They say that reinforcing good behavior can lead to positive change. Against the tide of so much going wrong with Metrorail these days, here’s hoping.
The scene: Orange Line to Vienna, Smithsonian station.
What: What else? Door problem sidelines a train at about 5:50 p.m. Passengers off-loaded. Suck potential jumps to “mega” on the meter.
What came next: Metro worked it out pretty well, both with the train, and especially in the actions of the operator.
Delays are never fun, of course, and Metro has enough door problems for all the subways in the hemisphere. But once the problem struck, and the train was off-loaded, Metro was able to lock the offending doors shut, and then allow people to reboard. (Why they don’t do this more often, I don’t know.)
Of course, crowds were piling up down the line by the second. And that’s where the operator came in. Once the train hit Metro Center, it was, naturally, packed. But with a mixture of resolve, humor, and cajoling, he let everyone know what was going on, kept the crowds on the platform under control, kept the train moving, and soothed we passengers sardined on board.
Let’s call him “Mr. OK,” for his PA system mannerism. Regular riders will recognize him as the guy who prefaces his announcements with, “OK,” as in, “OK, next stop is Farragut West,” or, “OK, this is Rosslyn, the first transfer point … .” I’ve been listening to him for years.
Anyhow, Mr. OK calmly assured those on the platforms that other trains were following closely behind. And you know what? They listened. Talking all the while, he didn’t hover in the stations so long as to allow too many people to surge aboard, which could only have crippled the train again. He urged the door hogs to step off (“Please don’t try to save your space.”) so people could exit, assuring that he’d give enough time to get back on. Again, people listened. (For the most part.) “Left side, show the right side how it’s done,” he bantered, prompting open laughter in the car, as we moved through stations with different door opening sides. After each stop, he thanked us for our help in keeping things moving. Heck, it was like we were partners.
What really made it all work was that Mr. OK treated us like we had brains. There were no platitudes or Metro-speak. (“We’ll be moving momentarily." (Long pause) “We’ll be moving momentarily.” (Repeat as often as necessary.) Nor tirades. (Not like the operator I once had who shouted out, “Alright, people, I’m through pleading with you … .”) All of Metro could take a lesson from Mr. OK’s deft handling of the situation.
How deft? At several stops, as people were leaving the train and Mr. OK had his head stuck out the cab window, they came up to him to share a laugh or to say thanks.
Now there’s something you don’t see every day.
Also by CS:
- Blue-to-Orange switcheroo
- Metro hosts blogger round table
- Catoe: Show us you get it
- Rules don't apply
- Vienna's creepy tower
- Doors Closing
- Moving ... Backwards
- One week of Metro: 40 percent suck rate
- Pique of the Pique
- Does anyone really buy this?
Metro workers who shine
Metro to hold 6/22 memorial ceremony (WMATA)
Union to hold vigil (WaPo)