Saturday, July 24, 2010

Symptom Symphony

Last night WH and I were meeting our friends Party On and The Funny Man for dinner downtown. The Funny Man was coming on Metro, which is always a delight on a nearly-100 degree Friday evening.  Party On arrived first, so we enjoyed some cocktails while we waited. TFM sent a text shortly thereafter, saying "It smells like dirty sneaker ass in a basement in here," and we knew it wasn't going well on Metro. 

About 20 minutes later TFM arrived with news of a sick passenger and an offloading train.  This got us talking about the infamous Sick Passenger.  At least once a week this guy gums up the works by getting sick on the train.  As a result, the train is offloaded or held up at the station, keeping other trains backed up in the system.  This begs the question, who exactly is the Sick Passenger?  We started hypothesizing and came up with several ideas. 

Maybe SP had the flu. Perhaps he was throwing up all over the car, requiring an offload and clean up.  This would certainly explain some of the smells emanating from the trains.  Or did he have a nagging, hacking cough that was simply so annoying everyone chose a mass exodus, creating a bottleneck, and causing a delay?  We really couldn't be sure.  I had visions of some poor guy clutching his heart and writhing around in the middle of the car somewhere underground.  But how would we, the Metro riders who see oddities every time we get on the train, know the difference between a random crazy and someone in real distress? 

The possibilities for what might cause the Sick Passenger offload/delay are really endless.  For instance, maybe SP has ebola or a similar life threatening, highly contagious disease requiring immediate attention from medical personal.  Can't you just envision a scene like something out of Outbreak, with big yellow biohazard suits?  It's not so farfetched, really.  There have been times when I wished I had a biohazard suit while riding the train.  Offloading the train and evacuating passengers would actually make sense in this instance . . . but I had yet to hear about such a scene, or even see pictures of it on the news, so we figured this probably wasn't the case either.

More importantly, why, if you were feeling sick, would you even attempt to get on Metro (something sure to make you sicker)?  Think about it . . . if you were feeling a little barfy, would the first thing you think to do be get on a hot, sticky, smelly, crowded Metro train?  Feeling a little numbness in your left arm and some shortness of breath?  How about a ride to Metro Center!  Sweating, achy, feverish?  It might just be the lack of AC on the train . . . or it could be a fever.  Why not take a ride on the Red Line and find out?  Deep in the throes of the mother of all hangovers? The Orange Line'll cure what ails ya.

I really can't begin to speculate what might motivate a sick someone to get on the train, but what I can say is that there are all kinds of people with all kinds of weird ailments and oddities in the Metro system every day.  It's the way the people in our city get around, even when they're not feeling so great.  But, if I may, could we please, in the interest of speeding things up, try and use a little common sense in the future?  If you're presenting with dry mouth, fever, nausea, and the shakes, take a cab.


  1. I've actually managed to get photos a couple of times of the elusive Sick Passenger: one was a derelict-looking kind of guy who appeared to have fallen asleep and the other had a heart seizure.

  2. Thanks for the bird's eye view! The irony, which I neglected to note in my post, is how someone died on the train earlier this summer and nobody noticed for several hours. Crazy!

  3. LOVE IT! I can see myself on the platform one morning: "ohhh... I'm feeling a bit dizzy and could really barf any second... oh, wait, here comes the train - nevermind."

  4. I think I'm glad I don't have to regularly take public transportation!

    xo Susie

  5. After 13 years of riding Metro in DC, I finally experienced TWO sick passengers myself this summer. One was a person having a seizure, another was a girl who fainted on an over-packed train one hot morning. I used to rail about the sick passengers, but I felt a little more sympathetic after seeing these myself. Sure, most of the time it's probably those girls who workout three times a day and never eat who faint on a train, but I guess sometimes it's something the people can't really prevent. I was also kinda impressed by how helpful everyone became when these incidents happened - restored my faith in humanity a little ... until we got to the next stop and it was every man for himself again.