punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Mrmrmrrrm mrm rmrmm rmrm rmmr under emergency evacuation

One of the things I hate about riding the Metro is announcements. "Metro reminds you to use caution and common sense if you see ANY suspicious activity..." it's become background noise. It used to be only rare emergencies were announced. It's gotten so common, I suspect a lot of the voiceovers are recordings now, although most of them still seem to be done by a real human being over a microphone that changes from station to station. The recordings are always easy to understand; by their very nature they are clear and use enunciation. The real ones are much more of a mumble, but you get used to the pattern, and can discern real announcements from the "anti-terrorist" prattle they have been handing out these days.

So I get to Union Station, last underground stop towards Silver Spring. I am half-zoned on sleep-dep, staring out the window. Usually I can gauge a pattern in a crowd pretty quickly; I assume most of you can as well. For instance, when I worked at Springfield Mall from 89-91, they were adding the "Macys Wing," which meant a lot of dust, which meant the fire alarms went off several times a day. You just got used to them. One day, a customer asked above the horrid blaring, "How can you tell when there's a real fire?" "Well," I replied in thought, "if everyone out that door is all running in ONE direction... follow them." Later that became true when we had two real evacuations: when the Greek place fryer vent caught fire, and when some asshat set fire to a bunch of paper towels, and tossed them in the AC ducts (the also set fire to some trash in the dumpsters). People all ran in one direction. When I am at Union Station at 7:45am, I am used to only seeing a small smattering of people, usually commuters taking the MARC connection to Baltimore or something. No more than a dozen. In fact, after Union Station, the train is pretty empty on the way to Silver Spring.

Today, I saw more people that usual... all going in the wrong direction. We're not talking about a mob here, just like... a normal crowd of people you'd except during rush hour. All going down to DC. As the doors to my car opened, I heard someone mumble an announcement, but there was an unusual lilt of urgency in his voice. This is all I caught:

"mmrmrrm mrrrrmmrr Metro suggests mrmrmrrrm mrm rmrmm rmrm rmmr under emergency evacuation mrm rmrmm rmrm rmmrmrrrmm rmrrm please use all available cars... [door closes]"

As the train is leaving the station, I see the escalators TEEMING with people entering the platform. We enter the outside, and I see the Union Station stockyard was filled with workers milling around (it's usually totally empty). As I get to further stops, I see people who are not "regulars," notably men in business suits and badges, making cell phone calls, looking bewildered. I tried to eavesdrop, but I didn't get anything that sounded like an evacuation, being sent home early, or anything other than normal cell phone calls to clients or loved ones.

Silver Spring is also crowded with people. The announcement mumbles something that sounds suspiciously like a normal "keep your eye out for suspicious activity.

Yeah, I am suspicious. What the hell is going on?

I get to work, there's no news. Nothing on the web, no one has heard anything. Was Union Station evacuated? Terrorist attack? Fire alarm? Was it all in my head?? Gaaah...!
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