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Monday, April 4, 2011

Heroes and Goats

Arrived at Pentagon Metro on a Sunday night at 11:35 expecting to catch the last 7 bus south toward Lincolnia, 20 minutes walk from the new digs. The printed schedule at the bus stand in front of the Pentagon said it was scheduled for 12:13 AM Monday morning. As the escalator surfaced, I could see a bus exiting the stand, with route designation TTT, usually a training bus, and destination marked the Pentagon, carrying passengers. The electronic signs which give the arrival time for the next bus said to expect another southbound bus in 62 minutes, which drew complaints from the other 20 or so passengers expecting a ride home. Grumbling gave way to milling about the bus ranks in front of the Pentagon. A DOD policeman pulled up to a dreadlocked black guy in his early 20s pedaling back and forth on a BMX bike he must have gotten for his 13th birthday or thereabouts and ordered him to stop riding back and forth A mom and her 10 year old son hunkered down in lone seating at the next bus stand up, while folks paced, smoked cigarettes, and played with the audio information system meant to inform blind passengers when the next bus was coming

62 minutes came and went, and no 7 bus came. The Pentagon cops gave another person on a larger bike the evil eye until he got on the last 16 bus, heading to an endpoint in Culmore, 5 miles to the north and east of where the 7 bus went. A lady who had been nervously tapping away at her smartphone went to ask a Pentagon cop something or another, and disappeared into the night, in the direction of clouds that every few minutes or so flashed lightning. 20 Minutes after she left, I walked up to one of the Pentagon Police cars.

"Officer, I understand you aren't to be trifled with, but there are about 15 folks waiting up by the 7 bus stand waiting for the bus. It was supposed to be here half an hour ago, but hasn't made it yet. Could you get in touch with the Transit Police and let them know?" I asked.

He said he would. On the way back to the stand, I saw a sign meant for subway passengers to call 202 962 1825 if there was a problem with escalators or to request shuttle service. So I called to try and reach the bus garage, to have them send out another bus, or locate the one that was now a solid hour late. The person on the other end of the line patiently explained that no matter how late the bus was, it if was the last bus, then it had to do its run, and" It should be there in the next 15 or 20 minutes, okay?"

"No, it isn't OK, bu I guess I have to accept it, don't I?"

"A supervisor will be sent to your location but he's currently handling another incident"

20 more minutes passed, and some of the crowd remembered they had cabfare and walked off the Pentagon grounds to nearby hotels with taxi ranks. The dreadlocked guy on the BMX bike noticed a box truck with Metro markings, and asked the driver if he were a bus supervisor, He wasn't but gave the direct number for the bus supervisor's office, 202 962 1811. The dreadlocked guy got the same runaround I had gotten, that the last run's driver had to make the run, but a supervisor would be on the way after they handled the mystery incident elsewhere.

20 minutes after that, the dreadlocked guy rode off on his BMX bike, braving the dangers of I 395 southbound or the harrassmental police of surrounding Arlington County, Virginia to get to his destination near the end of the 7 bus's route.

10 minutes after that the box truck driver asked if anyone had responded while he was working on the elevators in the subway station. They hadn't, and when it turned out box truck guy again, I called 962 1811 again. A nice lady said that the supervisor had finished dealing with the incident and were en route to the Pentagon, and should be there in 10 minutes.

"sure hope so, it's getting colder out here, and i really don't want to go to a DOD lockdown for loitering. "
"Yeah, what happened to the spring weather we were supposed to get?"

"I think it got ganked along with the bus that was supposed to be here at 12:13 or 12:31 or 12:41 or whenever it was supposed to get here. " I told the nice lady.

"You got jokes", she said, " at least we're blessed not to have a tsunami like the people in Japan"

"Yeah, and here we are in front of the folks who are supposed to keep us from having any kind of nuclear disaster. Just hope that fault down near St. Louis doesn't knock out the cooling system of any nuclear plants around here. You can't fight Mother Nature when she gets in a mood. "

We said pleasant goodnights as I had to preserve the battery on the cell phone. 10 minutes later not one but 5 SUVs full of Metro bus supervisors showed up. The crowd of 20 had thinned out to just me. The lead supervisor explained that the bus I had seen leaving with the training markings and the wrong destination sign back at 11:35, three hours ago, was already late for its second to last run, and when the driver got to the end of the line, she just arbitrarily decided that was her last run period.

"You folks sent out the cavalry, man!"

" If she doesn't wanna drive her last run, she's not going to be driving for us any more"

" Well I didn't mean to cause any trouble, just you had a bunch of people waiting for the bus and it should have come when it was supposed to."

So a little before 3 AM Monday morning I made it home two and a half hours after expected - no 20 minute walk from the end of the 7 bus line, courtesy of the least senior of 5 bus supervisors who showed up. The driver who was supposed to show up is going to feel like a goat, as 5 supervisors are now gunning for her job. Even if they came better late than never, you'd have to call Metro's bus supervisors the hero of this messy little tale.

All I wanted was to stay a little later at the Sunday night meditation circle. Who knew that would be almost too much to ask?

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