An Open Letter to Mr. Metro Music Lover

Photo courtesy of
‘Day 309, Project 365 – 8.29.10’
courtesy of ‘@thewtb’

At first I can only hear a faint scratchy sound, while I’m perusing my morning Express, peacefully on my way to work. Then it becomes a louder sound. One that registers… it sounds vaguely familiar…is that…no…it can’t be… Miley Cyrus? I look around, expecting to see a tourist teenage girl, and see you, Mr. Metro Music Lover, blasting your “Party in the USA” through your headphones so loud that the entire train can sing along to your dream and cardigan. Folks on the train look up, glancing at you, hoping that you’ll notice that the ENTIRE CAR is now unwillingly subjected to your pre-8 a.m. dance party.

And after a fade out, I hear glorious silence. I don’t really care that you don’t value your eardrums while you punish it with $50 quality headphones, this is your own choice, but I do value my sound space on a silent metro car in the morning. Surely a little bit more time of calm helps as we combat the stressful hours of the day. As I relax into the white noise of a typical metro trip, it happens again. The song switches, this time to some rhythm-based electronic. More folks get off the car. You’re bopping along now, oblivious to the evil eyes of strangers. And while you, Mr. Music Lover, may need some Jersey-Shore style house music to get you pumped for a long day of coffee sipping and Excel spreadsheets, I prefer the calming lull of the trains and the inane tourist babble.

So my note to you, sir, is this: TURN IT DOWN.




Respectfully yours,


Katie moved to DC in 2007, and has since embarked upon a love affair with the city. She’s an education reform advocate and communications professional during the day; at night and on the weekends, she’s an owner here at We Love DC. Katie has high goals to eat herself through the entire city, with only her running shoes to save her from herself. For up-to-the-minute news and reviews (among other musings), follow her on Twitter!

20 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Mr. Metro Music Lover

  1. A close relative to Mr. Metro Music Lover is Cousin Configure A Ringtone For Every Contact. Both of them need to go away.

  2. If you don’t like cacophony, why not try the burbs? Oh wait, don’t you live in Arlington? Stay there…you can be a cager and enjoy all the silence you want.

  3. Josh, I was unaware that observing Metro etiquette made one unfit to so much as enter the District boundaries. You should probably tell Metro, who implemented the headphone rule for exactly this reason, so they can be sure to police who is allowed into the city based on their noise tolerance.

  4. I agree with Tiff:

    There’s acceptable noise (conversation, *SOME* people on the phone (the ones that can control their volume), etc.) but there’s some people that are simply so obnoxious that the entire train car can hear their song/conversation/etc. over rush hour noise.

    Acceptable noise is exactly that. But some people seem to actually go out of their way to make sure everyone hears them and only them.

  5. @Tiffany … well exactly, it was WMATA who made that rule. And WMATA is a regional agency, not the District’s. I certainly wish the District could tell WMATA what to do.

    But seriously, why do you expect cager-like environments, WASPy sensibilities, etc….just so you can live your dual life of cookie cutter suburbs and District chic after you cross the bridge and tunnel? Why not embrace the stimulation, or learn–as urbanites have always done–to tune it out?

  6. In general, there are bigger fish to fry than noise:

    how about safety, ridership, congestion, maintenance, rates/management/planning,

  7. Maybe next time try actually asking them to turn it down in person? Instead of mentioning it later on a blog?

  8. I’m not really sure how one expects riders (you know, the population to whom this post was directed) to enhance the maintenance schedule of Metro equipment, Josh. It’s not as though you can go out there and change those Wee-Z bonds yourself. And if you’ve been paying any attention at all, you’ll know that Metro’s maintenance, safety, and fiscal stability are drums we’ve been beating pretty hard.

    And I’m a little confused about this whole “you can’t be an urbanite unless you like noise/dirt/petty crime/whatever-of-the-day” mentality that I keep seeing. I guess some people live in cities specifically for the “grit” and the accompanying “street cred,” but others live in cities for proximity to work, cultural amenities, access to transit, and other aesthetic choices that wouldn’t be at all damaged by metro riders learning how to be considerate of others like we were all supposed to learn in kindergarten.

    The point, after all, was that the music was loud enough to be heard at the end of the car OVER the noise of the train going through the tunnel. Similarly, I live in a rowhouse- I expect to occasionally hear a little bit of my neighbor’s music/cell phone/alarm clock here and there. But if I could sing along with her stereo, to the point where it was drowning out the sound in my own house, you’d better believe I’d find that volume inconsiderate.

  9. Josh – what tunnel? You must be one of those Jersey/NYC transplants… to note, DC is a different city than that of which you reference. While I have a distaste for Metro’s foresight (namely poorly designed cars with vinyl seating, rubber handles, and carpeted floors that aren’t in NYC’s system) – them rules is rules in our neck of the woods – so, that goes for eating, pets, AND the noise/music. IT doesn’t matter if you get off before you cross the river or other bounds of DC or if you decide to go to the ‘burbs, as you put it.

    I think the note Katie was also trying to highlight is the lack of self-awareness that some Metro riders seem to have, whether on the train, on the platform, or, as highlighted earlier this week (thank you for “” – and we also garner a WikiHow entry too you can provide to new recruits to the area or tourists – guides of etiquette within the system, beyond what’s blatantly posted near or next to the prohibitions mentioned above.

    You may want to remember, that some folks enjoy the “chill” on the train commutes (VRE, MARC, Metro) they have, as a break between the home life and the hustle and bustle of the office. I’m sorry you feel like that this should just be another hurdle people must pass through on their way around the area.

  10. Maybe some sound polution (aka, free concert!) upsets you because you also live in Arlington.

    We’re talking about someone’s headphones. On a metro car. Sure they might be rude…but if you can’t take that kind of thing, damn. (says the guy ranting against this blog post ;))

    If you two ever make it into the real DC, you should consider running for ANC 5C: I’m sure they’d love your argumentation against Big Bear. But for now, I’m glad you’re NIMBY.

  11. Josh, it’s really cute that you went and dug up an out of date copy of my resume, but again, it shows that you haven’t been paying attention at all. If you had, you’d know that I live in Brookland. In fact, if you’re a Ward 5-er, you’re welcome in my home on Tuesday night when we hold a meet and greet for one of the Ward 5 council challengers. But you seem like the sort who prefers to hide behind a computer screen and troll other people’s sites instead of updating your own, so I don’t expect you to take me up on it. And speaking of paying attention, maybe you missed the multiple posts about Big Bear we published here.

    But, you know, feel free to keep on stereotyping everyone who doesn’t agree with you as a suburbanite. I don’t have to make you look like a blowhard; you seem to be doing a fine job all on your own.

  12. I’m willing to take the hit on erroneously labeling Tiffany an Arlingtonian.

    But the point I think I’m driving at–be it in a prickish way–is that the attitude of the 5C and the attitude of the above post are very similar. What I love about DC (or any city) is that they aren’t silent, they aren’t always polite, etc. You may call this grit. To me it’s a break from monotony.

    What’s a better “city” trait? Civility? Surliness? Are these things mutualy exclusive? As Lane mentioned above, why not just confront the person with the loud headphones?

  13. What about the people that just listen to music on their phones without headphones? I saw a teenager get into an argument with a man standing in front of me because the kid was listening to loud music without headphones. The kid says some unkind words and gives him the finger and all of a sudden a guy jumps up with a badge and says he’s a federal agent. He makes the kid turn off his music and they start to argue. When the doors open up the guy tries to throw the kid off the train. Somebody alerts the conductor and the police come. The bottom line, be courteous! People don’t want to listen to your music, if they did, they would be playing it on their own ipods.