Metro-phobic

Do you mind being trapped in a tunnel? Are you afraid of germs? How do you feel about tight spaces? These are the kinds of things you think about when weighing the pay-for-parking-sit-in-traffic verses public transportation option.

I ride the metro every morning and afternoon during rush hour. It’s greener. It’s faster. It’s safer. It requires you to neglect the personal space of a stranger. Sometimes I see reindeer. Usually, I just surf along and play Words with Friends until I get to my stop.

Today, I felt like I had claustrophobia for the first time. EVER. I’ll tell you why.

First, I should clarify that this is not the first time I’ve been so crammed in a metro car that I couldn’t breathe. Well, I could breathe, but I could have just as easily mistaken my own breath for someone else’s since I could feel the four people who were touching every side of my body breathe, too. Seriously. Rally to Restore Sanity Day. Earthquake Day. It happens.

This morning, I really wasn’t sure if my friend, J., and I would fit into our usual train because when it pulled up there were people plastered against every door. The train stopped. The doors opened. Four or five people got off. Twenty-five proceeded to push forward. I was basically lifted and carried onto the train unwillingly. J. and I got separated. To clarify, we were still within an arm’s reach of each other, but there were three American-sized people between us.

Most people didn’t hold onto anything. What was the point? They just stood there like wads of tissue paper crammed into a box knowing that they would break each others fall. Bad analogy? Anyway. The doors almost close but can’t because people are still trying to press their bodies into an over-capacity car. The driver makes an announcement and tries to close the doors again. People throw themselves into total strangers. You know.

Finally the doors close and we begin to trot along. That’s when I realize that this car is unusually bumpy. Also, the guy standing behind J. starts to have “questionable burps” which is a term my friend Chase coined to describe hungover people who sound like they are about to throw up as they burp repetitively. J. and I exchanged glances. The ride continued to be shakey. The train slowed down. He moaned a little. Then the brakes stopped.

Hard.

So there we are trapped in the tunnel when we heard our favorite metro delay announcement, “We will be moving momentarily.” Thirty seconds? Three minutes?

Burp.

And then, “Oh, God.”

It was pretty obvious that this guy was not feeling well. Crammed against way too many people in hot coats, I started to not feel so well myself. It was getting hot. Someone’s wool coat was touching my neck. I only know this because I’m allergic. I couldn’t turn around if I wanted to. I couldn’t take a deep breath if I wanted to.

Burp.

I start laughing. Nervously. And I start to feel just a little bit claustrophobic. What if we don’t move for five minutes? Or fifteen? Or longer? This guy is really about to blow. What if he vomits and his vomit induces additional vomiting? We can’t go ANYWHERE.

Thirty precious seconds later, the brakes released and the train moved again.

Some people got off at the next stop, and we made it to work vomit-free. Just another thing to be grateful for, I guess.

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