Reeking Havoc

October 5, 2012

As a fitness reporter, I often get stinky on the job. And sometimes I have to hit the Metro before I hit the showers. Ideally, I can find an empty spot to stand in, but there have definitely been times when I’ve been smushed into a railcar and had to grab a high railing, which requires unleashing an armpit on the world.

I sincerely apologize for these odor offenses, but at least I’m not carcinogenic. The same can’t be said for folks who light up on Metro’s train platforms and escalators and at bus shelters. Fed up with having to breathe in secondhand smoke, rider Jamie Berke just launched an online petition at Change.org asking WMATA to enforce its systemwide no-smoking policy.

Berke’s smoke allergy flares up every time she has to make her way through a nicotine cloud to get to her train. She said complaining to Metro hasn’t done her any good, and she suspects smokers will continue to puff away on escalators because of where the ashtrays are located. When you see one filled with butts just before the faregates, it’s easy to assume that’s where you’re supposed to take your final drag.

Smokefree DC, which helped Berke put together the petition, said it has alerted WMATA about the problems for years. At a 2006 meeting, co-founder Angela Bradbery said she was told that “No Smoking” signs would go up soon. Six years later, zilch — and she doesn’t see any indications that will be changing.

“Once I even saw a Metro employee smoking on the escalator as I was huffing and puffing behind her,” Bradbery says. “Obviously, they have other big issues to address, but this is a health and safety issue, too.”

And it could be addressed simply by adding a few signs and subtracting a few ashtrays.

Contrast that with the more mysterious aromas riders regularly encounter. On Twitter on Wednesday, @ArminRosen put it like this: “Foggy Bottom right now is what the first few hours of Chernobyl must have smelled like.”

The blog Unsuck DC Metro has been on the case for months, trying to determine whether organic brake pads are the source of the smell or whether there’s another culprit.

All I know is that it can’t possibly be me. I haven’t been at Foggy Bottom at all this week.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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