TRAFFIC: Tales from Being Stuck
A blogger friend e-mailed me an account from last week of one of the worst traffic situations she had ever encountered in the nation's capital. While bad traffic in the heart of the city isn't necessarily shocking news, some of the side details, involving Christmas music, a tardy French ambassador and frazzled Mayor Anthony Williams, are certainly entertaining.
I was trapped in all that tree lighting crap [Thursday] night, took 40 minutes to get from 14th and U to 18th and M in a cab (that was playing xmas music mind you). I had to get out at 19th and walk to the Ritz at 22nd for a wine event ... A writer I know was in her car behind me and saw me get out of the cab. She didn't get to the event (from 19th!) for another 30 minutes! The French ambassador was also way late because of it, but here's the best part. After I leave at 7:15ish, I'm walking from the Ritz to Foggy Bottom metro and the mayor jumps out of his big black suv looking a tad frazzled, and I'm guessing was going to have to walk (he was heading up the street toward the Ritz) to whatever appointment he was probably late for. Good thing he had a driver to get the car out of that mess while he got on his way. ... People were losing their minds out there. I've NEVER seen anything like it. God help us if we ever have to evacuate ...Ahh, and there wasn't even snow!
MY FAVORITE TRAFFIC MESS happened a few days after the Presidents Day blizzard of 2003. City streets were still clogged with snow, creating slushy obstacles across the city. If I remember correctly, there was a terrorist warning, so instead of taking the Red Line to Dupont Circle to the D2 to Glover Park, I decided to outflank the terrorist evildoers by taking the D6 all the way from Union Station. (Because what terrorist would ever take a Sibley Hosptial-bound D6?)
But sometime during the evening rush hour, a manhole had exploded in Georgetown, causing all Key Bridge/Georgetown-bound traffic on M and K streets to backup into the central business district. The numbered streets crossing them got stuck as did other lettered streets. Gridlock crippled the central city. And the D6 bus wasn't going anywhere fast on 20th Street NW. So I got out and decided to walk back to Glover Park, where I was living at the time.
It was easier to walk in the street, as the roadways were slightly more clear than the sidewalks. But as I hoofed it up Q Street through Georgetown, I discovered that the good property owners who have a munipical duty to clear their sidewalks (and it hadn't been snowing that day) largely failed in that wintry obligation. Traffic on Q Street heading in both directions was backed up too, as people trying to find away around the mess closer to M Street tried cross streets farther uptown. Nope.
And stuck in the middle of it all was a school bus from an Episcopal school in Lynchburg, Va. The kids were antsy. And they weren't going anywhere anytime soon. Their windows were down and they called over to me to give them a large chunk of snow. Realizing that they could very well instantly throw the snow back at me, I denied their request. I would have to go back through my notes from the encounter, but I believe that one was so pissed off that he said "C'mon you old f***er." Shocked that such brash language could ever come from an Episcopal high school student, my blood, while not boiling, was slightly above temperature. I went down, picked up a chunk of snow, and motioned that I was going to relent and give him a chunk of snow. Instead, I threw it at the kid and nailed his face big time. Sucker. Two can play at that game.
I casually went on my way. Mother Nature had done her duty. I did mine.