If My Lovely Wife and I should ever get divorced, WMATA will have to shoulder some of the blame. Metro, I’m sorry to say, is a key contributor to the drip-drip-drip of disillusion that threatens to erode our wedded bliss.
Is that a lot of guilt to place on the Washington area’s public transit agency? I don’t think so. The poor signage at some Metro stations is guaranteed to have even the happiest, lovingest couples at each other’s throats.
I’m talking about the Kiss & Ride. For something with such a delightful name — pucker up: mwah! — it sure can be the cause of a lot of marital angst.
Last week I went to pick up my wife at the Twinbrook station on the Red Line. We were on our way to perform that most domestic of chores: shopping for a new toaster oven at Bed, Bath and Beyond. (Toaster ovens are found in the “Beyond” section.)
As I sat in the car waiting for Ruth to get off the train, she called to say that she was already standing at the Kiss & Ride.
“That’s funny,” I said. “I’m parked at the Kiss & Ride and I don’t see you.”
“Do you see buses?” Ruth asked.
Nope. No buses.
What is wrong with this woman that she can’t even go to the Kiss & Ride?
It turns out there are two Kiss & Rides at the Twinbrook station. One is off of Chapman Avenue, the other is off of Parklawn Drive. The signs for each one are identical: “Kiss & Ride.”
There are no signs in the station itself. When you’ve taken the escalator down from the platform, you can turn either left or right, east or west. If you’ve never used the station before, you might have no idea that there are two parallel Kiss & Rides, each hidden from the other, like a pair of near-identical planet Earths on either side of the sun.
“Stay where you are,” Ruth said. “I’ll come to you.”
Already, though, the hackles on my neck were raised. Ruth and I have a history of missed connections. At the end of our honeymoon in 1987 we spent an hour sitting at different places in Heathrow Airport, each expecting the other, the aggravation rising. To this day we can’t discuss that episode without things getting all “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”ish.
That was before cellphones, of course, but even with cellphones, we have a tendency to get at cross purposes. The Twinbrook Incident seemed like a repeat of the unfortunate Shady Grove Mess of November 2012. That station also has awful signage. There’s only one Kiss & Ride — on the east side — but it’s easy for motorists (or this motorist, anyway) to mistakenly get shunted to the parking lot on the west side.
There were a few silent, fuming moments after we were reunited.
At Twinbrook, it would be a simple matter of adding the words “East” and “West” to the respective signs outside the station. A single sign inside the station could direct alighting passengers to the proper places. Then you could just tell the person you were picking up to meet you at the East Kiss & Ride. Or West, if that’s how you roll.
I’ve noticed that the signage inside Metro stations is getting a little better. Even so, there’s room for improvement. I still find myself scrambling to find a route map when I’m in an unfamiliar station. I shouldn’t have to run to a pylon when a train is pulling in and hope I can quickly read the smallish type before deciding whether it’s a train I should board.
Our Metro stations should have so many signs — so many big signs — that a passenger can never not see one, no matter where he’s standing.
That’s what it’s like in London’s Underground system, which is a model of clarity. Of course, it suffers from something that hasn’t yet bedeviled our system: strikes. Last week the Tube was shut down for two days as workers protested planned job cuts.
Finally, at the risk of opening a can or worms, send me examples of area annoyances — on Metro or elsewhere — that could be oh-so-easily fixed.
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.