by Ann Elkington
Scene: A Red Line metro car, mid-afternoon on a weekday.
As the Shady Grove train pulled into the Judiciary Square station, I could hear faint music and just figured it was some kid’s iPhone cranked up. I stepped into the train car and found a young man in his late teens or early 20s playing an accordion.
The accordion was a smallish one, black and silver; worn, but highly polished and cared for. He was talented, and the tunes he was playing were lively and sweet: Old-fashioned polkas, at just the right volume. I caught myself smiling and noticed that most everybody in the railcar was also smiling. Several were swaying, getting caught up in the music.
Yeah, I know buskers aren’t allowed on Metro cars or on station platforms and anybody who wants to perform at a Metro station must formally apply and audition.
But his playing, even if prohibited, was truly a moment of grace – a sweet little gift for those of us on the railcar, brightening a nasty cold day.
One passenger was not a fan, however. An older man, wearing a gentleman’s dress hat, an expensive suit and an overcoat, started yelling.
“This is an outrage. I’m going to go right to Metro headquarters and report it,” he bellowed officiously, turning redder by the moment. “I’ll get you arrested, young man – you and your obnoxious music, disturbing the peace!” He was apoplectic and continued his loud ranting all along his passage out of the railcar at Metro Center.
I believe the man would have actually grabbed him, but the musician was quick and lithe. He vanished so quickly it was almost as if he’d never been there.
If the young man was asking for money, I never saw it. It wouldn’t have altered the magic of the accordion music even if the young man had produced a cup for those few minutes. I would have put something in it.
Even the angry guy couldn’t dispel that magical moment. Riders were still smiling by the time the train pulled into Farragut North.
Young man, whoever you are and wherever you are: Thank you!