Wholeheartedly Endorsing the Pedestrian Lifestyle

That great font of wisdom, my Dad, once said driving a car is like riding a bike: even if you don’t do it for awhile, you never forget how. While that may be true, I don’t find the concept particularly comforting when the object being maneuvered weights over a ton and doesn’t come with training wheels. Still, the other day I needed to go to Ikea and all that Swedish goodness is only reachable by car. There was no better time to test Dad’s assertion, break in my virginal Zipcar membership and drive for the first time in over a year. Holy Mary and Little Baby Jesus. I thought I was going to die.

District driving is nothing like Ohio driving. Back home, people turn on their car and instantly morph into Cautious Grandma. It’s as if their feet have never been introduced to the gas pedal. At all times, they keep 30 car lengths between them and the vehicle in front; more if any form of precipitation is forecasted. And Ohio drivers don’t believe in signaling. Instead, they rely on Driving Telepathy and reflexes to avoid accidents when somebody changes lanes or makes a turn. Not so in Rosslyn. I was on the road no more than thirty seconds when I saw my first turn signal. Initially, I couldn’t figure out what it was. I just kept thinking, “Ooooooohhhh. Pretty blinky light!” But when the car made a right, I realized I had just witnessed proper signaling behavior.

Drivers around here also believe in highway speeds over 45 mph. Actually, it’s either 80 mph or traffic jam. Those are the two options and nothing else is acceptable. Well, there is “tourist speed,” but only people with Midwestern license plates can get away with it. And DC drivers stay two centimeters away from the bumper in front of them. There’s also aggressive weaving and merging into spaces where a car should only fit with Harry Potter Bus-Squishing Magic. Forget Cautious Grandma; DC driving is NASCAAR on crack.

Despite all that, I made it to my destination. Sure, I shaved a few years off my life expectancy, but I’ll sacrifice for Ikea. On the way home, I hit traffic. Lots and lots of beltway traffic. According to the radio, I needed to get off the highway if I wanted to make it back to Chez Apartment before the spring thaw. It seemed like the perfect time to break out the portable GPS eCrush had left at my place and I now owned thanks to post-break-up property rights. I turned it on, typed, and voila! A new route through the city.

All was well until I hit DuPont, the Circle of Death. I am still not sure how that thing works. Supposedly, I entered the Sixth Circle of Hell by way of Mass Ave. Problem was I somehow ended up in the outer ring and my GPS said I wanted to be on the inside. But, I couldn’t get over, even with DC-style signaling. I just went around and around, the GPS was squawking out re-routes and me cursing my inability to switch lanes. After my fourth circle, I decided to give up on my original path and take Connecticut. GPS would catch up eventually.

I saw a Connecticut sign and turned. Drat. Unless Chez Apartment had recently teleported to Woodley Park, it was not the right direction. I spotted a place to turn around, moved into the middle lane to make a left and suddenly there were a million car horns blaring. I have since been informed there is a Middle Lane Direction Switcheroo Thing on Connecticut. How was I supposed to know? It wasn’t in my Welcome to DC Handbook and I’d never encountered this traffic situation before. Michigan left? Sure, I’ve done it. But switching the direction of the center lane’s traffic in the middle of the day? WTF? Figuring out those lane lines and traffic patterns was waaaaayyyy too urban for my Ohio-level driving skills. Knowing those horns were because of me, I made an emergency left, missed a T-boning by millimeters, pulled over and promptly had a panic attack.

There are times when I can’t pull out my big girl panties. No matter how much I want to, my Girl Power Meter is too depleted. It rarely happens, but when it does, I just stop all semblance of functioning. This was one of those moments. Even so, I initially didn’t want to admit it. Several times, I started the car up and tried to pull away from the curb. But each time, I felt the waves of a panic attack. I thought maybe a walk would fix it. Thirty minutes and a scoop of Cold Stone later, no luck. Heck, I even considered sacrificing my dignity and texting eCrush an SOS. But ultimately, I knew I this was my own disaster and I had to fix it. It was time to break the emergency glass, so to speak. Sighing, I dialed information and asked for a tow truck company.

That’s right, I towed my Zipcar from Maryland, through the District and Georgetown, across Key-always-freaking-congested Bridge, and into Rosslyn. Do not ask me what it cost. I don’t want to think about it.


8 Responses to “Wholeheartedly Endorsing the Pedestrian Lifestyle”

  1. Laina Says:

    Un-freaking-belieavable. LMAO

    And as for your assessment of Ohio driving…have you never ridden with me? 😉

  2. Stella Says:

    You have GOT to be kidding me.

  3. suz Says:

    Wait, what part of Ohio have you been driving in?

    This story is hilarious. KJ, every time I talk to you, you tell me that your life is so boring and uneventful, but there is a reason why I compulsively check your blog multipe times a day.

  4. A Says:

    Ahh I live in Cincinnati, formerly lived in Oxford, and your assessment of Ohio driving is SPOT ON! I recently discovered your blog and I love it, you are so witty and hilarious 🙂

  5. Me Says:

    Speak for yourselves about bad Ohio drivers.

    We don’t all fall in that category.

  6. sofarleft Says:

    I agree about the lanes changing directions – it’s total BS and incredibly confusing to those of us from reasonable places like OH.

    I avoid DuPont at all costs. I was stuck there for an afternoon once myself, and I’ll drive several miles out of the way to be sure I can’t accidentally be sucked back into that ridiculous circle of death.

  7. From ZipCar, With Love « Who Invented Roses Says:

    […] just read your recent blog post about your Zipcar experience. I want you to know that Zipcar really appreciates your careful driving and attention to safety. I […]

  8. J.M. Tewkesbury Says:

    I know we don’t know each other from Adam and Eve and I know it’s rude to laugh, especially at the plight of strangers, but the picture you painted, particularly at the end there, had me ROTFL. I’m sorry.

    That said, driving in the city is not for the faint of heart, but eventually you’ll get the hang of it, if you’re willing to give it a try again. The only three rules you really need to know are these (and two of them you learned on your own): First, avoid DuPont Circle at all costs regardless of the time of day. Second, never drive through Georgetown. If DuPont Circle is the sixth circle of hell, Georgetown is purgatory! Third, Rock Creek Parkway is the key traffic bliss if you want to get from downtown/the National Mall to the north end of town. Note: For purposes of rush hour, traffic is one way inbound (southbound) from 7:30 to 9:00 and one way outbound (northbound) from 3:30 – 6:30 Monday-Friday. Otherwise, it’s the best way to get from one end of the city to the other.

    As for the lane changing bit, that’s so we can get all those Maryland drivers out of here as quickly as possible every evening!

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