Man on a Metro selfie mission


Kawar takes a selfie the Besthesda Station pylon. (Karen Chen/The Washington Post)

Mark Kawar left home at 4:15 a.m. Friday to get on the Metro at the Franconia station. It’s not that Kawar’s job has a punishingly early start time. He was on vacation.

Taking a day off from work and his typical commute, Kawar was on a mission to visit each of the Metro’s 86 stations and take a selfie outside with the Metro stop’s pylon identifying the station. Tweeting with the hashtag #metro86, Kawar raced from station to station, from early in the morning and into the evening rush-hour.

“Some people climb mountains, I conquer the Metro,” Kawar, 35, said wryly. “Well, let’s see, maybe the Metro will conquer me.”

His mission doesn’t have any greater purpose or message, he said, he just wanted to do something challenging. Hitting all 86 stops in one day and exiting each station, seemed challenging, but doable.

“I don’t have any amazing skills in this world but I’m a good planner and this is a planning problem,” Kawar said. “I don’t have endurance or stamina.”

And boy, did he plan it. Kawar chose Friday specifically because of the day of the week, when Metro would be open the longest, from 5 a.m. to 3 a.m. It’s also the last such Friday before simulations for the new Silver Line begin. Starting July 26, the Metro will have 91 stations in the system.

Using an Excel spreadsheet, he calculated numbers for each station – how frequently a train would show up at what time of the day, which stops were busiest and best to be avoided at rush hour, and which route might be most efficient. He also brought along a loaded backpack, including a water bottle, energy shots, a change of shirt (by lunch he was already wearing his second), deodorant, a battery pack for his phone, an umbrella (just in case), granola bars, potato chips, pretzels, ibuprofen, a book, four magazines, two newspapers and promotional Silver Line screen cleaners for his iPhone, which of course, is crucial for selfies.


Kawar shows off his Metro screen cleaner. (Karen Chen/The Washington Post)

Kawar’s day job does have the word “planning” in its title. The Falls Church resident is a director on the business side of a digital publisher. Most days, he takes the Metro from West Falls Church to Metro Center. And most days, his commute is less sweaty.

Inspired by similar challenges he’d read about involving New York City’s subway system and the DC Metro Challenge, where many have attempted to marathon through all the stops (but without getting out of the station each time), Kawar wanted to be the first person he knows of to do all 86 stations, complete with 86 selfies.

As he climbs escalators and rushes to make it before the door closes, comparisons to action films or the “Amazing Race” are tempting, but Kawar was just testing his Metro mastery. He’s aware of the mockery his mission might attract.

“My wife is supportive, my kids are too young to understand and my friends are mixed: They’re supportive, sarcastic, concerned…” Kawar said, turning his head as the train arrived.

When he needs to use the restroom, Kawar skips the public restroom that he said “legendarily” exists at each station and heads to the nearest Starbucks.

Kawar purchased an unlimited one-day pass, “really getting [his] money’s worth,” he said, of the $14.50 he spent.

Kawar, who was born in D.C. and grew up in Bethesda, has been riding the Metro for as long as he can remember, but he’d never visited several stations. He said he was surprised by how pretty some of the stations at the end of the Blue Line were, having never previously visited them. He said his favorite station though, is still the one that means he’s home and that same station he hopes to end the day with: West Falls Church on the Orange Line.

Nearing the halfway mark a bit after noon, he rubbed his knees while sitting on the clementine-colored seats. As the day continued, he said he was getting less self-conscious about the selfies, allowing a weird face once in a while and looking forward to being able to examine them Saturday to see the fatigue set in.

He was already behind schedule, having to stop by a friend’s office to charge his extra battery pack and worried he might end later than his original target of midnight because trains are less frequent in the evening hours.

With many hours left to go, was he having fun? “I don’t know,” he answered. “I’m happy that I’m getting it done, because once I start something, I finish it. I don’t know if I’d recommend it to others on their vacation though.”


Kawar takes a selfie with the pylon outside a station. (Karen Chen/The Washington Post)
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