What could be said about the pain of watching Coach Joe Gibbs and his Washington Redskins lose their second straight game, this one to the loathsome Dallas Cowboys?
For John Mesler, 45, who was cramped amid somber fans on a shuttle bus leaving FedEx Field on Monday night, one word sufficed: "Ouch."
But Mesler and others among the 90,367 fans found some solace off the field -- saying that getting to and from the game on shuttle buses from Metro stations and distant parking lots went more smoothly than expected. During the preseason and the first regular season home game, on Sept. 12, some fans complained about spending more than an hour in snaking lines to board the shuttle buses and then fuming as buses got stuck in traffic en route to the stadium.
"I had heard that the first week of the season was really ugly," said Mesler, a Defense Department employee from Bowie, as he rode back to the Landover Metro station after Monday night's 21-18 Redskins loss, witnessed by the largest crowd in team history. "But this wasn't so bad."
To handle the throngs, Metro deployed 185 buses to run on continuous loops from the Landover and Addison Road-Seat Pleasant stations, as well as three satellite parking lots at Mercantile Lane, McCormick Drive and Technology Way. Metro usually provides 125 to 140 buses at these sites on game days, said spokesman Steven Taubenkibel. Nearly 24,000 people rode the shuttle buses to Monday night's game, he said, about 4,000 more than usual. Many fans reported that trips from satellite parking lots and Metro stations took from 10 to 30 minutes.
Authorities also changed traffic patterns by allowing only inbound stadium traffic on Arena Drive, one of the main access points to FedEx Field. This freed up room for shuttle buses and allowed them to get back to their pickup points faster, officials said.
"After the first game of the season, we needed to iron some things out," Taubenkibel said. "What helped . . . is that we had more buses out there moving more people, and that extra lane on Arena Drive helped shave off some time."
At the Landover Metro station, about four miles from the stadium, fans arriving for Monday's game poured out of one six-car train after another. The scene was hectic, as people juked and sprinted out of the turnstiles, only to push up against a line stretching more than 100 yards to get on the buses. But people moved steadily, and several commented on the improvement from previous games.
"They must have gotten the kinks out," said season ticket holder Paul Decker, 39, of Bowie, as he walked toward a bus. "I came for a preseason game and it was a nightmare. There were thousands of people and not enough buses."
Still, many fans again criticized the arrangement of satellite parking lots around FedEx Field, griping about the cost and proximity. The Redskins provide 25,000 parking spots for season ticket holders close to the stadium, and an additional 5,800 spaces in cash lots, which cost $25, farther out on land leased to the team.
"In Philadelphia, I pay $10 to park near the stadium, and down here we pay $25 and have to take the shuttle bus to the stadium," said Steve Pollack, 28, of Burlington, N.J., who was grilling food in front of his pickup truck before kickoff.
John Baddick said it took more than three hours to get to a preseason game from Connecticut Avenue in the District when he parked in the McCormick Drive lot. "I spent an hour and fifteen minutes waiting in traffic on the bus," he said. "I missed the whole first quarter. It was awful."
Baddick, 38, a season ticket holder, allotted four hours to make it to Monday's game, which started at 9 p.m. But within an hour, he had ridden the Landover Metro shuttle and made it to the stadium gates. "This is much better," he said.
After the game ended about 12:30 a.m., the shuttle bus system appeared more chaotic than before. Metro officials barked orders as thousands of fans swarmed a FedEx Field parking lot, many confused and frustrated as they fought to get on the right bus. Others had problems once they made it back to the Metro trains.
Stephen Miller, 53, of Alexandria said he was stuck with dozens of others at the L'Enfant Plaza Station for nearly an hour while he waited for a Yellow Line train to take him to the Huntington stop. After several stops and starts, he said, he didn't arrive at the station until 3:15 a.m.
"Nobody was telling us anything at all about what was going on. It was like mass confusion," Miller said. "It took us three hours to get home, and I can tell you there were not a lot of happy people on that train."
Some fans at the game also continued to object to a Prince George's County policy that blocks pedestrians from walking up Redskins Road to the stadium on game days. County officials have said that blocking the road ensures public safety by discouraging fans from parking in the Landover Mall area and walking across busy intersections. A lawyer for a group of fans has fought the policy in court and had it briefly overturned last year, before the county reauthorized the pedestrian restriction this season.
A Prince George's administrative panel heard testimony last week about the pedestrian ban and is expected to decide next month whether to keep it.
David Prince, 43, a longtime season ticket holder from Rockville, said parking for free and walking to the game used to be "easy as cake." Since the pedestrian ban, he has been frustrated by the off-site parking options. Though he had prepaid for a season of parking, he took Metrorail to the game Monday.
"I just wish [Redskins owner] Dan Snyder would try to get to the game like a normal fan, just once," Prince said. "See how he likes it."