By: Obed Fabrizio Molina
Every workday morning, I enter the Virginia Square metro station half-awake with my eyes glued to my phone – until I see Darryl standing next to the station manager booth. Without fail, I can sense his excitement as he smiles then joyfully wishes me a ‘good morning!’ If I’m lucky, he will even ad-lib a one-liner such as “Happy Friday Eve!”
At first, I would just walk past him and think, who in their right mind has this much energy in the morning? As time passed on, I started to soften up and awkwardly smile back. Eventually, I found myself looking forward to entering the station because I knew Darryl would be waiting for me and I would say good morning back.
As I became receptive to his kindness, I wondered, what compels Darryl to do this? Which is why I sat down with him to learn more about his story.
Darryl F. Crawford was born and raised in Northwest Washington, D.C., along Georgia Avenue in the Petworth neighborhood. From early on, his parents instilled the importance of respect and discipline towards “[him]self and others”. Darryl described his father, a former Federal Protective Officer, as the “breadwinner and no matter what he did, he made sure he was at work in the morning”. Darryl’s father taught him to “respect everybody” because by doing so “then you [couldn’t] go wrong [in life]”.
As an adolescent, Darryl loved spending time with his grade-school friends at the playground, arcade, and watching Bruce Lee movies. Above all else, Darryl loved exploring the D.C. area:
“…we would just walk for fun. A lot of times we would just walk from Northwest D.C. to Silver Spring, MD, just because.”
Darryl and his friends would walk as far as they could around the DC area then take public transportation back home. Darryl loved that he could ride the bus for $2.00 all day, but he was reluctant to ride the D.C. Metro since it was “a little bit rough”, particularly the station managers’ demeanor. He recalled one instance when he was short a few cents to pay his fare and couldn’t exit the metro station. He went to the station manager booth to ask for help, but instead of helping him, the station manager proceeded to insult him and told him, “If you don’t have enough money, get out, then you are on your own”.
Darryl said to himself, “If I ever become a station manager – I know I won’t be like that guy. No, I would change it up and do my own thing. But as long as I [am] given the chance”.
Upon graduating from Calvin Coolidge High School in 1985, Darryl wanted to work in transportation and tried automotive trade school but it “didn’t feel quite right”. He dropped out and expanded his options by participating in the Summer Youth Employment Program, a program started by former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry providing youth ages 14 to 24 with summer work experiences in the private and government sectors. Through this program, he took on many odd jobs but still had transportation on his mind.
One day, he had an idea, “why don’t I apply to work for the D.C. Metro?” and took his application to the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) office and was told that the D.C. Metro “wasn’t looking for anyone right now”. He was disappointed but didn’t take no for answer. A short while later, he applied again, had an interview, then received a verbal offer! He was overwhelmed with excitement and was preparing to attend a WMATA training-when heard news of an unexpected hiring freeze that rescinded his job offer.
Determined to get into transportation, he tried once more, this time with a different strategy. He would send one application to AMTRAK and another for WMATA, then swore to take the job that responded back first. AMTRAK called back first, but WMATA set the interview for an earlier date. Darryl did two interviews and completed a case study before finding out he received the job for D.C. Metro!
His first role was to drive bus routes along Northern Virginia, Northeast D.C., and Southeast D.C. He was excited to finally work in transportation, but more importantly, he looked forward to the daily interaction with customers. Each morning, he greeted each customer when they entered the bus and became known as the friendly bus driver. He drove for various lines for five years until he was ready for a new challenge – Station Manager.
The main objective of a Station Manager is to help people seamlessly ride the D.C. Metro and bring solutions to the table. Darryl took this responsibility seriously and sought to promote “positive energy” to all customer. Each morning, he greeted people from all walks of life – custodians, lawyers, federal consultants, and even the Hollywood actor Will Smith.
On one occasion, a disgruntled customer came to him and complained about her negative experience riding the transit system. Darryl actively listened until she was finished and said “I am here and I am going to help you,” then he assisted her. The customer was so satisfied that she came back the next day with a smile on her face and greeted him saying “good morning Darryl, thank you very much”. Darryl was amazed because she had transformed before his eyes. One moment it seemed like she wanted to hurt him, but now she was his friend.
Darryl is now stationed at the Virginia Square station and is energized to serve the 4,000 customers entering the station per day. He says, “I come out here always being thankful and I take that thankfulness then allow it to flow unto others, then [I] get the feedback”. Each morning, Darryl reminds himself to stay humble as he greets each customer expressing his “heart, feelings, and emotions” through his work.
Darryl helped me realize that the simplest greeting combined with passion can travel much further than you can imagine, you just need to give it a chance.