Thou Shalt or Shalt Not

Two stone tablets. With markings that are likely words, but that I can't read. I hope the words aren't racist or profane.

Stepping on the train platform at Metro Center I heard the rumblings of The Disembodied Voice. It droned incomprehensibly. It was a baritone mumbling rapidly, as if  he were cruising through The Rosary at a funeral. I hoped the message wasn’t important. I couldn’t make it out.

Then. It hit me. Our public transportation is not of this world. It is guided from a different one. A world lorded over by a god that we don’t know. And that god is most definitely an Old Testament god. One who is vengeful and punishing. We clearly don’t understand him. He’s trying to talk to us, but we don’t get him and that pisses him off.

The god–the WMATA god–is warning us via signs, if not quite plagues, of his displeasure. Fires. Rats. Floods. Cracked rails. Filled condoms placed on the shoulders of passengers. People running up the down escalators. Wild animals overtaking stations.

Tragically, there is no Aaron to translate for us. There is no proxy-Moses to learn from the WMATA god and bring his commandments down from Mt. Vernon. We don’t know how to appease the irritated diety.

The safe response to the god? A shut down.

Many people are praying. Sadly, some are taking the Metro–and its god’s–name in vain. Mostly in anger. Frequently adding vulgarities.

Stop it! You. And you. And you over there, too. And y’all. You are NOT helping.

What if there was a prophet to lead us out of the desert that is Metrorail? Carrying the laws carved on the tablets? Maybe if we knew and followed the commandments, we could ride in peace.

What if the laws were already written and we were simply ignoring them? Would they look like this?

The Ten Commandments of WMATA

  1.  Thou shalt use headphones with all audio and video devices. Seriously. The Metro God hates your music.
  2. Thou shalt not box out fellow passengers who are trying to exit the train. It is a sin to make anyone ride a single extra stop. Let them go in peace.
  3.  Thou shalt give your seat to someone who needs it more than you do. This requires you looking for those needier outside of your field of vision despite your prayerful stance above your phone. Look up!
  4. Thou shalt call the stupid Metro number, which is randomly called out in stations, rather than 911 in an emergency. Metro police do not play nice with other jurisdictions. They are holier than thou.
  5. Thou shalt report any unattended packages to a transit police officer, station manager or train operator. Thou shalt not be troubled that they pay no attention.
  6.  You. The one tossing your backpack in the door when the chimes ring. And then yelling about it being stuck. And then not pulling it out. And then making the train unload. And making not only the Metro god but also the entire metro village very angry. And very vengeful. Thou shalt stop doing such. Thou art making bad juju.
  7. Thou shalt not lean against the train doors. Lean on the escalator handrail. Or lean on your fellow passengers. Especially if thou hast been drinking.
  8. Thou shalt not gum up the flow. For the love of everything good in this world, whilst on the escalator, stand to the right and walk on the left.
  9. Thou shalt not run on the escalator. Run down the up escalator or up the down escalator. Thou shalt not run in the station, run on the track bed, run with scissors.
  10. Thou shalt not take your stroller, wheelchair or wheelie backpack on the escalator. This is a way for pilgrims to show their humility to the WMATA god, because instead of using a convenient entrance you will walk 3/4 of a mile out of your way to an elevator entrance. And then the elevator will be out of service. You shalt be thrice blessed for your penance.

Know well, riders, that our ongoing sins, our wanton disregard of these commandments, has angered the god. And we are being punished. Perhaps, if we humbly follow these commandments, we could ride the train to the promised land. Or, at least, make it home on time. Amen.

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