There are some unwritten but pretty crucial rules to riding the metro. I'm fairly certain I haven't learned them all yet, but I hold to the ones I have learned. I've come to appreciate the boundaries firmly established by unwritten rules of mass-transit. Things like, if you are standing by the door of a crowded train when it stops, even if it's not your stop, step out to let others off and then come right back in. You don't need to ask to sit next to someone, just take the empty seat and try not to elbow them in the process. Excessive eye-contact is inappropriate, in fact any eye-contact is inappropriate but we forgive each other brief glances as long as we look away fast. Most importantly, though, the most important rule of the metro is to simply NOT be a CREEP. Simple, right? Wrong. Apparently, at least for some people, this is a real challenge.
There was no free seat. Which is fine, because there rarely is a free seat when I'm running late as I was that day. So I stood, leaning against the side of the train, my iPod gently pouring Aaron Copeland into my ears while I drifted in and out of full consciousness. That's what I love about mass transit: you don't have to be awake to get to work. And generally, I take advantage of that fact pretty well. This day, though, something kept me semi-alert. Honestly, there is no reason for that guy to be staring at me so much. He has now surpassed the "look away fast" limit and is boldly venturing into territory reserved only for the mentally handicapped and the extremely creepy. Folks, this could get ugly.
But, you know, it's kind of a crowded train, so I just move a bit. Put some people between us and relax again, let my consciousness wander into....wait, what the heck? did he just move too? Really? He feels so compelled to stare at a semi-conscious fellow traveler that he gets out of his seat? Code orange, people, we have a code orange.
And now I'm kinda cranky, because this is officially encroaching on my nap time. I take my commute seriously, I love that extra 45 minutes of shut eye. And this jerk is about find out just what 6'1" of pissed off post-India Cathlin looks like. I'll give you a hint: she isn't cuddly.
Luckily for him, he's sane enough not to try to get any closer. He's just standing there, staring at me. Like a total nut job. And I'm thinking: How PC is it to kick a man in a train in America? Because it totally made my day in India.
"This is Foggy Bottom, George Washington University, doors opening on the left." Perfect. See you later, crazy face, this is my stop and I'm taking it. But I must have smushed a whole colony of ants in a past life because Karma obviously has it in for me. I get like ten steps from the train before I feel his hand on my shoulder and hear his voice saying "Good morning! It is so nice to see you today!".
Stop. Turn. Utilize full height. Glare. "Do I know you?"
"You have made this day beautiful because you are beautiful. Goodbye beautiful!" And he's gone.
What the WHAT? Listen buddy, I don't know what you're smoking, but at 7:45am I don't even make my own day beautiful, let alone anyone else's. Whatever though, he's gone and I'm late for work. I'll just log that away under "Could have been so much worse". Because, of course, it does get worse.
Ironically, there is a seat open the next time. And when providence hands you an open seat on the metro, you take it. The iPod is in, the train is gently rocking, eyes are closed, and we're off to dream land. Or we would be, if friendly passenger next to me would stop poking me. Ok fine, he's probably new and wants to know how to get to the Lincoln Memorial or something. So I open my eyes and glance at him, quirking an eyebrow to communicate "Can I help you?" because, honestly, it's not even 8am and I haven't got the energy for complete sentences yet.
"Can I show you something?" he says. And he tilts his iPhone toward me. And there on that otherwise harmless device he has so cleverly written
You have beautiful eyes. Please don't close them.
Oh, brother! Really? Did I have to sit next to a serial killer today? Look, I know you probably have a set time frame and all, but I'm kind of busy today. Could we reschedule the rape and murder thing for another time? Cuz today just doesn't work for me.
And honestly, that was my internal reaction. Not creeped out. Not scared. Just annoyed at the prospect of being killed on a Tuesday. Because, obviously that's what's going to happen. That's what always happens. I've read the books people. I know these things.
On the outside I only really have the energy to say "Ugg, I'm tired. Just back off okay?" And then I put my earbuds back in and close my "beautiful eyes" because it's 7:43 in the morning and I'M TIRED!
But, as previously established, he's crazy. So he taps me again. This time he wants to talk to me about what I do here, how long I've lived in DC. And I'm SO not into conversations with serial killers. That doesn't seem to bother him though. When I don't answer he just guesses. And then he tells me all about himself too, because obviously the girl who is leaning away from you, cranking up the volume on her mp3 player, and looking the other way REALLY wants to hear about it. He graduated from GW, (where he obviously got a minor in creepy public transit come-ons). And now he works at the World Bank, when he isn't annoying innocent commuters that is.
But then he makes a tactical error. He asks me the one question you should never ask someone like me.
"What is your religion?"
That, my friend, was a serious mistake. See, he thinks asking a question like that will either draw me out (because religion is a safe topic right?) or push the creep out level to whole new heights. Little does he know. Now we are entering my territory, buddy. Because when it comes to religion I'm really good at creepy. Really, really creepy. Prepare to be creeped out. My veins quickly fill with the adrenaline of a hardened RM, I can feel my fingers slide into the "I really care about your soul" position, and I let my face radiate the scary "I've got your answer right here" look that turns even strong stomachs and closes even the politest doors. You asked for it, buddy, and here it comes.
I. Am. Mormon.
That's right! Those crazy, polygamist, Jo Smith worshiping, magic panties wearing FREAK SHOWS? Those are my peeps! Do you wanna hear about it? Do ya? Cuz I'll tell you, dude, I'll tell you.
And he murmurs something about Mitt Romney, but there is no way I'm giving him the upper hand now. I've got my "Won't you try my jello salad?" smile pasted firmly on my face and I WILL launch into the first discussion, pal. You want that in English or Spanish? Cuz I can do both, buddy. And if you don't shut it down, I so totally will.
And you know what? At that point he suddenly realized he had to get off the train sooner. Huh. Bummer. I was about to open with a Hymn. I'll just file that under "Reasons I'm glad my religion is freak-tastic".
But they always come in threes, don't they?
The bus is rapidly surpassing the train as my favorite part of the commute. For starters, I always get a seat on the bus. For another, the seats are more comfortable and therefore more conducive to the main purpose of my morning travel time: snoozing. And boy, can I sure snooze on a bus.
So the bus comes as per usual, and I climb aboard as per usual. I flash a weak smile at the same bus driver I see every AM at about this time, swipe my metro-card, and head for the back of the bus where I'll get more leg room. I'm about two rows from my usual seat when he gets my attention. He's seated on a row by himself, grinning at me and waving his arms. I can't be sure what he said to me just then, I silence my iPod for no man at this hour of the day. So I just glance at him to let him know I heard him, give him a chance to realize I'm not whatever girl he is mistaking me for, and convey the "not gonna happen, loser" impression that is now the crux of any interaction between us. Just to be on the safe side, I sit as far to the back as I can and put my bags on the seat next to me, blocking me off from all human interaction for the next 15 min. I love people, I really do. After about 8:30am I totally love them. Before that, well, let's just say I prefer to pretend they don't exist.
And of course, he gets up and switches seats so now he's sitting directly across from me. Awesome.
But I'm ignoring him, of course. Blocked off from all sights and sounds I'm determined to get that extra 15 minutes of sleep this morning, so help me. That's about when he started trying to kick my foot. I caught it out of the corner of my eyes that were almost but not quite fully closed. Ok, simple, I'll just tuck my feet under my seat and out of his reach. Fine, whatever, let me sleep.
And then I feel his hand on my leg.
WHAT THE FRACK YOU TOTAL PSYCOPATH?! So of course I jerk violently, open my eyes, and proceed to suck the life out of him with my homicidal glare. I officially hate this man. I don't know him, I don't want to know him. But I hate him. Oh, do I hate him.
And he chuckles awkwardly, sitting back again, unsure of how to proceed now that I look less like a drowsy commuter and more like an Amazon out for blood. Yep, it's official. He's a dead man.
Or he would be, if it weren't for the other passengers. We've just reached the busiest stop on the route and four more people climb aboard and fill in the seats around crazy-dead-man and I. One woman casually sits down next to him, opens a paper, and crosses her legs. I don't know if she did it on purpose or not, but she just totally cut off his visual of me. I official love this woman. I don't know her, I don't want to know her. But I love her.
Only a few more stops and we reach the train station where I'll transfer to the orange line on the last leg of my daily commute. When the bus stops I get up quickly, gathering my things and moving away without looking in the general direction of loser-face again. But there is a pause between the songs in my iPod and I hear him as I step down off the bus.
Seriously, the next time some dude calls me beautiful, I'm going to vomit on his shoes.