Washington is, as proclaimed by Mayor Marion Barry's garish signposts at the city portals, "A Capital City," and as such it throws people together from all over this land and the rest of the world, some of whom already know each other.

That accounted for the commotion on a westbound Orange Line train as it stopped at Metro Center early yesterday afternoon. Two men were standing near the doorway of the front car when suddenly they recognized a woman passenger.

There were shrieks of recognition and a gabble of voices talking over each other. Obviously it was grist for a good Metro Scene item. Out came the notebook and questions were asked.

One of the men, returning from an awards ceremony for federal workers on Capitol Hill, began to recount that the three had worked together several years ago in a government office in New Orleans and hadn't seen each other until this chance encounter on our Metro.


The woman cut it off. "No," she said, "I'm here on something personal -- I flew in this morning and I'm flying back tonight, and nobody knows I'm gone."

The reporter's eyebrows arched. She smiled. Not a tryst, she assured; a job interview. True Grit

Speaking of Metro, here's a question that's really too late to ask. Why didn't our subway builders specify some kind of gritty surface for the attractive brick-red tile flooring at and inside station entries?

During the rain at the Foggy Bottom station, as at others, on Monday afternoon, the moisture caused the tiles at street level, on the mezzanine and even (as it dripped off passengers' coats and umbrellas) on the train platforms to be as slick as an ice skating rink. Someday, if it hasn't happened already, somebody is going to fall and Metro may face a lawsuit for injury damages.