Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Counting our blessings

I have thought a bit about how to talk about what happened yesterday. It was a pretty crazy afternoon for both 2nd and me, but I also don't want to sound thoughtless of those less fortunate.

I suppose I should start by saying that, yes, 2nd takes the red line of the Metro home every workday. But she's alright, she was still several stations back at the time of the accident. Also, if I understand correctly, the accident involved two trains heading into the city, while she was leaving the city. Still, she got caught in the city with no easy way out. The red line closed, and though they were running shuttles to get Metro riders out of the city, Metro's efforts seem to have been less than efficient.

For my part, I take I-95 south to 495 (the capital beltway) to get home. Sometimes 95 gets slow, but I find it's much easier to get to 95 than 29 -- the parallel route home -- from where I work. Unfortunately, yesterday there was a semi-truck on fire right at the junction between 95 and 495, blocking all lanes of southbound traffic, regardless of the direction you intended to go at the junction. (I couldn't find a picture of that accident.) And since I was stuck about 1/4 mile from the junction, it must have happened just minutes ahead of me. If I have left work right at 5:00, instead of 5:10....

Anyway, I was stuck at a standstill in traffic for over an hour. It was right about the time that I came to a stop in this mess that I heard about the Metro crash. At first, details were sketchy or conflicting, so I did worry quite a bit about 2nd's safety. I was relieved when I could finally reach her on her cell phone. (Metro stations supposedly have Verizon coverage, but my experience is that there are many large dead zones.) After some time, we worked out a plan: I would get home and figure out how to get to the Rhodes Island Ave station, where she was dropped off, and I would come get her. She thought that would be easier and quicker than fighting for a spot on the infrequent and packed shuttles.

At long last, I got through the traffic, but only after the fire was out cold, and only then via single-file on the shoulder. (Oh, I also watched a driver right next to me get sick and repeatedly vomit out his car door. Nice.) In total, yesterday's commute took triple my usual time. Then I mapped out a path to the Rhodes Island Ave station -- taking New Hampshire into the city, left on North Capitol, and finally left on Rhodes Island. Thinking I was fully prepared, I set out.

It was going smoothly until I saw a lot of emergency vehicles blocking New Hampshire. Ugh. Great. I hadn't checked my route, but apparently it took me right past the Metro collision site. Idiot.

So I diverted to -- as near as I could determine, being unfamiliar with the city -- a parallel route. I was really very worried that I would become lost in this sprawling city and have to stop and get directions. I don't know if my worry was more for my safety or my masculine pride, but I really didn't want to do it. Here I am, still trying to fumble my way to the right spot to pick up my wife, and I see a shuttle packed like sardines! That must be it! If I just head in the direction it was coming from....

And there's a sign directing me to the station! My safety and pride are reassured! This day, this macho man was able to chart a path quickly and spontaneously through an unfamiliar urban maze to provide for his woman. And I was even able to chart a way back home. Yeah, I'm good.

Things worked out for us in the end. Unfortunately, others didn't have our luck. This is where this post gets hard. Some people were chosen seemingly randomly yesterday to suffer this terrible accident. It's the worst in the history of Metro. Doubtless there are and will be good people to help and comfort those who are in need. I don't know how to do so, and I don't personally know anyone affected, so all I can do is pray that they are comforted according to their needs.