Thursday, April 20, 2017

So how exactly did you get this?

Here's something you might not know.  When you reach a certain age in your sixties, you can apply for a special smart card in the DC Metro system and ride at a greatly reduced rate forever, I suppose.  I didn't know anything about this program until a friend of mine who is older than me told me about it, describing it as a half-off card.

I inquired at the West Falls Church station, which I sometimes use, and the station manager confirmed the program and told me where the "commuter store" was where I could go to purchase the card, for $2, and informed me of the store's hours.  The next day I undertook a run of four miles to that store and bought the special card and loaded it to the max ($300).

I handed over my OL to the clerk in her fishbowl booth and said, "Check the age and you'll know what I want."  Without a word she smiled, glanced at my license and started filling out a form.  She said most people are ignorant of the program but still, she sells about half a dozen such cards a day.

The card is bright yellow, in contrast to the pale green and blue color of the regular metro smart cards.  I guess its distinctiveness shouts out to onlookers, Senior, Senior, as in old.  But who am I kidding, I don't need to flash the fare card for persons to realize that there are seats in the cars set out especially for me and my ilk.

Having run to the commuter store at the Ballston station on the flat W&OD Trail and hilly Custis Trail from the East Falls Church station because I didn't want to pay full fare to get there when I could ride for half-fare back, I entered the metro system for my return trip and carefully checked the posted fare.  $1.75.  Upon exiting the system one stop later, I was disappointed to see that my cost was $1.05, not $0.88.

I asked the station manager if he could explain something about my brand-new fare card to me and handed it to him.  I said that it should have provided me with a half-off fare, but that my fare was more than half of the normal fare.  He gave me the familiar dodge about higher than expected fares and said it depended upon the distance traveled and the time of day.

I said that it was a senior card which is supposed to provide for half-fares, not something higher.  He was quick on his feet and said it was a discount card, not a half-fare card.  It was apparent that neither of us really knew how the program actually works, so I'll have to monitor my fares for awhile or try find its particulars on-line, but his answer was acceptable to me.

And then, his face hardening and his voice rising authoritatively, he asked, "And just how did you come into possession of this card?"  He was staring at me and holding my card, and I looked at him in stunned disbelief.  Suddenly I burst into laughter and pointed knowingly at him.  His eyes twinkling, he handed my card back and gave me a slight chuck on my shoulder.  Friends for life.

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