the experimenting part 2

Today got off to a good start that quickly became rocky. I was super proud of myself for remembering to bring my lunch (I forgot Tuesday and Wednesday), and I got out early enough that I was sure I’d be fine for parking, particularly with the snow falling. (Commuters here either drive all the way to work or don’t go in at all when it snows, plus I don’t get the government 2 hour delay, so I was going in 2 hours before the federal workers who aren’t contractors.) I was enjoying my drive. AND THEN.

well about 10 minutes out I realized I forgot my glasses but I didn’t care because I can see okay without them as long as I’m not trying to read street signs. So I kept going, thinking about how I was going to laugh and laugh here about how I only forgot one thing for once. Then, 20 minutes out, I realized–my MARC weekly pass was sitting on The Boy’s counter. I had just gotten to the exit for 97 so I got myself going the other way and headed back. I got my glasses and my ticket and headed back out, leaving the house at 7:20. The same time I had left yesterday, which resulted in my not finding a parking spot. But, the snow and 2 hour delay worked in my favor, and I got a spot pretty close to the platform. I got to the platform early (and was befuddled to find that though the online schedule says the train was to leave at 8:04, the LED display was showing that it would be leaving at 8:04 (3 minutes late) which, huh?) and hung out and froze my toes off and the train arrived and I got on and I really like MARC. I use the Penn line, which is run by Amtrak (the other two are run by some other company. I have no idea how that works but okay) and it’s great. The train is quiet, there’s tons of seating, there are two levels in a bunch of the cars, and the train is SO MUCH FASTER. Plus the Penn line is fewer stops than the other lines. I was thrilled with my first MARC train trip. I disembarked at Union Station and followed the crowd into the station proper and found my way down to the metro portion.

That’s where things went wrong AGAIN. MARC uses Google Maps for their trip planner, and Google Maps indicated that I’d arrive AT WORK at 8:50, when in actuality I arrived at the train station at 8:50. NBD, right? As I walked down the escalator to the Metro platform, there was a train to the right. I couldn’t see which train, and I couldn’t remember which one I wanted, so once I was on the platform, instead of running to get on the train and possibly go in the wrong direction, I walked over to one of the pylons with the list of stations left on the line. It turned out I SHOULD have taken that train, not just because it was going where I wanted to, but because the red line to shady grove apparently doesn’t come as frequently as every other train ever during rush hour. The train went away and the next train was due in 4 minutes. Again, NBD. I might be a tiny bit late, but not significantly. The train arrived. I moved toward it. I aimed myself at a car door and went. But there were 90 billion people in front of me and the conductor, after about 3 people got on, shut the doors and left. And the next train to Shady Grove? Not due for another 11 minutes. So I stood there and thought angry thoughts about how much I hate metro and how much better MARC is and how all this reframing shitty commuting experiences as learning experiences just makes me hate learning. Also my toes were freezing again. The train eventually arrived and I boarded. All good, right?

WRONG. I work right next to Judiciary Square. So when I get off at Judiciary Square and one of the exits allows egress TO Judiciary Square, you’d think that’d be the way to go, right? WRONG. I picked the wrong exit. And then I went the wrong way despite Maps giving me directions (seriously, it told me to go left on D and I did and suddenly there was no road at all and the closest street was C and 3rd and HOW DOES THAT EVEN HAPPEN?) I got it figured out eventually (for those of you who have never been to DC and are like “how do you get lost in a major city?” let me tell you, DC is not a grid city. It was designed to confuse the British back in the day and they just KEPT IT CONFUSING and then added lots of random extra streets. It’s basically a wheel, but that’s just the major roads, there are all these other roads tacked on and some of them are grids for some of the time and then parts of those grids keep going and others don’t and like 90% of the roads are one way and OH MY GOD I HATE NAVIGATING DC)

so anyway I got in 23 minutes late, hating metro soooooo much. It makes me make angry bad decisions. So I worked. I stayed 23 minutes late to make up the time. I walked to the Judiciary Square metro escalators that are near work, took the metro to Union Station.

This is where MARC lost some points. They’re still a BILLION times better than metro, but still. I walk to the MARC section of Union Station (the station services MARC, Metro, and Amtrak) and I see an arrivals/departures board like they have at airports, you know, a tv screen with a chart on it. It should be noted that I checked the MARC Penn Line Northbound schedule online several times today before leaving work. It said there was a 6:40 pm train. When I looked at the board, it said there was a 6:35 pm train, it was on time, and did not say what track it was on. When I went out to the tracks, there are these LED boards between sets of tracks that indicate what train is taking on passengers, and where it’s ultimately bound, and the stations it stops at. There were two trains, but only one was indicated by an LED board. It intimated that the train to my left was the Brunswick line. The other train was just sort of there. People had mostly all disembarked but the conductor was checking for strays or something so they weren’t letting people on for a while. I went back in to check the aforementioned TV board, and it had not changed. I returned to the tracks area and looked forlorn and confused and checked the schedule AGAIN on my phone. It had not changed. The other train, the one without an LED board indicator, started accepting boarders, and it’s LED board intimated it was the Camden line. Many minutes passed. Then another train arrived, a million people got off, and somehow inside the station proper it was indicated to some of the people there that it was taking boarders. The mob came out to the track and still the LED board didn’t light up. They flooded the platform and still no info. I walked over, taking a “pretend you know what you’re doing” tack before asking some random girl with a bun on top of her head hanging out with a young dude with buddy holly glasses and white hair if it was the penn line. They said they thought so but weren’t sure and were just following people and then we got far enough along to ask conductors. (It was the Penn line.) I boarded. All was well from there, though it was REALLY hard to tell what station we were at whenever we stopped. I basically had to resort to counting how many stops we had made. When we got to Bowie State, I was PRETTY sure that’s where we were but I was afraid of missing the Odenton stop, so I asked the guy sitting across from me if he could see a sign (because he had a window and I did not) and he did and it was Bowie State (for non-Marylanders, that’s pronounced BOO-ee, not BO-wee, I have no idea why) so I waited and got off at the next station and then there was MORE adventure.

So the Northbound train drops off passengers on the opposite side of the tracks from the southbound side (which is also where my car was parked, the southbound side) and I had no idea how to get across. There was no bridge. So I followed the crowd and discovered a tunnel beneath the tracks. It was way better lit than the stairs to/from the tunnel, which was disconcerting when leaving it, but whatever. When I emerged from the stairs I wondered if I had fucked up and my car was on the same side as we had been dropped off, because there was some little indoor waiting area thing and another little building and there were no little buildings that morning! So I got off the platform and looked around in a confused manner for a minute and then I noticed that people were going up to the southbound platform, which seemed silly since they had just gotten off a northbound train. I figured they must know something so I went up and farther along and there was another exit to the parking lot I had parked in. So finally I made it to my car. And now tomorrow I can do it all again with  some slight familiarity and a great deal of hope that I actually arrive on time.

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