The Infamous Metro Photo
UPDATE 5/13/08: Within an hour of filing a complaint with metro this morning about my photography incident the other night (concerning this photograph and described below), I received a call from Jeannie Greenbar with metro customer service. She apologized profusely for the incident, assured me that I can take all the pictures that I want in metro, and that they're going to figure out who the kiosk lady and the security guard were and give them some additional training. I am impressed with this metro representative's responsiveness to my complaint and her willingness to take action on my behalf to correct the situation, and I hope that is reflective of a broader corporate culture that is proactive in addressing known problems that they really can do something about. So metro gets a big kudos from me today, and hopefully this kind of thing won't happen to anyone again. But if it does, take a stand and let metro know what their employees are doing.
Took this picture and another essentially identical one on Saturday May 10, 2008, a bit before 2am at the New York Avenue metro station. A woman came out of the station kiosk and asked me what I was taking a picture of, and I told her the turnstiles (on which they had placed these silly little smiley/frowny faces). She told me that I could not take photos in the metro system. To which I said no, that's not true, go look at your website (FYI www.wmata.com/about/parp_docs/UseRegulations.pdf specifically Section 100.8(2)). This woman insisted that photography in metro was illegal since September 11, 2001, and knowing that she was incorrect, I insisted that she go look at metro's website, which of course she did not do. Instead she called security. After consulting with someone for a bit, she came back and told me again that photography was not allowed in metro and that if I took any more pictures, she'd have my train stopped and I'd be pulled off and my camera confiscated. Whatever. I was with Patrick at the time and we went upstairs and continued to chat about how completely misinformed this woman was. I never turned my camera off or put it away, and I didn't take any more pix at the station, because even though I knew I was right, I didn't want to push my luck too far with the lady on an apparent power trip.
A few minutes later, the same metro employee comes up another escalator with a security guard. Great, bring it. So the security guard comes over and starts in and I again say that it is absolutely not illegal to take pictures in the metro system, go look at your website. He then asked me if I was calling him a liar, and I said no, but you are misinformed. He goes off about how he's had training yadda yadda but then changes his tune: you can take pix of the platform, and the Amtrak trains over there, and your friend here, but you can't take pix of security cameras and such (not exactly sure how turnstiles fit into that but whatever). Didn't bother to point out that that was not what kiosk lady said, because Pat's train had arrived and mine was about to, but the guy wouldn't let it drop until Pat had missed his train. Neither kiosk lady nor the security guard ever asked to see the photographs I had taken, nor did they ask me to delete them. Um, if it were actually illegal and my photos actually posed some sort of security threat, wouldn't that be the first thing you would do? If I had a brain, I would've taken photos of both the kiosk lady and the security guard so that I could send them to metro and refer these two employees for additional training.
When I did finally get on a train myself, the first thing I did was take pictures of a BEER BOTTLE on the floor of the train. Um, isn't drinking any sort of beverage forbidden by metro? Don't they make actual announcements about that sort of thing? Aren't there signs posted that say no eating or drinking? Shouldn't the security guard maybe be writing some tickets for 12 year olds eating french fries in the train? Has anyone ever made an announcement about taking photos or are there any signs about no photography in the metro? No.
Dear John Catoe and WMATA-
If you don't want me taking photos of your turnstiles, then don't put stupid frowny and smiley faces on them that would make me even think of taking the picture in the first place. Most people are smart enough to understand what the standard red and green designs mean without the little faces to make it abundantly clear. And please get all of your employees up to speed on your photography policy. I haven't heard of anyone getting harassed about it in a while, so I was rather surprised at this woman's ignorance of the policy. I have taken a gazillion photos in metro stations and trains, as have about half of the people in the washington metro area and tons of tourists too, and not once before this incident has anyone ever said boo to me about it.
And I'm still gonna take pictures in the metro, because I can.