Sure that last one is a bit of an anomaly, since it could have been anything of mutual interest this guy came up to talk to me about, and in essence, it was he who spotted the nerd in me (I was too busy playing to notice him approach). The more I think about nerdlieness, and the more I discuss it, the more categories and varieties of nerd arise. Nothing, however, prepared me for the genre of nerd I met on Wednesday night.
I was coming out of the Metro towards the escalators and spotted a guy wearing black jeans, a black t-shirt and a black hoodie waiting for the elevator with a gigantic camera around his neck. I noticed him again on the sidewalk near the elevator exit and between notes in my music heard him ask someone waiting for the bus about the sealed door. I took an earphone off and asked him if he was talking about the staircase across the street, and he seemed delighted that I knew what he was talking about.
At the Pentagon City station, there's a sublevel between the platform and the street. Directly behind the turnstiles on this sublevel is a set of glass double doors that have been sealed off for as long as I've been here. Across the street, there is a set of cement stairs that are somewhat hidden from view by planters with bushes that lead down to a barred gate. It may have been an exit specifically for a particular workplace, an abandoned attempt at a Crystal City-style underground mall, or something as simple as room for a Metro sales office.
As I took him over to these stairs, he started babbling excitedly about how they had been talking all day about this and how he had never seen it before and the forums are going to be thrilled. I went down the stairs with him and watched as he used a very powerful flash to snap a picture inside, and asked him if he was going to post these online somewhere.
"Oh yeah," he said, "on metroriders.org. It's an online community for metro riders...and transit enthusiasts like myself. We even have a few people who work for Metro coming on from time to time."
He gave me the name of the thread and his username so I could find the pictures (that's me, the "kind woman"). While this is a fascinating nerd pursuit, I can't imagine a shittier place to live in to be a transit enthusiast. At least in places like New York and London, there's the possibility for oddities such as abandoned stations and lines, antiquated signage and other things of the past. The best one can hope for is some late-70's throwback decor and now the pinnacle of Metro mystery: the stairs at Pentagon City.
Some have argued that the nerdiness of a hobby is proportional to its rarity, as well as the nerd's devotion to it. I certainly have never met a DC-area "transit enthusiast", and the pages of bus photos on his website reveal his devotion. And so, the nerd test grows one question longer.