The worst possible time to block up the escalator

Attention, clueless teenagers using the Washington Metro system:

When the Red Line is so delayed at evening rush hour that the entire platform at Metro Center is packed like Wal-Mart on Black Friday from end to end, and with no relief in sight…DO NOT STAND ON THE LEFT SIDE of the escalator leading up to the street. It’s rude at the best of times, but when ugly shit is happening…you’d best get your ass out of my way. I WILL NOT politely ease around you, and I WILL use foul language in your direction.

Commuting, happiness, and incomplete statistics

Jonah Lehrer points out that the big house in the boonies isn’t worth it:

According to the calculations of Frey and Stutzer, a person with a one-hour commute has to earn 40 percent more money to be as satisfied with life as someone who walks to the office. Another study, led by Daniel Kahneman and the economist Alan Krueger, surveyed nine hundred working women in Texas and found that commuting was, by far, the least pleasurable part of their day.

I hear him; a significant part of my job search is in making sure the employers are reachable by mass transit. Driving a half hour each way was bad enough; the thought of spending 90 minutes per day on the road makes me wince.

Which makes me wonder if these studies made a distinction between commuting by car and taking the subway; I like to think that sitting on the Metro for two hours a day is less hellish than spending the same amount of time behind the wheel, but does that bear out in research? A Metro rider, for example, has considerably less responsibility than a driver, less risk of collision, and can spend that time reading, listening to music and possibly writing (if the train isn’t too crowded) rather than concentrating on the road. OTOH, the other commuters on Metro provide constant fodder for annoyance.

Then again, these studies were obviously not done on people like me. I will probably never be able to afford even a 3-bedroom apartment in the mid-suburbs, much less the same space in the middle of the nearby city or a 5-bedroom McMansion in the exurbs. Lehrer’s citations suggest that I’d be happier if I rented an apartment in the middle of the city and walked to work, and all things being equal, he’d probably be right, but have you seen the housing market in the District of Columbia? The most I can reasonably expect to afford is an efficiency the size of my ass in a neighborhood where I’d need to carry pepper spray and walk with a German Shepherd. A little one-bedroom cave here in the mid-suburbs is probably the best compromise I can make. Something tells me Ap Dijksterhuis chose test subjects from a much more affordable area.

Metro Etiquette for the Weekend

When you’re getting on the train…you let the passengers get OUT of the car before you get IN.

See what I mean? Out first, in second. Can you picture how that works? See how much more efficient that is than plowing through the doors and forcing the disembarking passengers to squeeze around you?

Yes, self-absorbed jerks at DuPont Circle on Friday evening, this DOES apply to you. Were you raised by wolves?!

Metro Etiquette for the day

Attention, 50something white man on Red Line:

I know it is annoying to see empty seats in the subway car when you can just barely sardine yourself in before the doors close at Metro Center. I know how you feel.


Unless you are wearing a uniform provided by either the WMATA or the DC Police Department, you do NOT get to tell people in other parts of the car to sit down. You do not know why those people are not filling those seats, and you do not have the authority to give us instructions. If there is free space in the aisle, you may ask (politely) the other sardines to scooch themselves in a bit further so that you can stand clear of the doors. (Alternatively, you can stand on the platform for a few more minutes and wait for another train.) If you take it upon yourself to tell your fellow passengers how to arrange themselves while the train moves between what are probably the two busiest stations in the Metro system, a braver soul than I am will tell you where to get off, and no one will intervene on your behalf.