Monthly Archives: October 2010

Punishing our Enemies…What?

I have had the privilege of spending some time in the “field” over the last few days and the feeling on the ground is very different from anything I have witnessed during any other election season. 
On one hand it is exciting to see people engaged about the election. But unlike two years ago, there is not the same excitement or anticipation about the future.  I hate using cliché words, but a missing ingredient in what I see is that “hope” that was prevalent last cycle. 

This cycle, people seem engaged not because of the hope and anticipation of the future; they seem engaged because of genuine concern and unease.  Some interpret this is anger.  I really don’t think it is – I think it has everything to do with the fact that unemployment is high, deficits are at record levels, massive tax increases loom on the horizon, and people who bought in to the hope concept have not seen is materialization.

I know, is two years enough time to allow the administration an opportunity to implement the change that was promised to bring us the hope that we had?  Mrs. Obama stated this week that we have come too far to turn back now.  That is certainly a reasonable argument.  It is not one I subscribe to, but it makes sense that some people can feel that way. 
But, I’m at a loss of words when the messenger and architect of the “hope” agenda steps away from his normally presidential demeanor and decides it’s alright to stoop to a level I would argue is less than presidential at best, and desperate at worst. 
The President recently stated that “If Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, ‘We’re going to punish our enemies and we’re going to reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us,’ if they don’t see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election, then I think it’s going to be harder.”
I am not sure that he meant his words to come out the way I heard them,  but this election seems to have brought out the ugly in everyone and I think the president should be the one constant – and in this case, he let me down.  Presidential reputation matters and it sets the tone for debate and political discourse.  To me, this is a lowering of the bar for political discourse and it does not provide me with a sense of hope for the future.  President Obama is the President of the United States – he is not the president of only those who agree with him.  More importantly, even if I don’t agree with him, I am not his enemy. 
Who knows what next week will mean to the President or the majorities he inherited in Congress just two years ago.  But, if you believe the polls, so soon after his historic accomplishment of two years ago, the President is poised for another historic political event – the electoral wipeout of his party with the loss of some of the most familiar faces and longest serving members of Congress.

His “enemy” comments scream panic to me.  But, it does remind me that we are blessed to live in the country where the governed have the ability to change the direction of the nation if they are not happy with the direction the nation is heading. 

It’s not punishing our enemies, its called exercising our right to vote.  Isn’t that what elevated the President to the White House in the first place?   

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Posted by on October 28, 2010 in Uncategorized


Disruption on the Rails!

Just when this commuting thing was getting good, the VRE threw me a curve ball this morning.  As I arrived at the VRE station, I was so happy to see so many available parking spaces – and the really good ones were still available up front!
After I refocused, I noticed the throngs of people standing around looking like they had just lost their jobs.  Sad and bewildered, one of them cautioned me to “just turn around…this train ain’t going anywhere!,” she exclaimed like a train prophet warning the masses. 
The first RED FLAG.
I did not heed her warning and I climbed to the platform where the conductor handed me a “Free Ride” certificate. 
The second RED FLAG.
I asked him what was going on, and he said the train was going to be cleared soon, but I was getting a free ride for the inconvenience.  What inconvenience I thought to myself…I just arrived. Then he announced the train was cleared to leave, and I boarded the train.  But looking out to the parking lot, I noticed that most of my co-commuters stayed in the parking lot.
The third RED FLAG.
What was going on?  Clearly the RED FLAGS were being shoved in my face – almost at every turn – but I chose to ignore them.  Another rookie mistake.
Unfortunately, the train only traveled one station down the line, dumped everyone and left us on a ridiculously long line to catch a fleet of buses that were taking passengers to the nearest Metro station.  As a parting message, and perhaps the last RED FLAG of the day, the conductor announced that he has never seen a disruption like this and we should check before heading to the VRE on the way home because it is unlikely that the trains will be up and running by later today. 
I decided that I should start listening at this point.  Once we arrived at the Springfield Metro station on the overcrowded bus, I ran to the taxi stand, spent $20.00 and completed the circle by retrieving my vehicle at the original VRE station.  I drove to work.
Today, after numerous warnings, I abandoned the rails, but I have a “Free Ride” for next week J

Note:  At 11:15 am, the VRE announced that the Norfolk Southern signal system was restored and all of the equipment was moved to Washington in order to run service this afternoon. VRE stated that they do not anticipate any delays this afternoon on the Manassas Line this afternoon and evening.   I should have ignored that last RED FLAG!

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Posted by on October 22, 2010 in Uncategorized


Train Folks

There is something really cool about standing on a train platform and waiting for a train to arrive.

The smells, the sights, the sounds are all distinct and unique. After ten years of life in northern Virginia I decided to abandon the insane daily commute by car, where I found myself spending upwards of two to three hours of each day in my car to travel 28 miles round trip.

Why did I wait ten years? Not really sure, but I am sorry it took so long! My initial reaction was akin to your child’s first day of school. Complete with my butterflies I set off on my train adventure. To be honest, it was more than expected – it was clean, comfortable, air conditioned, and there were enough seats for all passengers. It was on time, it was smooth, and most importantly, it cut my commute time to a fraction of my normal vehicular path.

As a new convert to the rails, there was a ton to observe. The most interesting? You guessed it, the people.
These folks are serious rail people. They seem to go through the motions of entering the station, validating tickets, and boarding the train without ever really looking up or greeting anyone around them.

But these folks are hard core. For instance, there are no markings of any kind on the platform, yet the veteran travelers mysteriously know exactly where to line up with the train doors for boarding. These folks oddly line up, again without ever looking up, in columns four people wide. As the time for arrival gets closer, a mass of people seem to mindlessly emerge from their cars, the woods, and wherever else they wait, to make their way to the platform, without ever looking up.

Do you remember the scene from the movie “Dawn of the Dead?” Well it reminded me of that – as if some silent whistle sounded and notified everyone to make their way – NOW!

While that was slightly unsettling, the real interesting visual was how they al line up behind the folks that began the boarding lines. In precise columns of four, they line up, one behind the other. It’s sort of interesting to watch. While I think I will be a train person some day, I will resist all efforts to be assimilated into the train collective.

My very presence on the platform is an irritant to the vets because I have not followed protocol and I think it upsets them. I stick out like a sore thumb and act confused as the train approaches and I remain outside of the columned lines entering the train. I suspect they also know I am not one of them when I stare and watch with child-like curiosity over some of the behaviors they display.

And just when I think I have seen it all, something new happens – something you cannot get your head around – yet you realize it is really happening before your eyes.

I call him Dr. Squirrel. I recently arrived at the L’Enfant Plaza stop a little early for my ride home and saw a man standing at a trash can. His backpack was placed on top of the can and he had what appeared to be peanuts in his hand. He was staring off in the distance looking at a stand of bushes. This is the kind of behavior that has DC commuters somewhat concerned since we have all been trained to be weary of our brothers and sisters and need to report suspicious behavior.

I looked to the bushes and saw nothing that could have possibly warranted this much attention. I looked back at the man, scanned the platform for security, and then, in the corner of my eye, I noticed the guy with the peanuts perk up and looked with some anticipation towards the bushes.

His facial features changed and he became more intently focused on the bushes. I looked again and only saw a small, but rather plump squirrel darting out of the bushes. The squirrel stayed off the platform until my new friend tapped the peanut on the top of the trash can.

And then, as if I were watching a trainer and his animal friend perform, the squirrel ran toward the can, climbed the adjacent pole and jumped on top of the man’s bag! I realized that I did not need security, I needed a camera!

I looked around at the people on the platform and I seemed to be the only one watching this. As I searched for the hidden cameras, the squirrel had his little front paws resting on the man’s hands eating the peanut from this man’s hand.

My stare was broken with the sound of the train whistle approaching the station. I suspect this may be only the beginning of a series of stories about my new friends, the train folk…..

Posted by on October 21, 2010 in Uncategorized