safety tips for the young metro passenger

thewinoIn the last eight years, I’ve lived in five different cities. This means two things: one, I’m a freaking nomad, and two, I’m very well acquainted with public transportation. Because I haven’t been in possession of a car since the gold station wagon I drove in high school, one of the first things I do in any city is study the public transportation systems. Buses, subways, ferries, trolleys, or whatever it may be, I do my due diligence to learn the ins and outs of getting around, and because of this, I consider myself somewhat of a pro.

Until I moved to Rockville, that is.

Now, I’m no stranger to the DC Metro system. In college, I frequented the blue and orange lines to get back and forth across the city, and I even used the red line, my current line in Rockville, to get up to American or over to Union Station on a few occasions. Perhaps I never took the metro lines far enough out of DC proper, but my metro experience of recent has not been the metro I came to know and love during my time as a student. Let’s review: in the last month I have endured numerous verbal assaults on the subject of my derriere or general appearance, been propositioned by countless strangers, and worse yet, there was a double shooting at the hands of a sixteen year old high schooler.

Normally, this would deter someone from continuing to take said public transportation, but my job requires me to take the metro five or six days a week. So, I’ve put in place a few safety measures to make sure my commute on the harrowing red line goes as smoothly as possible. And, because I’m nice, I’ve decided to share them with you, in an effort to aid future young metro passengers.

#1. Be aware of your surroundings.

I’ve watched enough episodes of Dexter to assume that anyone who appears normal is probably a serial killer. I’ve also sat next to an astonishing number of innocent looking people who then turn into circus freaks the minute I sit down. Because of this, I’ve learned to do a preliminary inventory of every passenger in my vicinity the minute I step into a metro car. You may think I’m stating the obvious when I say to avoid the man who is open-mouth gawking at you, but I have witnessed a number of women who are oblivious to the perverted stares of DC’s finest creeps. If he looks like a creep, talks like a creep, and more often than not, smells like a creep, steer clear. Come on, girls.

#2. Avoid eye contact.

This is my biggest daily struggle. People watching is one of my favorite hobbies, but I must admit there is a time and place for doing so, and the metro is not it. I’ve gotten myself into a lot of trouble by catching the eye of the wrong passenger (see: being flashed by not one, not two, but three different men over the years). I have to actively remind myself every day to keep my eyes to myself, and I advise you to do the same. Otherwise, you have no one but yourself to blame when that nice African man across the aisle invites you to his birthday party.

#3. Take cover.

In the event that I’m forced to stand or sit near someone questionable, I rely on my bag of tricks: my iPod, Kindle, and sunglasses. Sure, you’re bound to run into someone eventually who doesn’t understand proper social cues and attempts to talk to you despite having your iPod on full blast, but typically, if I’m listening to music, reading my Kindle, and avoiding eye contact via wearing sunglasses, I’m left alone.

#4. Do not engage.

In the event that these first three rules fail you and your personal space is invaded by one of the many freaks that ride the metro every day, do not, at any costs, engage in prolonged conversation. Any compliment should be rewarded with a curt “thank you” and nothing else. Though it should go without saying, do not reveal where you live or what stop is yours. And, if you’re really feeling uncomfortable, there’s nothing wrong with switching your seat or train car altogether.

Though I’m still victim to the occasional gawker or verbal abuser, I’ve managed to keep most creeps in check with these simples rules. However, I’m always open to more advice on how to keep myself safe while city-living. Any ideas?

ride safely,

the wino



  1. mom
    June 6, 2012 / 18:36

    Great now I have to worry about this! I thought you were safe! xo

  2. June 11, 2012 / 17:54

    Oh man! Where I come from, we have a small choice of bus lines, however, no trains, no trams, nothing! So, I am by no means a pro, but the times I’ve experienced public transit in Europe and San Fran, I’ve never experienced those horrors. Kudos to you for coming up with a way to avoid future disasters, and helping to educate us who could use it!

    P.S. in Prague, our “take cover” step was an unapproachable look called the “Prague face”; no smiles, no eye contact, with a look of pure boredom.

  3. August 13, 2012 / 15:35

    And for a light-hearted follow-up #4… in addition to the scary creeps, there’s also an abundance of some VERY cute boys who frequent the metro trains. (With *very* important jobs in the city, no doubt.)

    As enticing as it is to consider talking to them en route, it’s not always the smartest strategy. Because, if it doesn’t work out, you run the risk of running into them again. And again. And again… It can make the commute awkward… and those poles are hard to hide behind!
    Chris recently posted..2 Days In MontrealMy Profile

    • August 13, 2012 / 15:51

      yeah run-ins with regular commuters can definitely lead to awkward situations if you’re not careful! though we do agree about the abundance of cute boys in the dc metro area.
      Lazy Travelers recently travel requiredMy Profile

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