I Said I’d Never Do It                                                         METRO DC
Slice Of Life
By – Sheri de Grom

I said I’d never do it, but I did. It still surprises me that it happened to me.

The closest thing I ever experienced to culture shock was when we moved from Monterey, California, to Washington, DC. Those of you who have been reading with me from the beginning know I made the move under grave protest. We’d erroneously thought we were finally settled for life, but the government had other plans.

I’ve written about my commute to work with two men who were perfect strangers here. I also wrote about the time I had no idea my husband had bought a new car and how I rode to work thinking someone had been messing with my seat. You may read about my stint as Goldilocks here.

The majority of the time in DC, I rode the metro to work. I lived twenty-two miles from my office and, when I drove, it was a minimum one-and-a-half to two hours in the car each way on a good day. Bad days saw me in the car up to four hours each way. Life is just too short to spend that much time commuting to and from work. I hated spending valuable time stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

I’d watched in wonderment as rider after rider slept on the metro yet each instantly knew when to wake to get off the train. The metro is at each stop for only a few moments so there’s no extra time to really wake up and know you’ve arrived at your destination.

One morning, I pulled what I always thought would be impossible for me. I’ll admit I was exhausted from working long hours and my husband had been in the hospital for well over a month.

I stepped into the metro car, located an empty seat and sat down and promptly went to sleep. Imagine my shock when I woke up at my correct stop and transferred to a connecting line on the opposite track. I was amazed and the adrenaline was flowing.

After finding a seat on the second metro car, I thought I probably should stay awake as we would be making several stops in DC that were less than desirable. It would take about thirty minutes to reach my destination.

Once again I fell asleep. I woke up, stunned. Not only had I fallen asleep but my head was on someone’s shoulder.


Dare I look?

On the metro, I’d been warned, never make eye contact and there I was with my head on someone’s shoulder! This couldn’t be good.

I sat up straight and turned to look at my ‘pillow.’ It turned out to be a stern looking, gray suited middle-aged man. Finding my voice, I stammered, “I’m so sorry. I apologize for . . .”

Deep throated laughter burst forth, and the man said, “I’m happy to accommodate. You must be tired. I’ll say this is a first and I’ve ridden the metro over twenty years.”

We did what we weren’t supposed to do; we talked until we reached our destination.

I’ve always wondered about the man in the gray suit. I hope he’s had a good life and I believe he would have become someone nice to know, perhaps someone with whom to share coffee and conversation.

I never fell asleep on the metro again after falling asleep on the nice man’s shoulder. I was afraid my luck wouldn’t hold the next time.

About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
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79 Responses to I SAID I’D NEVER DO IT

  1. FlaHam says:

    Sheri, I used to ride the Yellow Line to Huntington daily when I worked downtown, and I generally caught the 1st or 2nd train out of the station. Had my book on my briefcase, and read all the way to work. Day in and day out LOL LOL. I was so fortunate, I was never trapped on the subway. I think in all the years I rode it my worse delay was about 30 mins. I was working in Fairfax on 9/11 so I even avoided that. But riding the train saved me about 20 mins at least both ways because of the hours I kept. Smiling we were on flex time before flex time was approved. LOL. Great post take care, Bill

    • Hi Bill, I popped these three blogs your way so you could get an idea of what I submitted to make up my 4 stories. I never minded the Metro and it sure beat sitting in traffic. We lived at the end of the line in Alexandria (I planned it that way) and only had to change from blue to yellow to get on into the city. Once I went on out to Walter Reed it was an entirely different story. Plus I was working 80+ hours a week. It was a crazy world back then. Sheri

  2. I’m afraid I wasn’t born with the self preservation gene. My mom said I started trying to make friends on trains/planes as a small child… I really haven’t changed over the years. I have always kind of enjoyed talking to strangers (though I’m also perceptive enough to know when someone wants to be left alone…and respectful enough to grant that wish).

  3. We live in such a fearful and suspicious world and it is so good to read of ‘nice’ people. Lovely story. Thank you.

  4. Robynn Gabel says:

    What a delightful moment of human connection written in a simple, easy-read style. Thank you for sharing this!

  5. A very entertaining story, Sheri! Yes, you are correct, “four hours” commuting one way would be the end of most of us! Even the 2 1/2 for 22 miles! WOW! Yes, life is too short for that. And, I wonder too what happened to the man in the grey suit! Thank goodness he was a good person! I am glad you made it to your destination safely!

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  7. sarahdtowne says:

    Such a quick, lovely story. Restores faith in humankind!

  8. Hi, Jodi. I must be feeling great because the insomnia is back. It’s almost dawn so I may as well stay up! Thanks for stopping by. I’ve declared myself well enough to stop physical therapy. There’s only so much torture one person can stand.

  9. I love reading your stories. I think you’ve lived the most interesting life! So glad you are feeling good enough once again write.


  10. Sheri, thank you for making me smile and for giving me that cozy feeling one gets when you meet a kind stranger, while in a vulnerable situation.

    Blessings ~ Wendy

  11. patriciasands says:

    I’m a late arrival here, Sheri, but love your story. It’s one that brings out a smile and re-affirms the goodness in ordinary people.

  12. Oh, Mr. Gray-Suit sounds lovely! I’m glad the situation turned out pleasant for you. 🙂

  13. Dace says:

    oh, no, not the metro and not falling asleep. ha…ha..ha…this is a good one. I am so glad that you survived. And I am really glad that you woke up when you needed and not the next stop after yours.

    Trust me – that is worse than waking up snuggling up to a guy covered in tatoos…

  14. Penny L Howe says:

    An excellent and fun story/adventure extremely well told. Thank you for sharing. And best of all what a great experience to have! 🙂

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  17. Sheri, My traveler’s route was the opposite of yours, from east coast to west. Born in Atlantic City, NJ, lived twenty-five years in Philly, landed in LA for a few final youthful gasps, before making my way to California’s central coast. I can still smell the dank Philly subway air under Columbia and Broad St., feel the sweat on the palm of the hand I used to hang on to the metal rail above my head, and hear the blue electric screech as the elevated train slipped and slid a snaking path down into the earth and then came up for air. D.C. was my hippie destination, the place I went to protest the Vietnam Warm and to inspect the inside of the District’s courtrooms and jail cells. I loved the time I spent trying to grow up in northeastern cities, but kindness there always seemed a rare luxury. You found kindness on the Metro; that was a gift to be remembered. Here in Morro Bay, CA unsolicited kindness is apparent each and every day; and yet to me — because of past experiences — its expression always feels like a surprise. I’m glad to hear that you found a bit of unsolicited kindness. And I’m glad I found your writing here.

    • Oh how I love the central coast of California. I spent 13 wonderful years with Fort Ord as my home base before it closed but I had in too many years with the government to jump ship and at the time all of the good positions were in DC. We’d thought Monterey/Carmel would be home forever (and it is in my heart).

    • Anthony – I tried and tried to get your complete message open and was unable to so went ahead and replied to that which I could read. Now I have access to the remainng words. I readily understand why others are encouraging you to return to the world of blogging. Your wordsmithing is divine and as smooth as any ballroom dance. The culture shock I faced upon moving to DC was the glaring light of harshness and never a smile (or so it seemed). I’d grown accustomed to the lifestyle of Monterey/Carmel where it was nothing to speak to whoever happened to be standing next to you. I often thought about how I often started out having dinner alone in a restaurant in Carmel only to be invited to join another table and have that turn into forming wonderful friendships. Never did that happen in DC. I will admit, I was much more relaxed living on the central coast than I ever was in DC. Although my career didn’t change in job description much, the circumstances were 100% different. I had to be on alert 100% of the time in DC. I’m looking forward to more photos and thoughts of living on the central coast.

  18. Sheryl says:

    Your story brings back lots of memories of riding on the Metro. I tended to read one of the free newspapers rather than sleep–but once or twice I almost missed my stop because I was so engrossed in a story.

  19. Tameri – Now that’s a sweet story with a new twist. I hope he did. I often wonder about people that have passed through my life and how are they and have things turned out well for them. I so love your thoughts for my gray suited man.

  20. What a sweet story. Brought a smile to my lips on this grey and drizzly Spring day. I wonder what happened to him as well. Maybe one day he dozed off and woke up wish his head on someone’s shoulder…

  21. Denise Hisey says:

    That is a hilarious story, Sheri! It reminds me of one I heard about a lady sleeping on the plane. I don’t know if it’s even true, but since I fear doing the very thing I’m thinking it sure could be.
    So the story goes a lady was sitting next to a businessman on the plane and she fell asleep. When she woke, she had drooled all over the poor man’s suit. Isn’t that just the worst? 🙂 LOL

    • Denise – That could so easily have happened to me. I travelled so much for work, I often got on a plane and was asleep before we ever left the ground and was still asleep when we reached our destination. Flying was one of the places I could sleep. I didn’t have to worry about ringing telephones telling me about yet another crisis or some such thing. The last ten years of my career, I often believed the only times I received eight hours of sleep was when I had a long flight.

  22. Carolyn Dekat says:

    Wow! What an adventure. Scary and wonderful all wrapped up in one package. I wonder how his version of the story goes….

  23. I would’ve been scared stiff! I’m grateful you were protected! I’ve many friends experiencing these tough situations ~ what can We do to help!

  24. Patty B says:

    That is a cute story with a happy ending! I wonder if he thinks about you. 😉

  25. Such an uplifting story. Two unlikely strangers meeting in an unlikely way, but bound together for just a moment in time.

  26. willowdot21 says:

    Sorry to rush through but will have more time Friday , so please forgive me for not commenting.I like you style!!

  27. lignumdraco says:

    Amazing story. Your scenario (had it turned south) would make for a good horror movie or twilight zone episode.

    As a tourist, I would often hear cautionary tales about the DC Metro. I’m glad you had no problems.

    • Having traveled in numerous countries and all over the United States, I believe the DC metro is the safest and cleanest I’ve ever ridden. There are definitely parts of the DC metro you don’t want to travel but if you use caution and common sense, you should get along just fine. I rode the metro for a little over five years and didn’t have a single incident.

  28. terry1954 says:

    You made a comment about how the riders slept but knew the perfect time to wake up. It reminded me of my brother who never uses an alarm clock but always wakes up on time, every time..

  29. Hey, Robyn – Anything for a smile, right? The years I worked in DC, well I was always on guard and the suit and silk blouse kind of person. My hours were long and I never let up on myself. I must have felt incrediably safe with ‘the gray suit’ or I’m positive I’d never gone to sleep. I hope I didn’t drool on his suit jacket:)

  30. Robyn Lee says:

    Oh Sheri ~ this is such a story. I have had men fall asleep on me on bus rides — but I don’t think I’ve ever fallen asleep on a stranger, though I talk to them all the time! It sounds like a lovely encounter — thanks for sharing…made me smile! 🙂 Robyn

  31. Interesting story. In a whimsical way, I’d like to think of your gray suited stranger as an angel guarding you, keeping you safe as you slept.

  32. That’s an interesting story. But its interesting to strike a conversation with strangers while traveling…you get to know so much and time passes quickly.

    • I agree – I’ve made some great friends by talking with strangers while traveling – for both work and pleasure. However, the hard and fast rule of the DC Metro was firmly in place and I wasn’t about to break what seemed to be working. Many passengers find the time they are commuting to relax and be prepared to spend time with their families when they arrive home or to be at their best when they arrive at the office in the morning. Some established rules aren’t meant to be broken. I believe they are part of the culture for a reason.

  33. words4jp says:

    i lived in DC for 6 years – took the Metro all of the time. I, too, was amazed how people could fall asleep and wake up in time for their stop. I must say this never happened to me – wow, i am so happy your pillow was a true gentleman:)

  34. Ginger Calem says:

    What a great story! I’d have died to wake up with my head on a stranger’s shoulder. I’m so glad he was nice! I’m thinking this story would be great in a novel. 😉

    • Perhaps I could title the novel, “The Man At The End Of The Line!” Communiting in DC really is crazy and much of it is based on trusting our fellow man. I came into contact with some of the most corrupt organizations I’ve ever had to deal with while working there, yet during rush hour traffic, everyone seems so focused on getting from point A to point B, they don’t have time to be eveil. Thanks for stopping by.

  35. Emma says:

    I’m smiling reading this. I’m always afraid to make eye contact on the Tube when I’m in London.
    I don’t know what it is about public transport, but it tends to bring out a lot of strange folks. 🙂

    • Yes, in one of my first briefings in DC, I was told, no eye contact on any public transportation. Of course having come from the central coast of California where everyone talks to everyone else no matter where they are, this was a real behavioral change for me. It seems each European country has a different set of rules to follow but I so wish the states were so beautifully inter-connected.

  36. Oh, Sheri, I laughed and I was terrified for you at the same time. So great that you had a wonderful man to learn on. Having rode both the NYC Subway and the DC Metro, the Metro would be my less fear choice. I always felt safe on the Metro. No clue why. Never fell asleep though. I do have a fear of sleeping on a plane. Why? I snore horribly (Hubby says I’m really LOUD, too) and I don’t want to bother anyone.

  37. I LOVE THIS STORY! How absolutely kind of him to make light of it and to share conversation with you until you reached your stop. I remember taking BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) from Oakland to San Francisco day after day. But we were SO squished, standing, one hand holding the bar so we wouldn’t fall while being jostled around with the other hand holding a book trying to read. No way did I ever find a seat so I can’t relate. But, what a hoot your tale is!

    • Patti – I also had alot of those squished days as well when all you could do was step into the metro car and hang on to an overhead strap for all the swaying and curves to come. Those weren’t my favorite days, but hey, the ride got me to where I needed to be going. I’d only delt with rail travel in Europe until we moved to DC and that’s a completely different experience.

  38. Ah , Sheri… the memories of being a strap hanger in NYC. I can relate to your story two ways. One, I used the subway to take a nap, read or do homework during school yers. So many a foggy morning or late evening, I woke with my head on someone’s shoulder. Two, I can’t count the times others fell asleep on me. You nudge their heads up a tick, wait for the right moment and then give them a good shove. I rode the subway system for over 40 years and had a love/hate relationship with them.

    I imagine since the DC rails are newer you at least rode in comfort 🙂

    • Florence – I’ll put in a plug for the DC Metro System here. Every car is clean of trash. There’s never loud music of offensive behavior roaming the aisles. (Every car is cleaned inside and out every 24 hours of use). I believe the DC experience is completely different from the NYC experience. My metro experience was almost exclusively of the white collar types getting from the burbs into the city to go to work and back out at night.

  39. Mae Clair says:

    Wow. You were fortunate to have such a great traveling companion, Sheri. An experience like that, would probably keep me awake in the future too, LOL. Thank goodness he was a kind gentleman. I wonder if he doesn’t sometimes think about the woman who fell asleep on his shoulder, as you sometimes think of the gray-suited man 🙂

  40. Jane Sadek says:

    One thing I’ve learned in life, is the Peter Syndrome. If I claim there’s something I’d never do, I’ll be up to it by cock’s crow. Glad you’re Peter Experience had a happy ending.

    • You are so right, Jane. Often when Tom and I go to the movies, I fall asleep. I think it has to do with the idea that I finally allow my mind to slow down and not ‘work on’ everything else that’s going on in my world. I’ve fallen asleep on the wrong shoulder at the movies but Tom will usualy make the apologies and bring my head back into the circle of his arms and all is good! You are so right, never say never.

      • Jane Sadek says:

        I think I like Tom a whole lot. Tom is the name of the protagonist in my WIP. It was my grandfather’s name. And it was my first crush’s name. Bodes well for your Tom.

  41. Deb says:

    Oh my, Sheri, I’m so glad it was a kind gentleman shoulder you dozed off on. But I agree with you to try not to fall asleep again in the future. God only knows who’s shoulder you could end up on. But you also have your purse to consider…Stay safe.
    Have a great week!

    • Deb – thanks for stopping by. I was always more concerned about my brief case as I was always carrying around investigative case files that were considered “eyes only” and they didn’t dare get away from me. Thank goodness for the advent of the messenger bag style. It’s enabled both men and women everywhere to keep both documents and personal items safer. I’m going to try to keep my sleeping confined to my residence!

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