During last Thursday’s afternoon commute, a 20-year-old woman with a faux pearl necklace was in the crowd of commuters boarding a Red Line train to Glenmont.
“It’s usually around Rhode Island Avenue when I get tired of being on the Metro,” Serenity Wolf said. Indeed, when the train passed that station six stops later, she moaned, “I wish I was home.” But she was still two hours away.
It’s a common thought for many on Metro: “I wish I was home already.” But next time that’s on your mind, think of Wolf and her pursuit of a better life.
Wolf, an intern for the National Education Association, isn’t among D.C.'s privileged summer interns whose parents rent them short-term luxury apartments. She doesn’t have, in her words, a “silver spoon.”
That morning, at 6:15 a.m., when the skies are just brightening, Wolf got into her car at her parents’ home in Taneytown, Md., a rural town about 20 miles from Gettysburg, Pa.
Five days a week, she pulls out of her neighborhood at that time and stops for coffee at a Dunkin’ Donuts. That Thursday morning, she’d of course hit the red at the town’s lone traffic light.
Ninety minutes of driving later, she’s just getting on the train at Glenmont, the far end of the Red Line, for what’s typically a sleepy half-hour ride to Farragut North. Then, after work, she does the whole trip in reverse. She spends $15 a day in train fares and parking fees — all on an intern’s salary.
She was named Serenity, said her mother, Charlene Wolf, because the girl’s father, Joe Wolf, is a truck driver with a poetic streak. He’d remembered reading a poem in high school "about a pond or something that was serene and calm,” Charlene said.
“My dad still tells me I’m the calm in his life,” Serenity said.
On the ride to Glenmont last Thursday, Wolf, who was sitting on the aisle side seat, asked the woman on the window side where she would be was getting off. As the train approached the woman’s station, Takoma, Wolf stood, unprompted, to let her pass.
It was noted to her that the gesture was particularly considerate among the man- and woman-spreaders and backpack-wearers.
“I know it’s awkward when I have to ask somebody to get by,” she said.
One recent morning tested her serenity. The train was single-tracking. People were pushing onto the crowded car, until a woman standing over Serenity was being pressed nearly onto her lap. She yanked off her headphones.
“Why don’t you wait for the next train?" she yelled at the crowd. "There’s one right behind us!”
To understand why she endures all this, consider that Taneytown has a population of approximately 6,800, according to census data. There are two grocery stores, a McDonald’s and a Subway. There’s not much for high schoolers to do other than hang out a Sheetz gas station.
“Most people in town are considered middle-class to upper middle-class,” Charlene said. “We don’t fit into that category. ... We live paycheck to paycheck and sometimes we go to the church to get groceries.”
Some from her town go on to college. Others stay and work at Flowserve or EVAPCO, manufacturing companies in the area.
There’s not much around that feeds Wolf’s interest in improving education for diverse kids. She hopes to eventually write curricula or become an education reform advocate. She thought a summer at a teacher’s union could give her a leg up — maybe even a chance to attend a congressional hearing.
“I’ve seen my parents struggle,” she said. “I am doing all I can in this competitive world to make something out of myself."
When she got off the train at Glenmont at 6 p.m. last Thursday, most riders around her were minutes from drinks or dinner. Heels were about to be kicked off, ties untied.
Wolf walked to her car in the parking garage, and began her drive home. An hour and a half later, she’d eat dinner, and lay out her work clothes for the next day.
If you know a Metro rider or worker we should profile, let us know. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.