- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I was expecting to spend my time exploring the depths of the District’s neighborhoods, bookshops, coffeehouses and clubs. Reality is a different story. I spend an hour and 45 minutes driving, walking, Metro-ing and shuttling before I even start my eight-hour unpaid work day.

The time and cost has been more taxing than I expected. But who am I kidding? It’s going to be a good summer getting great experience with real, crusty journalists. And, hey, that long Metro ride will provide many opportunities to people-watch. It only feeds my voyeuristic tendencies.

In my eyes, there are maybe three broad categories for the 700,000 riders of Metrorail on any given Thursday: those who sold their souls to a commute (businessmen and women, government people who have no gender, interns); the tourists (families, school groups, retirees); and the “real” people (who actually live in the District). Everyone else is just a variation on a theme.

Hard-core commuters have that look, and you know it when you see it. With iPod nano in hand, tennis shoes or flip-flops on (dress shoes tucked neatly into messenger bag or Coach handbag) and Express paper disinterestedly tossed aside, they don’t need your eye contact. And, by all means, they don’t ever need to refer to the Metro maps plastered on the walls.

I fight against mainstream trends on principle. But every day that I scan my MetroTrip card and ease into the fast lane on the escalators, I feel that I lose a part of my individuality.

As I begin my commute listening to the copacetic lyrics of Cat Stevens and Elliott Smith, am I asserting my personality or are my white plastic earbuds slowly morphing me into that greater entity of faceless commuters?

Stefanie Hausner is a student at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Va.

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