Whether or not you've been to a "big city" before, be it DC, New York, Boston (which technically is not big, but still quite delightful) you hopefully have some common sense when it comes to public transportation.
My experience with public transportation before moving to DC is limited to summer weekends and scattered Christmas trips into NYC, which involved a lot of walking and subway rides, and a lot of train rides and bus riding in Germany and throughout western Europe. First and foremost let me say DC is my favorite city so far, and I've seen a lot. Everyone loves New York, and while I love to visit New York it's just no competition for my beloved DC.
When coming to DC, you should definitely use the metro, its easy to navigate, super convenient and a lot cheaper than taking cabs everywhere. BUT... there are some simple guidelines that you should know. I say should, because it has become very apparent to me over the past few months that there are a lot of people who have no idea, including residents. Therefore spawned out of frustration and disbelief at the rudeness and lack of awareness people have for each other, here is my beginner's guide to riding the DC Metro.
Tip #1 Escalators.
Stand on the right, walk on the left. If you are not in a hurry, stand on the right. If you have luggage you can't carry quickly, stand on the right. This does not mean if you are with a group that some of you should stand on the right and then the rest should stand on the left so you can travel in a pack, blocking everyone from getting past you while you obliviously yammer on about how awesome your stupid crocs are. Crocs are ugly, not even babies should wear crocs, but that's a whole other post.
Tip #2 Metro Card.
If you are just visiting you obviously will be using a fare card/paper metro card. Don't feel bad about being the slow person holding up the impatient SmartTrip Card holder behind you. We've all been there, or forgotten said SmartTrip in other bag and had to feel like a tourist with our stupid paper card.
That being said, there is an arrow on the paper card that shows you how to clearly insert it into the turnstile. Here are the simple steps:
1. insert card according to arrow in the front of the turnstile,
2. it pops out the top of the turnstile,
3. remove it walk through machine.
Also, if you go through a handicapped lane, the ticket comes back out the same way you put it in.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, when you get off the train and exit the metro station, you have to go through the same steps with your fare card. Same steps. stop looking so confused you just did this.
Tip #3. Getting on and off the train. Especially when its crowded.
When the train pulls up, you stand off to the side of the doors, not directly in front of them. This seems like common sense to me, but people somehow don't understand that if you are blocking the doorway people can't get off, and then you can't get on. This is unproductive and maddening for those of us in a hurry. There is nothing more annoying than a bunch of pudgy sweaty croc wearing people shoving their way onto a train when you are trying to get off. Or pushing you from behind when you are trying to let people get off the train. I once actually got shoved by a blind woman who told everyone to "move your asses!". What is the PC response to that? Honestly.
When you are getting off the train, do it already. Pay attention to where you are, or you will miss your stop. Metro drivers only announce the stations half the time, and when they do its usually unintelligible. I personally believe they like to fuck with the people riding the train for their own amusement. If you look you will notice a lot of the times they open their little window at the front and watch all of the people scurrying about trying to cram themselves into over packed cars. Sometimes they even provide humorous commentary. That's my favorite. "All 40 of you don't have to get on the same car. Jesus."
Furthermore, pay attention to those around you, just because its not your station doesn't mean there isn't someone behind you trying to get off the train. Don't stand in the doorway and then give people dirty looks when they push you out of their way to get on and off, its obnoxious. If you are occupying an aisle seat, and the person in the window seat motions they need to get up, don't wait until the train stops to let them out, its rude.
Tip #4 During the ride.
Turn your music down, we can all hear your terrible, terrible teen pop playing and you're not fooling anyone with your jail tats and your gold teeth, we know you're listening to Britney Spears.
Long, personal phone calls are for home, or in your car. No one wants or needs to hear about that nasty thing your sisters boyfriends cousin did with you last night or how you need Imodium, or how you hate everyone you work with etc. It can wait.
Wear deodorant for god's sake. And shower if possible, daily. Also, cheap cologne smells like 100 times more cheap cologne when you're packed in like sardines. A little goes a long way.
Tip #5 Food.
Don't do it. ever. There is no eating or drinking on the metro, because if there was, it would look like the subway. No one wants that.
love and kisses.