My husband and I went to a lot of meetings today, talked to lots of people, even met a Senator when we gave him an award. And I’ll tell you about all that soon. But for now let me tell you about a few conversations we had today on the metro, DC’s subway system.
First, let me say I love the metro. Living in Michigan we don’t have anything like it. So for us it’s a treat to ride mass transit, figure out the map, people watch, even get lost and laugh about it. We feel so urban chic…like we’re city people, like we belong in the hustle that is DC. Though I think the natives can tell we don’t.
This morning the four of us, husband and me, my sister Beth and my brother Paul, were heading up to Capitol Hill for meetings with legislators. My sister was leaving town after her 11:00 meeting, and she was going to have to get back from the Hill, stop at the hotel to pick up her luggage, and then navigate the metro back out to the airport, all on her own. So as we’re heading down the long long escalator to the Roslyn metro platform all three of us are trying to explain to her which subway line she needs to take from the Hill back to the hotel and from the hotel out to the airport. She is getting confused and frustrated and ticked off.
We get on the train heading to our meetings and we’re still intensely discussing it. A woman sits quietly behind us reading something on her phone. We are arguing loudly now about which way she is supposed to go to get to the airport. The train stops and lets people off, people get on, and the train moves again. My brother notes that the station we are now leaving is the same station we’d go to if we were going to the Truck Safety Coalition office.
Which is in the opposite direction from Capitol Hill.
We are heading away from our meetings! The three of us, who have been confidently telling her to follow our directions, start laughing hysterically. Beth is even more confused. Then she starts laughing too, and the lady sitting quietly, not looking at us, begins to smile. By the time we get off at the next stop, the lady is grinning. We cross over the bridge above the tracks to the other side and head back to town. I’m pretty sure we made that lady’s day.
We told Beth to take a cab to the airport.
Once we were headed back in the right direction we boarded a crowded train, and stood for a stop or two. A very nice older gentleman offered my sister his seat, and she declined. He noticed that she was wearing a button with a picture of my dad on it and the man asked if dad was running for office. Beth said no, that he had died in a truck crash, and she was in DC to work on making trucks safer. The man got very sad and said he was sorry. He asked more questions and we explained more. Turned out he was an electrical engineer for the Federal Aviation Administration. Safety, he said, was very important. He wished us well in our project and said he was glad we were going to speak to members of Congress. Just before his stop he stood up, waiting by the door. My sister asked him to promise to be safe, and he said he promised. Then she hugged him and he hugged her back while I teared up over the compassion of a stranger.
Coming back from the Hill tonight I noticed a young man having trouble getting his card to let him enter the platform area. He was trying to use it on an entrance that was closed, so I explained how it worked and helped him get through the gate. Later, down on the platform I saw him trying to read a tiny metro map in the dim light, so I asked him where he was going. Turns out it was just a couple stops from where we were going, so I told him to stick with us. (But I didn’t tell him about us going in the wrong direction that morning!)
During our ride the three of us talked. He asked if we were local, we said no. He asked about the badges we were wearing that said “NO larger trucks!” and we explained why we were there, telling him about dad and our work with the Truck Safety Coalition. He was from Sweden, just visiting, and had spent the day in the Capitol gallery watching the House and Senate discuss and debate. He said he had been interested in American politics since he was a boy, and he was very excited that we had just come from seeing Senator Durbin. I was very interested that he had even heard of Senator Durbin! I ended up giving him my Truck Safety business card, and he wished us well and told us we were doing important work as he stepped off the train.
It’s so heartwarming when complete strangers take the time to talk about the thing we are so impassioned about. When they genuinely wish us well. When they thank us for doing the work. I wish we could have that one on one conversation with every American. Maybe then we’d get them all to join us to demand safer roads from those working on the Hill.
Wouldn’t that be something.