When they're good, they're very good. And when they're bad . . . . Well, there's no bad like the bad that infects the attitudes of some Metro employes. Two cases in point:
May 20, 8:40 a.m., New Carrollton Metrorail station -- Having just seen his wife off on the subway, Sigmund Klaussner of New Carrollton boarded the elevator to get back up to street level.
As soon as the elevator arrived, "I noticed a great deal of heat coming from the motor room adjoining the elevator, and the clicking of solenoids was quite audible," Sigmund writes. "The elevator activating button was very hot to the touch and there was an odor." It didn't take a wizard to figure out that a fire might have started -- or might have been trying to.
Sigmund decided to report the situation. He marched up to the kiosk, in which three Metro employes were sitting and shooting the breeze. He described what he had just seen and smelled.
"A fire, huh?" responded one employe, sarcastically. "Ya mean somebody done put a cigarette in the trash basket?" And that was it. The employe didn't and wouldn't do any more to investigate the situation.
Disgusted, Sigmund walked away, which was probably not the best thing to have done. If a fire was about to start, and three of Metro's finest wouldn't do anything about it, Sigmund should have called the fire department.
As it turned out, there was no fire, and the elevator was heatless and odorless by the time Sigmund returned to the station that afternoon. But there had been a potential emergency that morning -- an emergency to which three lazy Metro kiosk attendants just didn't feel like responding.
May 24, 1:45 p.m., Massachusetts and Idaho avenues NW -- The northbound N2 bus is supposed to turn left at this corner, from Massachusetts onto Idaho. But the N2 that Edna Nick was riding went straight on Massachusetts.
Edna asked the driver if this was an N2. The driver said it was.
Edna said the driver should have turned left at Idaho. The driver replied that she would drive the bus her way, lady, thank you very much.
Edna repeated her objection, and another passenger chimed in to support her. The driver replied, "That's too bad! So I made a mistake. Anybody can make a mistake."
There was a lull for a few seconds, and then the driver popped her cork, shouting at Edna and the other passengers: "Stop talking to me and get off my bus!" They hastened to take her up on her offer.
Indeed, Ms. Driver, anybody can make a mistake. But mistake makers should try their best to rectify their errors (which you didn't do, or offer to do). And mistake makers should never make a bad situation worse by taking out their frustrations on the victims of those mistakes. Four-year-olds might do that. Public employes shouldn't.
Since this is bike season, it's a good time to report what Eleanor Stanley saw during evening rush hour the other day at Colesville Road and Sligo Creek Parkway in Silver Spring.
This is a busy and dangerous intersection, where many lanes of traffic come together and where the traffic lights are phased in ultra-confusing fashion. Pedestrians (and bike riders) can't always tell when a green light or a WALK sign is going to appear, or how long either will last.
On the evening Eleanor was watching, a man and two kindergarten-sized children approached Colesville on bikes just as the light in their direction flicked to green. But one of the kids was having trouble with his bike, so the threesome was delayed briefly at the curb. Delay finished, they looked up to discover that although the traffic light was still green, the DONT WALK light had started to flash.
The law says, and common sense says, and experience says, that if you're about to cross an eight-lane road, and two of the three of you are young kids, and you know you have at most five seconds before the light turns green in the opposite direction, you don't tempt fate. But the adult biker shouted out, "Come on, let's go!" And the three tried to cross on what was left of the green light.
The green expired as the three bikers were about midway across the intersection. The bikers nearly expired, too. If the rush-hour wave of Colesville traffic had not paused to let them finish crossing, there could have been an awful mess.
Not every motorist will be so kind, or so alert. If a fortune cookie writer were to ride a bike at the intersection of Colesville Road and Sligo Creek Parkway, he might put it this way:
Prudent pedaler lives to ripe old age. Daredevil doesn't.
Graffito spotted on the campus of the University of Michigan, and reported by Bob Talbert in the Detroit Free Press:
A STRANGE BEDFELLOW IS BETTER THAN NO BEDFELLOW AT ALL