May 4, 2012

The scene at the Eastern Market Metro’s Capital Bikeshare docking station, April 17, 7:06 p.m.:

I came out of the Metro station and went to get a bike at the Bikeshare dock to ride home. Of course — why even mention it? — while coming up the escalator, I checked on my phone app to see how many slots were open at the station at my apartment building. Only three left. Uh-oh.

A worker from Capital Bikeshare asked the three of us ready to undock bikes to wait for a minute because he had to reboot the station.

The guy on my right: “Where are you going?”

Me: “13th and D Northeast.”

Guy on my right: “Okay, I’m going to Lincoln Park. I was just wondering if you were a competitor for a slot there.”

The guy on my left: “I’m going to Lincoln Park, but there are 19 slots available. Shouldn’t be a problem.”

Me: “Only three slots available where I’m going. Lincoln Park is my backup if my station is full.”

Bikeshare employee to the eight people now waiting to undock: “Can everyone hold off for a minute? I’m rebooting the station.”

Me: “I think it’s so funny how a new system gets introduced and everyone immediately figures out the best way to compete in it.”

Guy on my right: “Come on, it’s D.C. — we’re all smart.”

Guy on my left, raising an eyebrow: “We are?”

Me: “I’m not sure the rest of the country would agree with that.”

Bikeshare guy to the 13 people now waiting to undock: “Can everyone hold off for a minute? I’m rebooting the station.”

Guy on my left: “He means, it’s D.C., we all know how to work a system.”

Bikeshare guy: “Okay!”

Sound of 15 people undocking bikes.

Bikeshare guy: “. . . and they’re off!”

Guy on my right is out of the dock and across the street ahead of the pack. By the time I reach Lincoln Park, he’s docked, and I see him walking to his house on East Capitol Street.

Me, cycling by: “You made it!”

He, nonchalant, waving: “Oh, yeah, no problem.”

I get to 13th and D, Bikeshare cyclist on my heels, or rather on my back tire. I pass up the first open slot so that he doesn’t think I’m competing with him and take another one farther down. I dock, remove my helmet, and as I walk to my building, I pass a woman with furrowed brow on a Bikeshare bike heading for the docking station.

Me: “There’s one left for you!”

She: “Oh, thank God.”

I get home, head out to the balcony, and looking down, recognize another woman from the melee at Eastern Market, biking forlornly up the street toward the H Street dock — five blocks away.

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