On July 23 I was held captive for more than an hour in the Metro parking lot at Franconia-Springfield Station. It was about 10:30 p.m., and I had gone to an unstaffed exit but was barred from leaving. I then went to a few other exits, where I also was met by barriers.

I finally found an exit with an attendant. He asked for a SmarTrip card. I told him I didn't know what he was talking about: Twelve years into retirement, I know a lot about Medicare cards, but not smart cards.

I asked the attendant if I could buy a card from him or pay to leave. He said I had to go back to the station, find a machine and buy a $3.75 SmarTrip card.

Reluctantly, I agreed, but the drivers of the cars behind me were in no mood to move so I could back up. The attendant finally had to leave his cage and direct traffic so I could back up and get my "Get Out of Parking Jail" card.

I found the machine, put in a $20 but got only $15 in change. The parking attendant took my $5 card and opened the barrier. I didn't move.

He told me to leave.

I said, "I want my change, $1.25." He said he wasn't allowed to give change in money or tickets.

I shook my head in disbelief and drove away at 11:45 p.m., a free man again.

My observation: Metro has a much greater need for smart officials than Smart(Trip) cards.

RAYMOND J. MATYAS

Springfield