Tuesday, May 02, 2006

He said they have to order the red-brown floor tiles by the billions

Dan Tangherlini seems to be getting some good press of late. Reminds me that I never recapped the tour he personally provided for me a few weekends back…
Happy 30th Anniversary Metro! Ever wondered about the history of the DC Metro system? Ever wanted to know the stories behind the stops and what's coming up next? Spend a few hours wandering underground and learn little-known facts about the city's transportation network from Metro's interim general manager, Dan Tangherlini.
So read the website on the Cultural Tourism DC website about the walking tour of the Metro. It does not say that there will be hidden passages revealed or that you can make Gallery Place escalator closing announcements from the manager's booth or that you can go down on the tracks with a BB gun to shoot rats. Yet I expected all these things when I dragged my carcass out of bed into the rain assault on two Saturdays ago. (So did UN, for he was coincidentally there as well, but with the added discomfort of a heavily spirited Friday.) Tangherlini, tell your mates at Pepco to turn down the juice cuz I'm expecting to play chicken on that 3rd rail! No, scratch that! Leave the power on, stop the trains and lets play a giant game of Operation using BBQ grill meat tongs! And real buckets for the Water on the Knee piece! Zap!

Sadly, none of this was to pass. We started the tour at Metro Center, got a private train to drive us to Rhode Island and then worked our way back over the next hour. The group was so big that I didn't have any real idea of what was being said from where I was way in the back. I tried skirting the outer limits of the crowd, picking up various tidbits, but more often than not I was bested by the loud buses and trains that were driving around for some reason.

I learned no real "secrets" of the Metro,* though I do now know some trvial trivia that will wildly annoy anyone who is cursed enough to be on my same car. Like:
  • Cardoza High has started a mechanical engineering class that focuses on Metro escalator repair.
  • The manager's station design apes that of a tank's interior.
  • The longest escalator in the Western Hemisphere is the one at the Wheaton station. Though Dan said his favorite is at Dupont Circle.**
  • Each car is 75 feet long. Each platform is 600 feet long. Those 8 car orange line trains have a margin of error of 3 feet. Fortunately, robots drive the trains so it's not going to be a problem. The conductors are only there for emergencies, to close the door on my briefcase and sissy-slap french fries out of the hands of teenage girls.
  • And much more!
The only real eyebrow arching aspect of the tour was the 3 armed police-type men guarding us at all times and at all stops. The first two were too cool for school to tell me why they were there, but I was able to get a wry comment out of one. Actually conversation:

Us: Are you guys Tangherlini's security guards?
Them: No. I’m just here for the walking tour.
Us: Does he have a security detail?
Them: No, sir, there isn't anything like that.
Us: So no black SUVs picking him up each morning?
Them: No. He's still only the "interim" General Manager.

Most of the folks there had come out of the rain for the education afforded by such an opportunity but toward the end Tangherlini got bogged down with people who wanted to complain about various petty things: broken escalators, signage, the seemingly unnecessary complexity of his name’s spelling and pronunciation. I bailed at Judiciary Square and missed the demonstration of the fare card reader. (No pictures, by the way, trade secret.) Because we didn’t have to pay to get in, I jumped the far so my SmartTrip wouldn’t be confused. You know, ‘cause I love it when the gate won’t let you through and card reader says you have to go speak to the manager and he’ll attempt something witty/sarcastic like “It says here you never left Fort Totten” and you say “Yeah, I’m fucking Kreskin the magician.”

So all in all it was a pretty good tour, a once every 30 year event. I wanted to out annoy the people who were busting Tangherlini's apple bag over the escalator breakdowns so I interrupted them and asked if I could get a picture with the interim GM himself. The shaky girl who took the picture asked if I was a metro groupie but I told her I was just testing Tangherlini's security detail. I then inexplicaly dashed off the train just before the door closed, laughing hysterically.

You lose security detail!

*the only real secret I learned is that two of the players on my old co-ed Ultimate team who we all assumed were quietly hooking up were also on the tour and are now openly hooking up.

**the most uncomfortable escalator ride of my life happened at Dupont. After the last train of the night, I rode up three steps behind two young gentlemen who were very much in love. The smaller of the two was on the step higher facing his friend and loudly detailing what he planned to do when they got home. And he was nibbling on his pal’s ear. Indeed, it was as uncomfortable as you can imagine. But it was his constant attempts to establish/maintain eye contact and draw me into his conversation that had me willing the escalator to move faster. Skeeved? Definitely. Flattered? Of course.


Pelagius said...

I missed my chance to bitch about those slippery got-dammed tiles? Drat! Maybe in 2036.

To his credit, it appears that Tangerhlhinih has already made some substantive changes in the way Metro operates. I hope they keep him on.

Drew said...

"World's longest single span escalator" (508ft) seems like a suitably mundane claim to fame for Wheaton. In your face, Bethesda(475ft)!