A state of constant repair


These are the metal subway steps waiting to be repaired.  There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.” -Mario Savio

Hey man, just give me those parts and a wrench and I’ll fix the damn things myself already.”  -Guy entering the subway, to the maintenance worker

More than the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial, the broken-down subway escalator has become the defining image of D.C.  It’s only a matter of time before these busted up escalators start appearing on postcards and inside snow globes.  They’ve come to symbolize the grinding, lurching bureaucracy that starts downtown and comes to digest the entire district and eventually the country.

This is a stack of new escalator parts piled outside of the Navy Yards metro station.  They were there when I got there in the morning and there when I returned in the evening.  I think there is some kind of law of physics governing the subway, whereby every repair  that’s made will generate an equal and opposite breakdown in another station.

Seen up close, the gears of the machine do like awful beautiful though.  Just like life looks awful good when you’re the one with the Ferris Wheel seat riding on the gears of power.  But zoom out a little bit and they suddenly become just a heap of greasy metal parts, no structure or reason for them at all.


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