03 August 2007

Driving in DC


I’ve never been in combat. At least not “REAL” combat with folks shooting guns at me, with hand grenades going off and tanks and jets blowing up everything in sight. Naw – nothing like that.

But, you know what I have done, and lived to tell about it?

I’ve driven in Washington DC.

Yup. And for the most part – I’ve survived.

Now, Washington is a great city to drive in – provided you are the only car on the road. There is history, great architecture and impressive landscapes from one end of this city to the other. The streets, while bumpy and crappy for the most part, are arranged in a reasonable and very user friendly configuration in which one street will be going north and the very next one will be going south, the same typically applies to east and west. Most of the streets are identified on the signs with NW, SW, NE, or SE and if that doesn’t work and you can see the dome of the capital and the sun, then you can pretty much figure out what part of town you’re in. Like I said, it’s a great city to drive in if you are the only car on the road.

And that happens… never.

This morning I saw so much aggressive driving, so much crazy lane changing, so many middle fingers being thrown that I almost pulled over to wait until rush hour was over. It was incredible! Typically I take the DC metro [subway] into work, and despite all the gripes and complaints about the fares that metro charges – I’d pay $20 a day to avoid all the foolish crap that people do on the roads inside the beltway!

As I drove cautiously past Union Station, several minutes after seeing a massive SUV narrowly miss hitting an Audi sedan, I asked myself why do things seem so crazy here in DC. My conclusion was this:

The District of Columbia is made up of four major groups of drivers. You have the Hob-Nobbers, the people that live and work in the high profile parts of DC - Capital Hill, Georgetown, Arlington, etc. They are very focused on themselves and the assumed rightness of their mission. They are very oblivious of most other drivers because they are Senator’s aides, Government hotshots or up and coming executives at the hottest law firms and companies. They are ALWAYS headed somewhere more important than you or I and they MUST be able to get home or to the office. These people can usually be seen in their Volvo’s, Audi’s and Mercedes’ impatiently whipping in and out of lanes as they become bored with having us mere mortals around them.

Then you have, The Tourists. These people come from all over the country to see the sights, and that’s where the problems start. They land at Reagan National Airport and pickup a minivan or SUV and head right into the city – AT RUSH HOUR! They have no clue as to where they are going and where ever the are, they are awestruck! They have to slow down to look at every damn thing in sight. Then they make an illegal turn at the next intersection so they go back and see it again. To these people I want to say, take some time to read your map, have a driver and a photographer that are two separate people and drive between 11AM and 2 PM and 8PM and 11PM ONLY!!! You can always spot these people, because they go 20 miles per hour and swerve a lot.

After The Tourists, you have The Residents. They know the lay of the land and they just want to get from point A to point C without getting stuck at point B. They don’t care about the Capital, the Mall, the Jefferson Memorial, Union Station or the Senate Office buildings – they just don’t feel like being bothered by all the other non-sense. These people tend to be aggressive to most of us because typically their cars are already beaten up because the DC streets are so rough and raggedy and I think they figure that if they hit a few of us other drivers, maybe we’ll spread the word to stay out of town! The Residents tend to drive way to fast and way too close to your bumper!

Finally you have The Commuters, like me. We don’t live in DC, we just work and play here. We like the Capital and the White House and the Smithsonian, but we don’t pay them much mind because we’ve see them a million times. We like our jobs, but we won’t kill to get to them, and we know pretty much how the city is laid out, but we won’t break our necks to get to where we’re going. We just come and we go. Our traffic screw up is an odd combination of all three - illegal turns, too much and too little speed, a touch of tail gating and a sprinkle of quick lane changing. But see – we HAVE to drive this way in order to survive those other three kinds of drivers!

It’s kill or be killed sometimes on the roads in DC, and like I said, “I’ve never been in combat…” but I’ve been REAL close!

15 comments:

Mizrepresent said...

That was excellent...can't say that i have driven much in DC, driven through it....i think to get to Maryland for a wedding...i assumed my aggressive posture, the one i use on the daily in the ATL faced with 285, trucks, speeding kids, drunk drivers, wrong way drivers and of course those raging ones...whew! Takes thick skin, good breaks and patience!

CreoleInDC said...

You ain't NEVA lie! Driving in DC will honestly make you hurt somebody.

DeathSweep said...

I've driven "in" DC once or twice but I imagine I would have fit into the tourist department of drivers. What I have learned from those few trips through the city is that I really don't want to go back unless I absolutely have to. Whenever I go from state to state with DC in the middle I always take the beltway - the problem there is that I have found myself going in circles not being able to get off of it! To sum it up, driving in NYC is a piece of cake as opposed to DC, so TBM, if this is your commute - I salute you veteran!

DS

Honest said...

lol! This is so true. I hang my head down in shame as a "resident". I commute out of the city for work and traffic getting out is just as bad as traffic coming in. I'm a bit of an aggressive driver because I have to be, otherwise I'd never get to point "c". My neighbor who has ridden with me before yells out "here comes the princess move out of her way" whenever I drive down our block. lol!

I really do wish tourists would not drive. They should metro everywhere and DC transit even set up a special connector bus for them so they can get from one end of DC to the other without too much hassle.

Liz said...

I've driven in DC and it's pretty bad. I've driven there a few times and felt pretty comfortable... because I live in LA. Next to zero public transportation in LA so all the tourists are driving with their heads hanging out the window looking for a glimpse of Brad Pitt. The sheer number of people on the road, yapping on the phone and putting on the makeup at the same time. Rich folks here think they own the road...and LA has some of the worst signage ever so you can't tell what street's what. Yeah, it's kill or be killed here too.

Lola Gets said...

I say the description that best suits me is the one of "Resident". However, instead of driving at high speeds and tailgaiting, I drive slowly like a little old lady, lol.
L

Anali said...

I've never driven in DC, but others have driven me and it was kinda scary! Stay strong TTBM! ; )

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dcsavvystar said...

I am a 100% DC commuter.... GREAT! Trust me, I have my DC commuter war wounds!lol..
but this is the tipping point for me: PEDESTRIANS! oh dear lord.. I try to be open to all walkers in life - but sometimes they make me want to stop the car at the light, get out, and walk away.. seriously.

B. Good said...

I drove in DC once. I don't remember it being that bad. Maybe I caught DC on a good day......

Though your story sounds like metropolitans everywhere, namely NY. Grrrr.

Hmmm, I wonder if I've ever been someones "you won't believe what this idiot did on the freeway" story? *shrugs*

Gunfighter said...

After living in and around DC since 1986, I have to say that I love driving in the city... even though it is, as TTBM said, something akin to combat.

Heavenly Zeta said...

I'm not from DC...but during my visits, I made sure to sightsee ON FOOT...because I totally noticed the crazy driving. However, I happen to be a native of and live in HOUSTON-and I totally envy DC and the Metro system. Our transit only consists of buses and they SUCK...so quite a few people end up driving here. The only category we're missing are the TOURISTS...

courtneyelizabeth said...

damn. you make me not want to go to DC again...let alone...drive in it. lol. I will NOT be the swervin' tourist!

Khristi Lauren said...

I was in DC this weekend. You are 200% Correct.

Golden Silence said...

"You have the Hob-Nobbers, the people that live and work in the high profile parts of DC - Capital Hill, Georgetown, Arlington, etc. They are very focused on themselves and the assumed rightness of their mission."

As a pedestrian who works in Georgetown, this sentiment about the drivers is true. They drive like idiots on the side streets...running past stop signs and not caring about the pedestrians they nearly hit. I hate Georgetown.

"I really do wish tourists would not drive. They should metro everywhere..."

NO!!! They already do and are just as bad...blocking the aisles, letting their disrespectful kids run amok, and stopping like human roadblocks at the tops of escalators. I think tourists should just stay home and "tour" cities from their Internet connections.

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