Here’s a little warning for Metro riders in the DC area: don’t put your cell phone near your farecard. As I noted yesterday, Jeff and I went downtown on New Year’s Eve to meet his college friends for dinner. After we entered the Metro at Pentagon City, I put my $4.00 farecard in my jacket pocket. When we arrived at the Dupont Circle station, the farecard was rejected at the turnstile. The station attendant checked it out, told me that the card had been completely erased, and asked if I’d had it near my cellphone. Indeed, my cellphone was in the same pocket as I had placed the farecard en route; apparently, though this information doesn’t seem to be printed on the card itself, their vending machines or any official WMATA source that I’ve been able to discover (nor does a general Google search turn up any information), a cell phone can completely erase the information on a Metro farecard’s magnetic strip. And this must happen frequently enough for the station attendants to make this the first question they ask when your card turns up erased.
A few weeks ago, my State Department ID badge, which also has a magnetic strip, stopped working as well and it was discovered to have been erased. I’m now wondering whether my cell phone–which I often wear in a pocket on my messenger bag in such a way that it rests on my chest, where my ID card dangles on a lanyard around my neck–was responsible for this too.