The rumors of a mountain lion didn't bother me at all. Rather, I regarded it as an exciting adventure. As a child mountain lions were my greatest enemy. My Northern Californian grandmother would send newspaper clippings to us as her acquaintances and neighbors were picked off one by one by marauding mountain lions, or cougars, though I have a difficult time anymore disassociating cougar from the Real Housewife variety. In hindsight this was probably blown out of proportion for the sake of the story, but to my six year old ears it was all very exciting and scary.
Grandma also sent us a handy little card of rules to follow should one meet a wandering mountain lion, though since we lived in Indiana this was highly unlikely. I memorized it anyway.
While I shall never have to use these methods in DC, unless the National Zoo manages to let a cougar escape which I hope and pray never happens because mountain lions aren't nearly as adorable as Rusty the Red Panda, I have found these methods to come in handy while riding Metro. All DC girls would do well to learn these cougar defense methods, for they are indispensable when on public transportation.
The first rule is one that you must utilize as soon as you board that train or bus. Look larger than you are. When you're a relatively small person, larger people will prey on you as surely as a mountain lion because you take up less of the metro bench than others. The best way to accomplish this is with a very large purse which can also double as a battering ram in times of need.
Secondly, stand your ground. Be firm. Resist the urge to flee. Do not move from your seat, do not adjust your belongings so you take up less than yourhalf of the bench, do not let them think they can make you shift simply because they are larger than you and thus higher on the food chain.
Third, make as much noise as possible. I've yet to try this myself due to riding the train with the same general crowd of nice enough people every morning, but I have noticed that when people dance about in their seats to wahtever they happen to be listening to on their iPhones, peole will avoid those seats. This seems to be pretty ingenious, and someday if I'm desperate enough I might try it.
Lastly, always prepare for the unexpected. You don't know what's going on in your fellow metro rider's head, and you must be prepared. Once I had a complete stranger sit in my lap. Another time someone decided to take a nap on my shoulder. For several months afterward I rode metro with a pair of knitting needles and some yarn. The beginner's kind of knitting needles which are at least ten inches long. Everyone got the hint.