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4.04.2012

A TICKET AND A TURNSTILE

With my husband in a conference in Washington D.C., and I with the day alone before me waiting to meet up with him for dinner, I went in search of a cup of flavored coffee.  Everyone walks everywhere here.  Walking to get on public transportation as well.  I love to be outdoors, so walking 2 miles searching for coffee was no big deal.  I found no flavored coffee.  It must be a Midwest thing.  Evidently metro areas like hard-core plain coffee.  I spied the subway and decided I was game to try to find my way to the Holocaust Museum.   There are NO subways where I live in my town in Indiana with a population of 55,000 people.  I descended the stairs to an underground maize.  Never having navigated the "system", I took stock of the signage and ticket buying machines.  The problem was, like most things I do at times, I tend to wing it.  I had not researched prior to standing in the subway as to which colored subway line I needed to take.  I couldn't find the Holocaust Museum on the wall map.  I googled it on my IPhone to find an address and then searched the map for a street/subway stop near it.  It was close to the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian.  That still didn't help me as there were 3 different colored dots next to different stops that seemed to indicate different lines.  I laughed at how I had maneuvered through a very difficult life, but now found myself out of my area of expertise.  Watching people for a bit, I found a mom and a daughter that were using the ticket buying machine and asked which line I needed to be on to get to the Holocaust Museum.  She tried her best to help.  But, I could quickly tell she had little money and was unfamiliar with venturing into that part of D.C.  She told me what she thought, but inside I didn't think she was right (and she was not).  I thanked her profusely and waited for her to leave my line of vision.  Standing there again scouring the maps and lines, an elderly lady in her 70's raced up to buy a fare ticket.  She quickly turned to me and asked if I needed help.  YES, was my fast response.  In a few minutes she showed me where I needed to go, that I would need to get off at Metro station and change to the orange and blue line and get off at the Smithsonian exit.  She also explained the three different fares listed.  Her eyesight was poor and she had to ask me to tell her what the fares were and to add them up for her.  Kindly and graciously she waited for me, taking me through the turnstile and showing me again what to do with the ticket I had to operate the turnstile.  Standing on the other side was her partner, another elderly lady appearing a bit older than her and using a cane.  They chatted with me and said they were going to Metro Station as well.  I walked with them as we talked about their lives, why she was so willing to help and where they were going.  She commented that 25 years ago when they came to D.C. she too didn't know how to get around and was always willing to help a newbie.  She shared they were retired professors from the University and lived in the city during the winter/spring and less hot parts of the summer.  When the weather turned too hot, they went to their other home in British Columbia.  They were gracious and gentle, well versed in the arts and current affairs.  They laughed easily with me and asked about living in a town of 55,000.  As we exited to Metro Station, they paused and pointed me toward the next blue/orange line I would need to get on, patted my hand several times, wished me a delightful day, and re-iterated that I had a most honest face.  (Note to self; look more bad ass in the city Nancy!)   Because of their help, I surfaced street side right by the Department of Agriculture Building (fitting for a farm girl from Indiana).  Still not knowing which way to go, I stopped a business man.  He took me to the middle of the sidewalk where I could more easily see clear down the blocks and pointed to where I needed to go.  Assuring me again that I could not miss the Holocaust Museum when I got there.  I spent 4 hours walking D.C. before I found a street vendor with popcorn.  I sat for a time eating popcorn, drinking water and watching people before I decided to venture back via the subway.  Thanks to those two professor's lesson, I understood the ticket and turnstile now.  I was helped by yet another businessman to get me on the right westbound orange/blue line, but I made it back.  Exiting from the world below the streets to bright sunlight, I walked the mile from the station back to the hotel.  I was exhausted from 4 plus hours of walking and mentally engaging in a transportation system that was unfamiliar to me.  Sitting outside for dinner at a restaurant last night with my husband, I commented that my trip on the subway cost me a total of $2.55 round trip, $4.00 for a bag of popcorn and $1.65 for a cold bottle of water.   I had spent literally nothing but had in turn had a great experience - which was priceless.  

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