is there something wrong with this card? I backed out and tried again. Several other cars had breezed through at this point, so it was either the card or me. I called the "if you're stuck, call this number" number, and spoke to a very nice man who explained the $5 charge. He dispatched another nice person who freed my car and me, and I drove home. The Metro stop is less than a mile away from my house, and I finished my trip without incident.

It's come to this, then. I'm blogging about a Metro trip gone mildly wrong and a parking incident. Maybe there's something to this crazy idea of blogging when you actually have something to write about.


Heather T said...

Did you know that even though SmartTrip cards cost $10 and show only a $5 balance, you can actually use them for train and bus fare until you have a negative $5 value? Really! I argued with the attendant over it one day. I was trying to leave the station at National and it denied me exit. When I checked the balance on the card, it said I had more than a -$5 balance. I said, how is it possible that I have more than a -$5 balance when it doesn't cost that much to travel between any two points in the system? Certainly it wouldn't have given me entrance into the system with a negative balance! Not so, she told me. Indeed, you can still use that card on Metrobuses and trains up until you exceed the -$5 balance.

So I've been carefully trying to use up the balance on my three extra cards until they all reach -$5.

Go figure. Why they didn't just give a $10 credit and stop you from using it when the balance reached $0 I'll never know. That's the nation's capital for you...

susan said...

Just goes to show if you write well you can write about anything and make it interesting.. even if it's the madness of trying to accomplish a simple thing in the modern world.

Lisa said...

Exactly what susan said, even though you lost me when you got to the part about the subtraction and mathy stuff.

And your tweet from the Metro cracked me up, missy!

FranIAm said...

I think I heard today that it is Obama's fault that the SmartCard is stupid. That and it is also his fault that you were not on the Red Line.


Oh you are too funny.

Can you be my twitter coach, I just do not get it.

CDP said...

Heather T--I had no idea! Well, at least I can use that to ride the train!

Susan--you're very kind. And that was exactly the point I was trying to make...sometimes, all of the modern conveniences that are alleged to make life easier make it infinitely more difficult.

Lisa--I cracked myself up with that, too, I'll readily admit.

Fran--It is Obama's fault on the Smarttrip card, but I blame Reid and Pelosi for the Red Line debacle. And I'll be happy to coach you; I'm one of those blind people who is always happy to lead the other blind people. Metaphorically speaking, that is.

Suze said...

That's silly that the card itself costs $5.00.

WendyB said...

I don't know....this was all new to me, so I was interested!

enc said...

^^Me too.

I don't care what anybody says, this Metro $5 card ripoff charge is fascinating. I hope to gollywogs that you are able to re-load that card now that you've paid the $5 for it.

CDP said...

Suze--I know, and they claim that there's a sign on the machine to inform purchasers, but I wonder if the sign required a magnifying device, because I didn't see it.

WendyB--thanks! Now, the next time you're here, you'll know to keep these two crucial rules in mind if you take the Metro!

enc--I hope so too. I don't mind SPENDING money but I hate LOSING it.

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