On why I don’t always hate DC subways


“We should go to the Eastern Market today,” Jessica says as we stand on the sidewalk outside our hotel. Other people would have decided what they were going to do by now, but I have rather intensively planned three days of activities and now my brain is done.

It is a beautiful Saturday morning, and we have seen all the educational sites that we should see, and I have even managed to drag her into not one but two museums, and she has been very patient no matter how footsore she is.


“We would have to take the subway,” I say. “Or I suppose we could always take a cab.”

“Mom.” The amount of scorn she can fit into one word is fairly impressive. “I will show you how.”

Sure. At least I know which direction is north, I don’t say.

“Have you got the map?” is what I do say.

“Yes.” She shows it to me.

“Then lead on, MacDuff.”

“I do not even know what that means.”

“Shakespeare. Macbeth. It’s a corruption of the phrase, ‘Lay on, Macduffe.’ It’s ‘Lay on Macduffe, And damn’d be him, that first cries hold, enough.’ MacDuff is the Thane of Fife, and –”


“And it means you lead and I will follow.”

She nods. “We are going this way.”

“McPherson Square?” I ask tentatively.

“Mom,” she says, as if she suspects me of testing her and I’m doing a sorry-ass job of it. “McPherson is the wrong direction.”

“Yes, of course.”

“We want Metro Center.”

“Okay,” I say meekly.

She takes pity on me. “See?” she asks, holding out the map. “We need the Blue line, and it will bring us right to Eastern Market. We don’t even have to transfer.”

“Easy as pie.”

“I do not even know that that means.”

“Well, a pie is easy to eat, right?”


“There you go.”

She shakes her head like I am a complete mystery.

“Here’s the station,” she says.

We go in, and I head for the platform.

“Mom,” she says, exasperated. “You are going the wrong way.”

“Sorry,” I say.

“It is not that hard.”

“It is too.”

“This is the platform, on this side.”

“Are you sure?”

“Ask someone.”

I accost a uniformed individual. “Sir. We’re trying to get to Eastern Market. Is this the train we want?”


“I told you,” Jessica says.

“You should listen to your daughter,” says the helpful uniformed individual.

“You really should,” says Jessica.

We get on the train, more crowded than I expected.

“Here’s a seat for you, girlfriend,” I say to Jess, pointing to an empty space next to a tall man reading a book. “Be careful. Don’t step on his foot.”

“You mean the way you did.”

I tried to explain the concept of let’s pretend this never happened but obviously to no effect.

The man looks up. “Your mom stepped on someone’s foot?” he asks in a Jamaican lilt. Which, thanks so much for chiming in.

“Yes!” Jessica crows. “On the subway yesterday!”

“And it runs in the family? That’s why she’s worried?”

I never step on anyone’s foot.”

“Fine. You can sit next to me.”

“Thank you.” She sits next to him, and beams a smile in my direction.

He goes back to reading his book. I swear to Zeus I do not understand how she can create these random moments of warmth and laughter with total strangers.

“I did a good job, Mom,” she says. “I remembered to say thank you.”

“You are a remarkable girl,” I tell her.

“And don’t worry, I will tell you when it is time to get off the train.”




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