Thursday, June 5, 2008

The People You Meet... and Avoid

As I learn my way around DC, I feel the need to constantly keep my guard up. I try not to look vulnerable when I make stupid mistakes - like waiting for the Metro to arrive for fifteen minutes, only to realize that I was waiting for the wrong train. That's what happened on Tuesday night. I was waiting for the Red Line to Glenmont. I live on the NW side of DC and Glenmont is Northeast in Maryland. So, I was on the right line, but headed in the opposite direction. And it took me a really long time to figure that out. So, when the wrong train arrived, I just joined the herd of people exiting that train, and walked inconspicuously over to the other side of the Metro station. I'm so smooth. It's not easy - I go to great lengths to look like I know where I'm going.

So, I may be smooth but my timing sucks. I was too late and had to wait another 15 minutes for my train. So, I walked to the other side and sat down on one of the two benches they kindly provide for their hundreds of thousands of customers each weekday. As I was reading my copy of Express (which I receive from a kind man in a bright yellow vest every morning) I had an eerie feeling like I was being watched. I looked up and saw a white haired old man in the middle of the station looking in my direction. I didn't feel threatened or anything like that - he was old and carried a cane. I think I could take him, but I would never have to, the station was very busy by this time. But I'm new to the city so I've always got my guard up.

I kept reading, but watching the old dude out of the corner of my eye. He was inching toward me ever-so-slowly. I look up, he's not moving, but he's looking right at me; I look away. I look up again and he's not moving, but he's a little bit closer and still looking right at me. It was kind of weird; like a senior citizen in stealth mode. Now I'm starting to get distracted from my paper b/c I'm thinking, "What is this guy's deal?" Is he a pervert? I'm leaning forward - is he looking down my shirt? Is he eyeballing my duffel bag? What? He keeps looking over at me!

While I was pretending to ignore him, he came up closer and was nearly standing right over me. It was time for a confrontation. He was about to invade my personal space.

I look up at him quickly and lock eyes to challenge him. I need to let him know I mean business. He speaks first: "Pardon me, but could you possibly move over a bit so I can sit down?"


How strange.

The man with a cane was actually just a physically handicapped person who wanted to sit down in a busy station. How was I to know??

This made me realize the extent of my hyper-awareness while I'm on my own out here. It's all about me. I was so busy trying to figure out what this guy was up to that I didn't even notice the obvious. I felt like a total jerk.

For now, I think I'm still better off in my hyper-aware state than to just assume every old man is just a nice but weary traveller in need of help. Once I feel confident that I know my way around I'll let my guard down a bit and perhaps stay out by myself later than 10pm. But while I'm still learning the bus schedule and the Metro lines, I'm afraid a few senior citizens may fall victim to my vigilance.


Anonymous said...

That story made me laugh! You should be a writer...the drama and details were great!

The whole time I was reading that, I kept thinking 'the old guy probably just wants to sit on one of the few benches' and sure enough!

Oh, and I agree that you shouldn't let your guard down yet either. Clinton, Iowa still scares me!

Angie said...

Constant vigilance-old people are shifty! He probably WAS sizing you caught him before he whapped you on the head with his cane and took your shiny plastic Metro card for his own nefarious uses. Yup.

BTW-figured out how to respond to your smart am I??

Kathleen said...

That settles it, Amanda you need to come out here and be my bodyguard. You can either a)Slap some sense into me or b)Slap some old guy. This will be on a case by case basis since I clearly have poor judgement in these situations.

I'm proud of you, Angie! BTW-I think I figured out how to allow anyone to respond to the blog rather than just registered users. One step closer to having my mom figure out how to do this!

Anonymous said...

This is your Mother! Joannie

I thaught I tought you better. You are to get off your duff and give an elderly with a cane YOUR seat. REMEMBER?

It could be your Grandmother.

Love you. MOM

Kathleen said...

Sorry mom. I promise I'll always give Grandma my seat on the Metro!