The other day, Ehren Reynolds and his 4-year-old son, Theo, looked at a map of the Metro system, as they do each day during their commute to child care.
“You can get on the Yellow and Green, the Orange, Silver and Blue,” Theo said, as he pointed to L’Enfant Plaza on the map hanging on a wall at Gallery Place.
“What stations haven’t we gone to?” asked his dad, a consumer protection attorney for the Justice Department. “We haven’t gone to Brookland.”
“We went there to go to the potty,” Theo corrected him. And Ehren laughed because, indeed, they had gotten off there once to use the station’s restroom.
Theo may still be learning his ABCs, but from his daily commutes, he’s also learned the system as well as any beaten-down rider.
On another recent day, as they headed from their home near the Wheaton station to Theo’s day care near Gallery Place, they were looking at a map on their Green Line train, playing a game as they usually do. On this day, it was “find the MARC.”
Theo pointed to Union Station and said the map was wrong because it didn’t say that you can get the MARC there. He knows because when the Red Line isn’t partially shut down, as it has been for the past month, their train stops at Union Station, and a voice says you can get on the MARC.
“My son Theo, age 4, discovered an error on the WMATA map,” Ehren wrote in an email to Metro afterward. Not in a “What’s wrong with you people?” sort of way; more like, “Look how smart my kid is.”
Indeed, Theo had spotted what Metro spokesman Dan Stessel called a “rogue, outdated map.” Metro plans to reward Theo for his keen perception with a visit with some conductors. “We’re looking forward to meeting him,” Stessel said.
In part, the father and son study the maps each day to pass the time, but they also do it because Ehren wants Theo to appreciate the transit system.
Ehren is a counterpoint to the many (usually justified) complaints flying across social media during all the single-tracking and service disruptions this summer.
He gets it. Like thousands of others trying to get downtown, Ehren and Theo haven’t been able to take the Red Line all the way. They’ve had to transfer to the Green or Yellow lines at Fort Totten, because the Red Line is shut between that station and NoMa while the crumbling Rhode Island Avenue station is repaired.
But Ehren, 40, has seen worse. He grew up in Brooklyn in the 1980s, when graffiti covered the windows of every New York subway train. He remembers the “unsafe feeling” of riding alone.
Ehren said that when he and his wife, Asha, moved to the D.C. area, they wanted a house near a Metro station. “It could be four walls with no roof, but it had to be by a station,” he said.
There’s something more urbane about riding the subway. There’s more than just cars for Theo to look at each morning and afternoon — a gamut of races and ethnicities and socioeconomics.
Some may ditch Metro after all the hassles. But when she starts day care next month, Theo’s 2-year-old sister, Hazel, will start coming along — as Ehren and Theo hold hands and, no doubt, look at a map.
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