Commute My Sentence

I normally take the metro to work. I like being able to read, write, check my email, space-out or catch a quick nap on my way to work and since I commute from the end of the Red Line I always get a seat in the morning. Afternoons are a different story, but that’s not why I’m writing this.

Another reason that I like to take the metro to work even though it is not really faster than driving and with every year the cost differential narrows, is that the parking situation near my office is abysmal. There are a few treasured “all-day” spots on 16th Street after 9:30 am and other than that you’re left to play cat and mouse with DC’s very efficient parking enforcement goon squads in the two-hour zoned residential neighborhood around my office.

But every now and then my boss goes out of town and I get use of a reserved spot — and I feel like I’m wasting the opportunity if I don’t drive to work. It’ll be great I tell myself. I can run errands on the way to and from work. I won’t be subject to the Red Line’s whims and occasional blood-lust. I can listen to NPR and Sports Talk Radio – both luxuries that a metro commute foreshortens. So instead of driving to the metro, parking and taking my place with the other proles, I top-off my coffee, get in my car and point it south toward the District.

Sometime round-about the top of 16th Street I remember: I hate driving to work not because I hate parking at work, I hate driving to work because I hate DRIVING to work. This usually strikes me when I get to the Class-5 rapids disguised as a traffic circle (circle doesn’t actually capture it — more like a tear-drop shaped convergence of vehicular bedlam, confusion and grief) at the border between Silver Spring and the District. If I survive that Scylla and Charybdis then I get to enjoy the bottleneck that is most of 16th Street NW.

Around this time is when some hopelessly boring and obscure story comes on NPR that is so pretentious it sounds like it came out of a Saturday Night Live parody of an NPR broadcast. So, no problem, I switch over to Sports Talk Radio. And they’re talking about the Washington football team with the racist name. In March. When it’s Spring Training for Baseball. Pro Hockey and Basketball are in full swing, our decent Major League Soccer team just opened its season. March Madness is about to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war. Heck, even NASCAR and professional golf are competing. Basically every sport except football is in full-effect. But they’re talking about football and who the Washington football team with the racist name should look for with their third-round pick in the draft.

16th street nwAnd I’m feeling drowsy. My circadian rhythms are aching for that power nap I normally take between Van Ness and Woodley Park. So I reach for my coffee. But I’ve finished it.  Not only that, my bladder is very aware that I’ve finished all 16 ounces. By the time I get to Mount Pleasant and the inevitable backed-up Metrobuses followed quickly by the mandatory closed lane alongside Meridian Hill Park, I’m stressed out and gripping the steering wheel so tightly that I can’t even appreciate the gorgeous view as I descend towards U Street. It really is a great view on the mornings when I can actually enjoy it — although even though it has been twelve years, I still view the airplanes approaching National Airport with some suspicion and half expect that one day I’ll see one slam into the White House or something else awful.

This is the mood I’m in when I get to the office.

Still. Every time it’s offered I’ll fall for it. Because who can turn down free parking?



Filed under Commuting, Man Stuff

10 responses to “Commute My Sentence

  1. a

    The problem here is that you’re not driving to work often enough to get into the rhythm of the traffic flow. Then you learn to ride the rapids and drive on autopilot so you can enjoy the scenery (or take that power nap with your eyes open). If you’re only doing it once in a while, you don’t know the flow.

    Regardless, no one should ever turn down free parking…


    • I’ve had that autopilot experience more than a few times, but I always find it unsettling when I arrive at my destination and realize that I’ve been daydreaming the whole trip. I couldn’t have been paying attention nearly well enough.


  2. This is the absolute, 100% best part of my no longer working downtown. I cannot even express how much less stress I have without that commute – metro OR driving.


  3. this reminds me of my old commute days. I used to take the ferry to SF, then when we moved further away I took the bus (which in the AM was comfy and quiet and in the PM was hot and stinky and long). but about 1x/month I’d have to drive in for meetings and had a similar experience: love the initial freedom but as soon as I’d hit traffic or had to deal with parking, ugh.


    • A Ferry sounds so nice. I’m sure it gets old like everything else. But basically everything sounds better when you set it in SF — like, you could tell me I was riding in the back of a fish truck to work in SF, and it would only sound mildly unpleasant.


  4. I’ve commuted every possible way (red line metro when I lived in DC, drive through horrible traffic in another city, drive a long but easy route elsewhere, walk to work in two other places, and take the bus here) and ridden subways in dozens of cities and seriously, the Metro in general and Red Line more specifically is as good a way to commute as any I’ve ever encountered. Except for that time that a crazy guy on my co-worker’s train (in her car, a few seats down) purposely set the train on fire.

    I love that you still call it National. I refuse to call it anything else, which has totally confused a few airline employees over the years. “You want to go to National what huh?”


  5. Kas Hayes

    Wow. Reading this is almost like being there again.


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