“How do I get it to work?”
He was the second person I’d seen in as many weeks wondering how to get a SmartTrip card to work at a DC Metro turnstile.
“You don’t put it in there,” I said, pointing to the place for inserting paper cards. “But here. You slap it down on that,” I instructed, indicating the pad that reads the bar code.
“Oh, thanks,” he said. “I never understand how these things work.”
I hadn’t yet gotten a good look, but his voice sounded young, bright. I followed him up the escalator. “I saw a poor woman trying to do the same thing the other day. She didn’t speak English. But I heard something in her voice that said frantically, ‘Help!’”
“Oh, that would be a problem. I guess if you live here you understand Metro. But I’m from Orlando.”
“You’re not the only one that doesn’t understand how Metro works. Many of us who live here don’t either. From Orlando? You must be freezing!”
A train approached. “Should I take this one to Mt. Vernon Square?” he asked. I said yes. I then saw his green eyes, his face bordered by the blue knit Beanie he was wearing. We boarded the train. He sat behind me. Before we’d passed half a dozen stops, I knew why he was in Washington, where he worked, why he was getting off at the Convention Center, his plans for returning to Florida later this evening. He knew who I was, the neighborhood I lived in, the work I do.
“I’m Brad,” he said, getting up to exit the train.”
“Pleased to meet you, Sir.”
I count a day a great success if I have one good conversation with a stranger. Or really with anyone. I don’t pretend that everyone can or should. My husband once remarked that everything with me was a social occasion.
I want that to be my epitaph.
© Frank Gasque Dunn, 2016