Tunnel vision in D.C. Metro

Space. The final frontier. Deep, dark, space.

Maybe the subway walls such as those of Washington, D.C.’s Metro are not the final frontier when it comes to advertising. But it certainly does raise the debate of whether one man’s (or woman’s) wasted space is another’s dark hole of fortune.

Perhaps the last place many would expect to see ads for giants Microsoft and Target stores would be on a subway ride to the Smithsonian. But that is what I saw Saturday on Metro’s Blue Line. It’s part of a new wave of advertising popping up on subway’s worldwide.

Zooming out of a couple of stops out of the Metro Center Station on the way to the Smithsonian stop, the train driver exhorted his captive audience to take a peak out of the left window. Outside that window, a cartoonish woman pleaded for our train to wait for her but as she somehow hilariously runs with fast but futile steps toward us it appears in a flash of a nanosecond that Microsoft wants us to buy something, anything, of theirs.

Outside the next station was a reality as presented by Target, which is, of course, anything but reality. This was a several-second movie in which it seems our subway car will be popping out of a Target-logoed bank vault. Oh hell, just watch them yourselves if you happen to be on a subway somewhere. I’m sure they will eventually get to you, probably even if you don’t have your own subway to ride. I mean, one cannot get to much of a good thing when it comes to advertising, right?

No doubt that I would be the last person on Earth to answer such a question or even engage in a debate over whether these ads are harmless, helpful, hellish or any other adjective, subjective, objective, adverb, proverb, conjunction, conjunctivitis, wall of confusion, or maybe even confounding exercise, which might or might not prove detrimental to the health and well-being of subway commuters everywhere. That is because I don’t plan to make a habit of riding subways, light rail or any type of metropolitan camel caravan be it terranean or subterranean.

It just happens I am in Washington on business and fortunately that business will conclude at the end of this week. Then, I probably won’t ride Metro or any other conveyance of mass transit until I come back to D.C. later this year for another round of training. Maybe Target will have the whole damn movie finished by then!

But I just throw this out there for all of my friends who spend their time in dark, underground locales and, no, I’m not talking about my homeless friends back in Beaumont who have to reside every now and then under Interstate 10 bridges. Do you want your subway trip to include advertising on what would otherwise be dark, wasted walls? Do you think such advertising is an abomination or prelude to the moral decay of an otherwise innocent outlet that masks itself while we slip haplessly headed toward Hell in a handbasket? Or would you not even notice it just as you never notice anything on your morning commute with your iPods, copies of “The Examiner” that the jovial hawkers pass out each morning at the Metro escalators or snuggled up in your seat with a legal brief that you were supposed to read before you left work yesterday?

You all talk amongst yourselves. Let me know next time I am in town and riding the Metro.

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