It was recommended, when we visited Washington, D.C., that we stay in Arlington, Va. at a hotel close to a Metro Station and use public transit to visit the National Mall.
It was good advice.
And we took it.
We had exactly three nights and parts of three days for our visit. The other parts would be spent on the road. With that in mind, we were looking for a broad experience of the National Mall and environs.
And we got it.
Arriving in D.C. on an early Friday evening, we went directly to Arlington. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars. Hello, Capital Beltway. Yikes!
We hit the National Mall on Saturday.
We started by visiting our friendly concierge — who wasn’t so friendly, by the way — to ask about navigating Metro. We asked where to go. He directed us. We told him where we were getting off — the Smithsonian station — and asked questions about the process.
Some map-flapping and gesturing later, we were on our way.
Strolling out of the hotel, we hung a left and proceeded three blocks to the station, only to see a ribbon of yellow tape blocking the entrance to Metro and signage letting all the travelers in all the land know that this station would be closed for the weekend and a free shuttle bus would be taking us two stations up to board the Metro there.
I’m thinking a concierge ought to know that. That’s pretty basic information for guests visiting your area.
We shuffled over to the shuttle buses where local gendarmes and transit staff were shepherding transit riders.
When we arrived two stations up and disembarked, there were more transit staff greeting us cheerily with a Step right this way, folks. Enter here all who Metro ride.
Down the stairs we scampered to arrive at some of the most complex rider boards I’ve ever seen. I thought Toronto was complicated. I stood at a board blinking.
What route? How long? How much? Where’s the money slot? Is this one way? Return? Or what?
A knowledgeable and friendly transit person – thank the transit gods – sidled up and asked if I could use some assistance. Could I ever. The pain of concentration must have been showing on my face. I can’t think about it.
Short minutes later we were good to go. Zip. Boom. Bang.
We repeated this scene more than once.
The stations are very dark. It’s darksome down there. My imagination went clickety click.
The lighting from below, when you’re standing on the platforms, feels all futuristic and surreal, bordering on dystopian. I liked it.
It was efficient, and everyone I talked to was friendly. And I talked to a lot of people.
Are you going to such and such?
Is this the right train?
If I get off at _______, will I be ______ ?
Where are you from?
Is this train going to the Commonwealth of Virginia?
I love that. Commonwealth of Virginia. I could say that over and over again.
And I did.
Our first trip, we came up out of the bowels at the Smithsonian station. It was Saturday and raining, and they were setting up for the commencement ceremonies for George Washington University. So you know what weekend we were there.
Mr. G was in possession of a Metro ticket that somewhat dissolved in his pocket from the heat and humidity and rain. We managed to jam a ticket slot while going through a turnstile to access the train. Metro Staff didn’t even flinch. Not even when they had to use tools to open up the gear box and pry the remains out of its cold, gray gears.
The Metro took us where we needed to go each morning and deposited us back in the Commonwealth of Virginia each evening.
The shuttles were tick tock. The transit staff were ready, willing, and so able to assist. The local gendarmes, constabulary – the police, man – which I am unaccustomed to seeing in such numbers, were the same.
So thank you, Metro — aka the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority — for making our transit tour a great experience in spite of ourselves.