With Daniel Redmond at the wheel, riding Metro becomes more than a merely transporation. For as little as 40 cents, you have bought a ticket to live theater.
Of course, some folks don't know that. They think they're just on a train. Half the excitement lies in seeing how these neophytes respond when the show starts to unfold.
"Good morning, passengers," comes the thundering baritone from impossibly inadequate-looking loudspeakers. Who is that speaking?? Has the ghost of Ezio Pinza found work as a Metro operator?
"Metro - welcomes you - aboard the Blue Line! The next station stop - is Roz-lyn - Vuh-ur-jin-ya!" (This is in case anyone think he's about to arrive in Roslyn, Italy or Rosslyn, Wash., or Roslyn, N.Y.)
"This is Roz-lyn Vuh-ur-jin-ya, upper level platform." Never has the word "platform" seemed so ripe with drama. "Exits are easiest with Farecards in hand." A few of the unimitiated try to contain themselves. Veterans know what's comng next, and are already swallowing their tongues in anticipation.
"We - ask you - to kindly refrain from abstructing the do-orway - during -the closure procedure." Now the whole train goes into convulsions.
Not one to be typecast. Redmond shifts mood. "The next station stop is Farragut West platform. Exits to 18th Street and Farragut Square. Doctors Hospital at the 18th Street exit. White House, Connecticut Avenue at the Farragut Square exit. Do you know where you Farecard is?"
"If you listen carefully," coos one admiring female passenger, "you really can't go wrong. It's beautiful."
There is a brief interval of suspense "Passengers 'We will be holding this position at the Federal Triangle Station . . .' Groans, frowns, skyward glances. What is it now? Flood? Fire? Giant alligators loose in the tunnel? " . . . for approximately two minutes. We thank you for your patience."
The passengers heave a single sigh of relief. They have been had but by a master. And now - a rare dividend - the figure of Daniel Redmond appears before his public flying through the car at breakneck pace toward the scene of the trouble, wherever and whatever it may be.
How many patrons, you wonder, associate this intense 6-foot-4 sprinter with that melodiously distant voice? How many would guess that behind the unearthly timbre lies a flesh-and-in Adams-Morgan and raised "all over the city," an English major at the University of the District of Columbia (he once considered becoming a "speech pathologist," he says), then a bus driver, and now one of the most enthusiastic of subway boosters ("the situation upstairs is bad")?
A full minute has elapsed, and the train is still parked at Federal Triangle. At 1-minute 4-5 seconds, Daniel Redmond reappears from the rear, a streaking apparition, and just as suddenly passes from view behind the smoked-glass door of the operator's compartment.
At two minutes on the button, the train rolls gently forward. "Thank you for your patience," comes the voice, and only a privileged few can detect the slightest hint of heavy breathing.
We pass Smithsonian, and L'Enfant Plaza, and Federal Center SW, and most of the stragglers prepare to disembark at Capitol South. "The next station is Capitol South, located one block south of the Library of Congress and directly behind the Cannon, Longworth and Rayburn Buildings."
Four juveniles with long blond hair, track shoes and a well-rehearsed early-teen swagger board the train, chewing bubble gum. One hurls himself onto a pair of seats at the front of the car, his track shoes flat against the polished orange upholstery, and blows a bubble.
One of his companions does likewise, occupying two seats across the way, while moting, "You've got to be careful with these seats. If a senior citizen or a handicapped person wants them you've got to get up. That's a real bummer with these trains." (The train is all but empty. There are no senior citizens or handicapped persons in sight.)
The smoked glass door edges open, and all 6-foot-4 of Daniel Redmond emerges every-so-briefly. "Feet down," he says. In a flash, all four youths look like Andy Hardy goes to church.
The train disgorges its last few passengers at stadium-Armory, and after a 10-minute layover, Redmond assumes the controls on the run back the other way.
"Good morning." comes the voice, as fresh and rich as ever. "Metrorail welcomes you aboard flight 901 taking off for National Airport with stops in Washington and Vuh-ur-jin-ya. Smoking, eating and throwing of litter are not pemitted in stations or trains!"