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Is the downtown METRO office the worst place on earth? The sights and smells of my journey to replace my lost Q card

Editor’s note: Disco Biscuit is a frequent contributor to the site.  


I want to start off by saying Baby Biscuit was out of school on break for 2 weeks and this is my first year having a school aged child, so I didn’t know how mentally and emotionally draining it was going to be to have her around ALL. THE TIME. If you asked what we did during the break I honestly couldn’t tell you. But I can tell you that at some point I misplaced my Q card. But since there was no school I didn’t really need it for a couple of weeks.

So it’s gone – probably somewhere in this apartment. Wednesday the kiddo had to go back to school. Tuesday night, after another exhaustive search turned up nothing, I scrounged up $1.25 in change and figured I would have to order a new one. (Lil tip – always register your card. You can add funds online so you don’t have to do it on the platforms, and if you lose it they can replace the funds on the card. Plus every 50 rides you get 5 rides free, and you don’t have to pay for multiple trips within a time window.) Hey METRO, I’m available if you want someone who doesn’t suck at customer service to work for you. So I get online and it turns out it can take 10 days to get a new card in the mail! 10 business days no less! The office is 1 mile from my home! Well instead of waiting the 10 days for the new card, I could simply go to the METRO station downtown and get a new one on the spot. I had some things to do downtown anyway so I decided to just do that – how bad could it be?

First, I walked to the train station – not sure how familiar people are with Wheeler station but to get there from my house I have to walk under the 527 spur and past the Shipleys. I used to like Shipleys, I really did it. But once the smell of dirty clothes and sleeping bags mixed with the donuts from a 24 hour Shipleys hits your nostrils, it’s almost impossible not to vomit immediately. I haven’t eaten a donut since I moved here, I have to breath out of my mouth when I get kolaches from Christy’s. I mean It’s awful. I think that’s why the kush use is so bad over there – people would rather be comatose than have to smell that disgusting old but somehow still being cooked donut smell.

The second I get on the train a new smell hits me – the unmistakable scent of someone that has been drinking themselves into oblivion for years and may have just pissed their pants. Even though the train isn’t very full right now, I refuse to sit down – have you ever accidentally sat down on a bus or train and the seat is wet? I have – there aren’t enough scalding hot showers in the world. I’m standing, thank you very much. It’s a brisk 3 stop ride from Wheeler to the downtown transit and as the doors open I nearly fall out of the train in my haste to get to the “fresh air” of downtown Houston.

The METRO building doesn’t smell BAD per se. Just like generally not pleasant. Now, the signage is not difficult to understand in this building – there is a sign pointing you to customer service; when you get to the customer service desk there’s another sign that says Qcards or something like that. When you get into that room there are 2 signs pointing in 2 different directions. These signs list every possible reason why you would ever be seeking out customer service. One sign has “new Q cards” and various other services they provide. There are 3 employees at this window and no one in line. The other sign has “lost, stolen, etc Q cards” and stuff like that on it. There is one woman working at this kiosk and six people in line. My card is lost so I have a definite line 2 situation.

The first five people in line move really quickly – they’ve got easy questions to answer. And then we get to Customer 6. There is a 67 cent discrepancy on Customer 6’s card. As in he believes that he should have $5 left on the card, but when he used it earlier it said $4.33. NOT OK. As a general rule, I refuse to stand in line for any amount of time for less than $5. I made $2 on a scratch off the other day and I threw the ticket in the garbage. Not only did this man wait for over five minutes to talk to someone about 67 cents, but he was IRATE. Apparently, they can’t access any reports until the next business day so there was nothing the window clerk could do even if she wanted to. So  she didn’t. He was visibly upset and they were going tit for tat with her telling him there’s nothing she can do, and him telling her she’s bad at her job, and her just being like whatever OK because she does not care. So he storms off and I honestly SPRINT to the window because the second angry guy went up for his window tirade another man came up to stand in line behind me.

And oh Lord – I will never get the scent of this man out of my head. It was the unique combination of old person (no offense old people), stale cigarette, and a fresh dump in his pants. My eyes start to water and I realize this is an IMMEDIATE mouth breathe situation. He keeps inching closer and closer to me, I keep moving as far as I can away to absolutely no avail. I walk up to the window and right then 67 cent guy comes storming back. “I WANT TO SPEAK TO A SUPERVISOR!”. So I just stand off to the side of the window because I’m not going back over by old poopy pants.

As I move to the side I check out the line that was behind me. It has now grown to the point that there like 15 people in line. The line for new Q cards still has 0 people in it and 3 people behind the window. Every once in awhile one of them will glance over to the other window like they might go help this woman but then they remember they work for METRO and it’s not part of their three core values of making sure the buses and trains smell like rotting feces at all times, making sure all of the buses and trains arrive either two minutes early or 10 minutes late, and making sure they give the worst possible customer service at all times.

Several people start to get frustrated and just shout to the guys in line 1 like “hey can you just help me!?” and then the guys will be like “what do you need” and they’ll tell them and then the guys behind the window are just like “nah. You’re in the right line” One lady even shouted a second time “Am I in the right line for student IDs!?” It says Student IDs on the sign you’re standing under.

After all this I finally get my Q card replaced and a receipt. Well the Q card she hands me looks totally different from the old Q cards, so just to be sure I’m like “this is a permanent card right? Not a day pass?” and her response is “that’s your q card and your receipt”. And I’m like “Cool, solid answer. So the $20 that was on my card rolled over correct?” and she’s like “there’s your q card and your receipt.” Perfect, just the level of service I was expecting when I arrived so I can’t leave disappointed.

And armed with my new Q card and lacking a significant portion of my dignity I exit the worst place on earth – the downtown METRO office.

1 Comment on Is the downtown METRO office the worst place on earth? The sights and smells of my journey to replace my lost Q card

  1. cool story haha!


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