Ahh, the Metro (The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority). This is also known as an old and expensive, tri-jurisdictional, dumpster fire. For those unfamiliar with this system, it can be frustrating, annoying, and unexpected. For the natives, it remains basically the same. Here is how to be best prepared to face the DC Metro.
1. Sign up for Metro Alerts.
Metro alerts are your friend. This is your annoying friend who does not stay silent and stop texting, but your friend nonetheless. They may not tell you how to solve your problems, but they can at least warn you. Last summer, I learned this too late. The result: what should have been a 40-minute commute took two hours. Luckily my bosses understood. Warning: they will blow up your phone. There are a lot of problems (#ThanksWMATA).
2. Have your MetroCard at the ready.
MetroCard. Get one. Here are some cardinal rules of the MetroCard: know how much money is on it (the card refilling machines are a great resource, as are the little screens on the barriers). Know how to use it. Seriously, it faces down, and you tap it against the matching symbol on the barrier. Not that hard. Keep it easily accessible. Do NOT put it near your phone.
3. Know the sides of the escalator.
Walk on left. Stand on right. It is not that hard (though technically walking on the escalator is pretty bad for it). If you do not do this, people will be miffed, and you will be labeled as a tourist. The only exception is when the escalator is broken (this happens way more often than it should). However, work your way up to walking all the way up the Dupont Circle escalator. Trust me, it is hard.
4. Know your stops.
Know what stop you want to get on at. Know what stop you want to get off at. Know the stop directly before your stop. Know that the stops are fairly far away from each other. Know what direction you are going in. Know what direction you are not going in. Pay attention to where you are. Know your stops. Note: the picture above is not a real metro map; the stop names are mocking.
5. Master the art of the train.
This is a tricky one because you need to know when to rush to the train and shove past people. You need to know when to line up in an orderly fashion. You need to know when to stand up and how not to fall down every time it stops (this is hard, and for the love of all that is holy hold onto something). Finally, know the best way to hold on to the poles without causing yourself pain. And/or bodily damage.