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In October 2007, I posted The Verizon Monopoly in the Bowels of the Metro System. At that time I had only lived in the Washington DC Metro area for a year. Being an avid techie and blogger, I was greatly surprised and frustrated, spending over 30 minutes of my commute unable to check email or surf the Web whatsoever, because I owned an AT&T phone (I'm sure I'm not the only iPhone user who has long bemoaned the lack of mobile service provider options in the D.C. subway system).

A breakthrough has finally come. Just today I read Rob Pegoraro's Faster Forward column in the Washington Post and came across Metro Opening D.C. Subway to Wireless Choice.

All I can say is, "It's about damn time!"

I lost my iPhone on the Metro train commute in this morning, a little after 9 a.m., somewhere on either the Green Line or Yellow Line, between Greenbelt, MD, and the Pentagon.

I think there will be little luck in finding it. I feel sick to my stomach, because, in my current financial situation, I cannot afford another. And either stupid Apple, or AT&T -- one -- does not offer any type of insurance on this type of phone.

But, hey, even if someone can't use my service, they just got a free iPod, at least. I am sick to death. I feel like having funeral services.

To give myself some amount of hope, I placed a request with the Metro's Lost and Found online, and I alerted the Pentagon Lost and Found. Then, I placed this ad on Kiiji and Craigslist today, as well as a mention on Twitter and in this blog:

Lost Apple iPhone. PLEASE help. I cannot afford another, and it's my only phone line. I lost it around 9 a.m. on either the Green Line toward Branch Ave., originating from where I got on at Greenbelt, or on the Yellow Line between L'Enfant and the Pentagon, or in the Pentagon or L'Enfant Stations. Got into work, and it was gone, and it's my link to life itself. I'll even pay a small reward.

It's a hacked one, so you'll see that it's full of icons for applications on the screen. I can identify it by the photos of myself in the phone. 

P.S. I doubt I'll ever see it again. But, if you are a good Samaritan, please email me at Ecrivaine32 at Gmail.com. Many thanks!!!


A Stranger's Morning Greeting

One morning this week, I had an odd reality shifting moment. I was about to disembark from the train at my station to head up the escalator and to my office five minutes away. The train was nearing the stop.
I looked to my right, and standing a couple of feet from me, was a Latino man, scruffily dressed, fairly rough expression on his face, a stern demeanor.
For no reason whatsoever, just before the doors opened, he suddenly spoke to me.
"Have a good day, Ma'am," he said with a slight smile. Nothing else, no expectation, just a simple statement from a complete stranger.
I smiled in return and thanked him.
I hadn't really been in the best of moods. Traffic, as usual, had been hectic.
That was it. Silence trailed behind us.
Somehow his kind, brief gesture pulled me out of my rumination and made me ponder the world outside myself, as if an angel in disguise were calling for my attention.
Yesterday, standing in a hectic Metro station, my nerves raw after being lost, then diverted via a city bus, along with a confused gathering of people, following the closing of the train station (a fire, they said) I usually take home each day. Frustrated, aching to reach home, finally near reaching the last leg of the voyage as I waited for the Green Line to Greenbelt to slide into view. Feeling like I was having a bad dream.
Just then, a child's playful spirit shone through.
As a Metro employee stood there beside the walkway next to the tracks, in his telltale orange vest, straining to deal with the logistics left over, courteously advising weary travelers without a clue... A black boy of about 3 years old, curious and oblivious to the tumult around him, asked, "Mister, did you go trick-or-treating?" I smiled at the little guy who probably thought the worker looked like a human pumpkin, emblazoned as he was, against the drudgery of the masses -- an enlightening moment during an evening of delays.

Monday afternoon, I was on the Metro Green Line, and a young black lady seated beside me made a concerted effort to get the attention of an elderly white lady who had stepped onto the train. My seatmate had a tough, hard look about her, so her gesture caught me completely off guard. 

The younger lady spoke briefly and directly, asking her if she would like to take her place in the seat. The older woman smiled and politely declined, saying that she was getting off at the next stop anyway. 

It was my fault in reading a facial expression and quickly assuming I knew all there was to know. People can surprise us.

Recently, having become a huge advocate of a simple little book with a profound message called Choosing Civility, I smiled. 'How refreshing to see people reach out with such acts of civility,' I thought - not just the usual ordinary polite responses, like "pardon me" or "excuse me," but truly thinking outside of their own personal boundaries to see how they might take a moment to accommodate another traveling soul on their weary journey. 

A guy who sat next to me on the Metro’s Green Line train this morning was reading a Jewish book called Halakhic Man.

I know this, because I had first caught him trying to get a glimpse of the book I was reading. I smiled, since I also regularly eavesdrop during the daily commute to see what others are reading. It’s a harmless pursuit, and a good way to randomly come up with new book suggestions. I held my copy of Choosing Civility, by P.M. Forni, up for him to see before I politely asked him what he was reading. He later smiled as I scribbled furiously in my favorite small, black hard-cover Moleskine journal and commented, “You take a lot of notes.”

And that I do. I truly feel that I do not enjoy most books I read, unless I can capture their essence through contemplation and the process of writing down how they personally “speak” to me through their words. This allows me to keep what I’ve gleaned from the book, long after I’ve returned it to the library. Of course, this means I don’t get that many of them read during the year. But that’s okay, since I’m after quality and not quantity anyway.

I do read the occasional fictional novel for fun or escape, but I generally prefer to sink my teeth into a book that adds some value to my life through personal growth or education. Choosing Civility is that kind of book for me. It's short but thoughtful and could be applicable to anyone's life, in any time, any social class. 

I think this is a book whose time has come though, especially when one of the popularly picked-up-on headlines of the day today on Digg was Sick of Waiting for an Install, 75-Year-Old Woman Smashes Up Comcast Office With Hammer. (If you're not familiar with Comcast, an Internet, phone and cable service provider, consider yourself lucky.)

Yeah, maybe the chapter on restraint as it applies to civility could have done wonders for her.

Or not. 

Other than that, I overheard a couple of (possibly) gay guys discussing an upcoming camping trip somewhere that will include 25 people. One guy expressed a quandary over whether he should take the highway or the “over-the-river-and-through-the-woods” scenic route through West Virginia. The other guy said this guy's little car might "scream" over the more challenging country route, but seemed to imply that it might be worth the trip to take the opportunity. 
There was a 15-minute lag between the time the Yellow Line train normally arrives at Mount Vernon's Metrorail station and when it arrived today. At least this was how it seemed to my bleary-eyed, caffeine-deficient perception.

I sat down and waited in frustration on the cold concrete bench, which was mostly surrounded by four black Metro employees gabbing away, three women and one guy. Their conversation centered on Jay Holiday, apparently a hot new music artist. I used to keep up on all of that stuff, but I lost interest somewhere around the time Fat Joe had his single, "What's Luv?"

When asked if she was going to pick up his new cd, one girl laughed, as if paying full price was for dummies. She said of course she was going to get it bootleg for two bucks from some guy who dealt in these cheaper versions of albums.

"Y'all Jewish?" the guy asked loudly, bordering on humor, in response.

The banter went on to include such pressing topics as Kentucky Fried Chicken versus Popeye's, and what days each fast food place had the best deals going.

One gal approved of KFC, adding, "That joint is what's up when you're broke and hungry!"

The gal bragged about her finds at the farmer's market "on 5th Street," saying it was the place to get things, like cheap long johns in bulk for the winter (which she then could sell for a better price later on during the season to someone in need of a pair). She said she once bought a machete there that you could loop onto your belt for only 4 bucks.

"It was THIS BIG!"

She raved to another girl about a hair warehouse near the farmer's market.

Then, one of them exclaimed, "Oh my gosh, this is the third Branch (Green Line to Branch Avenue train) in a row!" Her statement of disbelief echoed my own thoughts, as I was already watching the clock, feeling anxious about moving forward to get to work.

Eventually, I stepped onto the Yellow Line, grateful to get going on this heavy-lidded, foggy DC day.
I wish they would pass legislation, or whatever they need to do, to make the areas of the Metro that are underground cell phone-accessible to subscribers of ALL mobile plans. Currently, only Verizon users can make calls here, because, as I've heard, Verizon basically holds "a monopoly on the signal repeaters" available.

I've also heard a couple of times that lobbyists are trying to change this, especially in the name of Homeland Security, but I've not seen or read anything concrete as to this being in the works anytime soon.

That's why sometimes, secretly, when I do see someone chattering loudly on his or her mobile, in the midst of a pressing conversation deep in the bowels of the Washington, D.C., public transit system...when their call suddenly drops...I feel a tad smug.

"Hello? Hello?" they call out into the airwaves of an impotent network, as if they are mystified that a cell phone could ever lose service beneath layers of concrete.

I know it's not right to feel this way, but that's when I settle back into my seat in complacency, just another thankless AT&T customer who is stripped of the opportunity to communicate in this area of the District. 

P.S. I'm not the only one who cares about this, as evidenced by the many results I can pull up for "Verizon monopoly" AND "Metro DC" in Google.
The other day, as I was reading my free copy of the Express (a condensed sampling of what's in each day's Washington Post), I spotted a photo of one of the newspaper distributors from one of the Metro stations with some text explaining why he had been highlighted. It turns out that Express takes nominations from its readers to help showcase these employees that stand out at their jobs.

I immediately knew who I would nominate. I knew the face well. However, although he wears a nametag, I realized I didn't even know the name of the nice guy who hands me my selection of news every day.

Today, I took the time to quickly look and put it to memory, and when I got to work, I looked up the email address to which to send these nominations. Here's what I wrote:

"I moved to the Washington, DC, area, for the first time one year ago. I commute in daily to the Pentagon via the Green Line from Greenbelt, and I enjoy reading the Express paper. I would like to nominate David, the smiling face who has greeted me kindly, rain or shine, with a copy of the paper every day since I began taking that train. Although he is expected to employ courtesy, I'm sure, per his job description, he does it in a way that goes much further, with real warmth and personality. I would like to nominate David for going that extra mile and bringing a smile to my face in return, as well as keeping me informed along the way."

I hope to soon see him featured in a copy of the Express. I'm not sure if he really gets any compensation from this, or if he even cares, but he really does deserve to be recognized for doing the same thing day in, day out, and maintaining such a positive demeanor.

I've always believed the smallest connections we have with others matter and can easily put either a shine to or a damper on our days. Everyone makes a difference to someone else, whether they are the postman that brings an urgent letter, the grocery store clerk who makes a point to smile when she checks out our goods, or the police officer who saves someone's life.


Metrorail station Washington DC

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March 2009


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