How Not To Piss Off DC Locals On The Metro

How Not To Piss Off DC Locals On The Metro

Who knows what Frenchman Pierre L’Enfant was thinking when he designed the odd layout of Washington, DC.

With its diagonal intersections, baffling traffic circles and shortage of parking, most locals avoid the fuss and take the Metro.

And it’s there, in those underground tunnels that tourists and locals clash.

In the 40 years since Metro first opened its doors, this system has developed its own culture.  Tourists should recognize this culture if they want to avoid pissing off the locals in Washington, DC.

Six Ways Tourists Piss Off DC Locals Every, Single Day

1. Talking Loudly

Each morning, locals wish for nothing more than a quiet and uneventful ride to cubicle nation.

Most times that’s exactly what we get – until the tourists board.  We know they are tourists before they even open their mouths.  They take too long to board, too long to find a seat and they travel in packs.

Tourists look for a group of seats until the locals have snagged all the spaces.  As payback, they start discussing yesterday’s activities and today’s activities and if we’re unlucky, tomorrow’s activities.

It’s unfortunate that residents don’t share in their enthusiasm.

But, once we realize that our guests aren’t quieting down anytime soon, we put on our very cosmopolitan, noise canceling, wireless headphones.

2. Obstructing Escalators

Most Washingtonians could complete their daily commute in their sleep.

Navigating efficiently through crowded train stations jammed with people is our specialty.  The key to a seamless commute is that everyone in the transit system follows the rules.  And when the rules aren’t followed, the system sucks.

If they are observant, and most tourists are too busy not getting trampled, they will notice an orderly method of using the escalators.

If you are standing still, move to the right.  If you are walking, move to the left.

If you have a stroller, suitcase or dolly that blocks the entire escalator, give everyone a break and use the elevator.  These unspoken rules keep things running smoothly in our transit system.

Another tip for escalators: Don’t hesitate.  Few people are courteous on the escalators.  Visitors should keep moving and let people find a space in front or behind them.

Families can reconnect at the bottom of the escalator once they’ve moved away from the pathway.

3. Blocking Walkways

DC residents absolutely love family, school and church groups who chose our city to spend their hard earned vacation dollars.

Millions of tourists flock to DC each year to take in the history, politics and culture of America’s capital.  And we don’t mind the influx of people – especially in the summer – who have joined our suffering of humidity and heat.

The more the merrier – until they block our walkways.

I know.  Things move faster in the city than they do on the farm.

I don’t think tourists should run around trying to keep up with us locals.  But, if they can’t keep up, don’t slow locals from getting to the hundreds of places we have to go before the sun goes down.

Yes, DC is full of wildly ambitious people.

4. Missing Cues

It can challenge visitors to remember so many unspoken Metro rules.  Luckily for tourists, the rules are all common sense.

There is a reason your GPS tells you a mile in advance which exit you’re taking.  You need time to get into the correct lane and slow down to enter the off ramp.

The same theory applies to getting off the Metro.  When the conductor announces a stop, those getting off should prepare by going to the door and waiting for it to open.  Especially in rush hour.

If tourists wait until the train opens its doors to get up, they risk having to shove their way off or not getting off at all.  And then they’ll think that DC locals are rude.

I bet that’s what happened to the people who voted DC the third rudest city in America.  Next time, they will be at the train door before it opens at their stop.

5. Hogging Poles

After riding the train for some time, you learn how to stand on the train without holding on to handrails.

This is a neat trick that young tourists enjoy trying to master during their short stay with us.  And while many locals have this desirable skill, we don’t use it.

Instead, we hold on to the rails to prevent an unexpected stop from sending us flying into our neighbor.

So, when tourists hog the poles, it drives us nuts.

How are they hogging the poles?  Sometimes they lean against the poles, blocking its use from others.  Or, they let their kids swing on the poles in elaborate shows of skill.  Our train isn’t Cirque du Soleil!

6. Blocking Doorways

Even in crowded stations, those waiting to board will carve out room for others to leave the train.  When the train stops, everyone shifts to the right or left.  Everyone except for tourists.

Tourists stand in the middle of the pathway, oblivious to the fact that they are blocking a wave of people who want nothing more than to bump them out of the way.

Tourists, who are on the train and caught at the doorway, often seem lost.

It’s tough making a split decision when they are the barrier between people wanting to get off the train and others wanting to get on.

A common practice is stepping off the train and standing next to the doors.  Others will usually move back to give them some room.  When everyone is off, they can hop back on.

The quote goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” and these tips will save DC tourists from evil stares, exasperated sighs and the occasional shoulder bump.

I bet following the rules would a lot easier if the rules were posted inside the Metro.  But, where’s the fun in that?

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I hope I didn’t scare you away from DC with this rant about the Metro.  Even frequent travelers must accept the fact that we don’t always get it right when we visit other places.

DC Locals, did I miss anything?  DC Tourists, did any of our quirks surprise you?  If you want even more tips and tricks about the DC Metro, my guide has everything you need to know.  And find my exploits as a Resident Tourist here.  See you on the rails!
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Photo © by Kyle

  • I live in Lisbon, Portugal and it’s the exact same thing. Especially on the escalators! It drives me nuts.

    • Ha! Filipa, it’s nice to know that we’re all dealing with these pains as locals and creating them as tourists. 🙂 I love the balance. LOL!