Thursday, September 04, 2008

Perceived Impoliteness

Today I had to get from College Park to Dupont Circle in 45 minutes or less. I got my bike gear (helmet, bag, padded shorts), biked to the College Park on the Green Line, and took the Green to U Street.

In the Metro, I've been barked at for walking my bike up the stationary stairs, so I usually stick to the elevators, even when I'm in a rush. I also use the handicapped gate to enter and exit the stations with my bike. It's the only way I can enter or exit. The other gates are just wide enough for my bike, but the good people of Metro really don't like it when bikers use those.

So I went over to the only handicapped gate on the 13th Street side. There was a tall, skinny white guy who was slowly walking toward the gates on the other side (coming into the station). I was going faster. The guy lingered in front of the handicapped gate on the other side, making no move to use it, but looking at me. I put my Smartrip card on the panel and opened the gate.

The guy then looked pissed off and says "Oh, sure."

I ignored him and continued through the gate. He stayed where he was, right at the exit of my gate. I squeezed past him, my elbow lightly touching his arm. He said, "Uh, excuse me?!" I ignored him and went on my way.

I'm relatively sure that he will tell his friends that he met the rudest biker ever today, who took his gate, didn't apologize for it, and nearly knocked him down. According to this guy, I was impolite.

Was I?

I'm guessing that he was a transplant from a more verbal city. In DC, our mottoes are "Don't Talk to Me" and "Get Out of the Way." Those aren't my mottoes, though. I just don't talk to the crazies. A man who wants to use the handicapped gate when all of the other gates are free, and who then doesn't make a move to use it but just stands in the way of someone who needs it, is a crazy.


Anonymous said...

I don't think you were impolite at all and you just did the best you could.He was just one of the many clueless louts in this area who have a warped sense of entitlement.

If it were me and I was exiting the system and you were entering, I would definitely see that your sense of urgency in trying to catch a train is greater than mine and allow you to pass. To be honest, though, if there were other gates open, why would I use the handicapped gate anyway?

I think you did the best under the circumstances.

BTW,IMO, his being white,black, etc is irrelavent. Rudeness/craziness knows no color in this town/region.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, but your rudeness was more than perceived. Replace transplant from a more verbal city with transplant from a politer city. He may have hesitated for fear that you'd be an arrogant ass who'd run him over if he moved to go through the gate. Yeah, he was clearly wrong about that, right?

aak said...

Gil - The dude did not seem urgent at all. If he had been rushing (to catch a train or for any reason), I would have stood aside.

Agreed that color is irrelevant. I was merely being descriptive.

2nd commenter - Yeah, he was. If he'd gotten to the gate a second before me, or if he'd made any move to use the gate, I would have waited for him, despite his lack of (physical) handicap. He was just standing there.

And let's not replace "more verbal" with "politer." DC people are polite, but nonverbally. A lot of West-Coasters don't understand this.

Kathleen said...

I'd like to weigh in on the question. I just moved to DC from Iowa & I think people are friendlier here. Midwesterners have a reputation for congeniality but Washingtonians have been great to me. Metro stations are interesting b/c people co-exist but rarely ever interact.

The only impoliteness I perceive here is from the 2nd commenter. The guy at the Metro stop was probably having a bad day. If someone gets bent out of shape for every little nudge and delay using Metro, they would have a miserable existence. The 2nd commenter baffles me a bit. We all share the same world and sometimes it's inconvenient. There's nothing polite about making a sarcastic or passive-aggressive remark when something bothers you. We don’t settle matters with a duel anymore in this country, we try to keep the peace.

Metro Man said...

I think you handled it just as you should have. There are lot of weird people on metro...with weird coming in SO many varieties. Just go about your business and keep it moving, just as you did.

aak said...

Kathleen, thanks for your comment. I'm glad you think DC people may be friendlier than where you're from. I don't think the 2nd commenter was that terrible, though. Despite her calling me an "arrogant ass," I'm glad she answered my question honestly.

Metro Man- I know. That's what I was getting at with the DC mottoes. When I'm on the Metro, I just want to get where I'm going, without too much weirdness. That kind of coexisting without interacting, as Kathleen put it, made me commit to only taking the Metro when I really need to. My bike is getting pretty worn out from all the Metro avoidance.