- The strollers in question from this morning. (Photo: John Hendel)
As I returned from Anacostia this morning, I encountered an especially scary moment in the Metro that caused me to pause and think of just what implications the little Metro glitches and difficulties really have.
At perhaps 11:20 a.m. or so, I was waiting for the next train at L'Enfant Plaza and listening to an old man play the flute, his music all spread out on the ground in front of him. He chuckled and joked with the people around him, and the music really was quite nice. Nothing intense, nothing loud — just the pleasant sounds of the flute carrying through the platform. Multiple people stepped forward to place bills of money on the man's instrument case. Among these observers were a group of young women, two with baby strollers. They'd also been listening to the music and offered money. The photo above shows the women with their strollers watching the musician. They laughed with the man about how their babies reacted to the sounds.
When the Blue Line train finally arrived, I walked into the car briskly and saw that the mothers were following a little slowly. Only the first managed to enter the car, however, because the doors slammed shut. We've all seen this happen. More than a few times, I've been guilty of a last-minute run to the Metro car, sliding past the closing doors at the last second. Nerve-wracking, strange moments always occurr when a man or woman tries to enter only to have their bookbag or some other loose item jam in the doors as they close — especially if the person remains on the platform as a bag jams. Will the person have to lose his or her bag if they don't want to get yanked along with the train? The fear has, naturally, always been that the train would begin moving with the person's item still stuck. Fellow riders usually offer some widened eyes and nervous laughter, often assisting the stricken rider as they try to pull through their belongings either in or off the train. I've watched this happen multiple times in the last month or so.
This morning, however, I saw a young mother's baby stroller — infant inside — get one of its legs and wheels stuck inside the Metro door.
The woman was standing behind the stroller and not able to initially touch the doors. Shock lined her face. I immediately moved to grab the Metro doors with both hands and push them open. The Metro car made one of its customary, goofy sounds, and fortunately, the doors did briefly slide back open for a split second and allow the woman to pull the stroller out of the doorway and safely onto the platform.
The opening was far too brief to allow any other customers to enter the cars. The women and I glanced at each other and smiled through the glass as the Blue Line train pulled away, a little surprised and dazed by the sudden stroller catch in the door. The Metro is, by and large, a relatively safe system, and I'm not meaning to imply otherwise or ramp up the danger of the moment. But as a rider, I was surprised and had never considered what navigating a baby stroller too slowly could mean when coming onto a Metro train. Perhaps the lesson is to listen to the robot voices that alert us to "Doors closing"? I don't know.
It was a brief moment but alarming.