Where did this blog get its name? What is a DC Zombie anyway? I’m glad you asked.
One day last summer I was commuting in and had a little bit of an epiphany. Not a big life changing epiphany mind you, just a regular, every day, blog-naming sort of epiphany. But before I get to that part, let me set the stage.
As a Capitol Hill staffer living in the beltway suburbs on the Virginia side of the Potomac I commute in and out of the city right in the middle of the mad rush with hundreds of thousands of people. In general the Beltway commute as a daily routine is both mind numbing and slightly harrowing. There are three main ways of getting in to DC with several sub-variations and countless combinations. But to keep it simple, you can either take the bus, take the metro (train), or drive. All three options are fraught with peril but once you get used to it, everything becomes routine. That’s where the mind numbing part comes in. (I’ll do separate blogs later on about the perils, I suppose.)
Each method of commuting has its own traditions and unspoken social mores that each commuter is supposed to know and understand. People new to the game don’t get cut much slack for not knowing the rules and are expected to learn quickly. If you’re a tourist, forget about it. You don’t know the rules, you won’t be in town long enough to learn them, and you probably don’t give a rip anyway. You’re safe to assume that everyone else on the train/bus/road hates you. I don’t hate you, but everyone else does. It’s sick but that’s how it is.
Anyway, some of the rules are just simple common sense things. When the train pulls up dont’ stand in front of the doors to rush on as soon as they open, stand to the side and wait for passengers to disembark first. When you’re getting off the train, be quick about it. When you’re getting on the train be quick about it and don’t stop right inside the doors, fill in so as many people as possible can get on. Common sense. Some rules are DC specific though. When using escalators, stand to the right so that people can walk to the left. (Most DC Zombies are in a hurry to burn their eyes out in front of a dimly lit LED screen and they want to rush up or down the escalators so they can get to it faster.)
Another DC specific rule is that you don’t socially interact during the commute. You don’t make eye contact with people. You don’t talk to people – especially strangers. You don’t acknowledge the person you sit next to unless you are sitting on the inside and need to ask the other person to move so you can get out because your stop is coming up. You don’t let your kids make a peep or show any sign of having joy in life. You absolutely don’t talk on your cell phone, but you may play games, text, check emails, or stare blankly at the screen in a vain attempt to appear occupied. You may read, do crossword puzzles, play Sudoku, and listen to music on your music playing device of choice. These are about the only things permissable. The music is almost a sacred requirement. If you don’t have ear buds in and wires dangling out, you will be glanced at with suspicion. By the way, most of the hatred of tourists stems from their not knowing – and routinely violating – almost every one of these DO NOTS….at the same time….while doing almost none of the things which are permissable. This is a grave offense of near nuclear proportions to most DC Zombies.
So last summer I was commuting in from Virginia. My apartment complex ran a shuttle bus to the Pentagon City metro station where I would catch the Yellow Line into the city. Usually I would not wait more than two or three minutes for a train, but on this particular day something was amiss with the train schedule. As the minutes slowly passed the platform on both sides of the track began to fill up. Before long there were 2-3 train loads of people waiting for the next train. About that time it suddenly hit me that in that enormous space filled with hundreds of people there was no noise to be heard. It was dead silent.
As that thought rumbled around my as yet not fully awake thinker, I started actually looking at people. Almost every single one of them professionally dressed, perfectly silent, and totally self-absorbed with eyes glazed over and a classic 10,000 mile stare. I was surrounded by Zombies….well dressed non-flesh-eating Zombies….but Zombies nonetheless. Moreover, it occurred to me that I was not some anthropologist making a discovery about a far distant non-westernized tribe, I was making an observation about my own tribe. My gosh, I AM A ZOMBIE. The thought hit me hard and it stuck with me.
I had been kicking around the idea of starting a blog for a while but just didn’t want to commit the time necessary to actually maintain it. I decided right there on the platform that if I ever did start a blog I would call it DC Zombie and I would write about life as part of the great Beltway Zombie Hoard. So there you have it. That’s how my blog got its name. I will write about a lot of miscellany, but I’ll always keep a healthy dose of original Zombie related posts in the mix. As always, if you don’t like it don’t bother to tell me. I don’t care. You know why? Because that’s the way of the Zombie. Live with it.