Around 2 p.m. March 12, I was descending onto the Glenmont platform at Metro Center, when I found a wallet on a broken escalator. Without opening it, I took it to the 11th St. exit kiosk and handed it to the two chatting Metro employees.
Three weeks before, my roommate lost his wallet on the train, yet recovered it through Metro's lost and found. So, this day, I was happy to replicate the good turn.
After handing over the wallet, my conversation with the Metro employees was as follows:
Metro*: "Did you take the cash?"
Me: "No, I didn't look."
Metro: "Why not?! You could have a shopping spree!"
At this point, I thought they were just having a little fun with me. That was until the Metro employee holding the wallet opened it and started prodding around.
She then said, "Hmmm, no cash in here. This ain't no good."
At this point, I took off toward the platform, leaving the employees with the cashless wallet.
When my roommate lost his wallet, everything but his $40 in cash was untouched.
The next time I find a wallet on the Metro, I will probably keep it and seek out the person on my own, rather than risking them suffering a potential "finders fee" by a Metro employee.
*The reason I wrote "Metro" instead of "Metro employee" is to stress that these types of conversations are usually the sole personal interaction between riders and Metro.
Whether it is returning a wallet, or trying to have your SmarTrip card reset, when even the lowliest kiosk operator acts out of line, it colors, rightfully or wrongly, the entire system.
Good instances, too, work this way. A personal favorite example is the rider whose MP3 player was recovered from the tracks by a dust-bin wielding kiosk worker.
Nevertheless, our commutes are bad enough with derailments, offloading, single-tracking, etc. without having to deal with ground-level employees too incompetent to realize their representative role to everyday Metro riders.
It's the difference between believing the workers are good people doing their best in spite of a dysfunctional institution, or believing they are manifestations of the broken organization.
Will Md. chip in more to Metro? (Examiner)
Memo angers some Metro cops (Examiner)
Next Monday and Tuesday could suck (WMATA)