Cloe Anderson (Center for American Progress)

Left Track, Right Track, Green Line, Yellow Line

Urban Outfitters bag in hand, I stepped onto the escalator alone. Descending into the darkness, I fumbled for my metro card and prayed that I would take the train in the right direction. The metro is confusing to me: living in a small town my entire life—or in the sometimes seemingly inescapable campus that is Vanderbilt—my metro experience is limited to a few times in fourth grade when my parents and I traveled to London, England. That was ten years ago. To make matters worse, I am “directionally challenged,” using the Maps app on my iPhone more than I use my phone to call people. Needless to say, one of my goals for this program was to figure out how to navigate a city.

All of my VIEW friends were at work, and not starting work until this Wednesday, I had decided to explore the city alone, taking Uber rather than using the metro: I had deemed myself not ready. I shopped at Georgetown and met my VIEW mentor Mae Cooper for an early dinner. Mae, knowing my reservations about taking the metro, had offered to walk me to the U Street Metro. I gritted my teeth as we arrived at the metro escalator and she said goodbye. I was alone. I checked and double checked and triple checked the direction of the train, making sure I was on the correct side of the platform. As the metro arrived, I stepped into the train and took a seat near the window. My phone was low on battery, but most people were looking at their phones, so I began reading The New York Times on my phone. As we passed stop after stop, I looked at the map of the yellow line. “Strange,” I thought. We were stopping at places that were not on the map! I shrugged. I supposed that the stops simply weren’t listed. No big deal.

Ten minutes later, the conductor called out “Congress Heights,” and my stomach fell. I had recently read an article about crime rates in Congress Heights and surrounding areas. “Oh my GOD,” I texted my mom. “I am in SO MUCH TROUBLE! I am in a really bad part of DC on the metro!!!!” Trying to appear bored, my heart was racing. After getting the nerve to get off the metro at Suitland, I clutched my phone in my hand, battery on 10%, and prayed that the next train would arrive soon to take me back in the opposite direction. I had been so concerned with the direction of the train that I had completely ignored the color of the line, taking green instead of yellow.

Two hours later, finally back in my apartment, I reflected on my first DC metro experience and sighed. Tomorrow, I would grit my teeth and take the metro again, I resolved. I needed all the practice I could get.

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