The Fallenposters Blog

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Metro Observation #4

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metro-station.jpgI’ve been curious as to how people sleep on the Metro. I’ve never managed to pull off this feat myself, mainly due to fear and paranoia, not because of the noise. In fact, the noise is fairly soothing. If I would let myself, I would probably let the soft clanking of the train lull me to sleep. And if I’m with my wife, I’ll go ahead and let myself go. But if I’m by myself on the Metro (which is most of the time), then I can’t let myself fall asleep. It mainly has to do with my fear of missing my stop. If I’m asleep, then how do I know when to wake up at the correct stop? The operators mumbling the names of the stations over the loudspeaker wouldn’t be enough to wake me up. Even if I am awake, I can barely discern what is being said over the loudspeaker. Normally, I rely on looking out of the window to see the station name at each stop to know where I am. And if I’m semi-unconscious, then how would I be able to see my station name? I’d probably wake up frightened and confused, in the place where they keep the trains overnight when they aren’t running, desperately looking for the camera telling me I’m on America’s Funniest Home Videos.

On Monday night, there was this one guy that was dead to the world. I actually couldn’t tell if he was dead or sleeping. He was sprawled out over the seat, head tilted back and leaning against the window. Mouth agape and eyes shut and completely still, I wasn’t sure if I should let him be or check his pulse. Everyone else on the crowded train seemed to not be bothered by this gentleman. And being the kind of guy I am, I went with the flow. He must be alive. Otherwise someone would have moved him. If anything, at least to take his seat.

So I turned back around to avoid staring at him my entire train ride. Once I arrived at my destination, I looked back to see if this guy was still there, and behold, he wasn’t! The coroner must have arrived and taken his body away to the morgue to determine his cause of death while I wasn’t looking. While performing the autopsy, the examiner would ask, “Why didn’t anyone help this man?” Newspaper articles would spring up and news exposés would haunt the television. “I wasn’t on that train,” one interviewee would respond. “But if I was, I would have done something.” The Metro would get stigmatized as being unsafe and Metro riders would be blamed for being negligent and apathetic. Tourists would quit using the system on the weekends to avoid being “killed and left for dead while others idly kept to their Blackberrys,” as one tabloid would state.

I’m obviously just exaggerating. The guy probably just woke up at his stop and got off the train while I wasn’t looking. But how did he know when to wake up and get off? Did he have some kind of mechanism in his brain counting the stops? Were his dreams littered with occasional announcements? In between fantasy touchdown catches and unimaginable sexcapades, he would hear the occasional “Clarendon, Virginia Square, Ballston”. As he would be addressing the United States during his fantasy presidential inauguration, he would hear “East Falls Church,” apologize to his crowd, open his eyes and step off the train.

Perhaps he wasn’t asleep at all. Maybe his posture and stillness was just a ploy to keep the seat to himself when the train got crowded. I’ll have to try that next time.

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Written by Eric Spiegel

September 22, 2006 at 8:16 am

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