Sick customer on the Orange Line

“We need a doctor,” came the yell. Some of the last words you want to hear on Metro; they indicate that somewhere on the train, someone may be suffering or dying — and of more callous concern, that WMATA’s “Sick Customer” policy goes into effect, stopping the train and triggering cascading delays down the line.

It was Wednesday evening, rush hour. I was at Rosslyn, on the Orange Line to Vienna. The operator announced over the train P.A. that he would be leaving the cab to attend to a sick customer, emergency services had been summoned, and that we would be holding at Rosslyn indefinitely. In the second car of the train, an elderly man in a suit had collapsed from what appeared to be a heart attack, and lay on the floor, unmoving, a doctor examining him while another passenger checked his cellphone for emergency contacts.

Outside, the station P.A. announced delays on both tracks of the Orange Line due to a sick customer at Rosslyn, single-tracking in progress. Then, another announcement that the train at Rosslyn was being offloaded — but no such announcement had been made on the train that I was on. Passengers looked around doubtfully. Shortly after, the operator returned to the cab and announced that, yes, “this train will be offloaded, please board the train that is now arriving upstairs.”   Continue reading