Holiday traffic


(National Archives)

Wow. I got honked at today.

I live in a town where nobody honks. Nobody. Except today, I got honked at for no apparent reason. It has to be the holiday season. Tempers are short and shoppers are in full panic mode, what with sales and all.

But seriously, this is JV.

Now Washington, D.C. traffic – that’s varsity. Traffic is so snarled there that they reverse the flow of roads just to allow people to come in in the morning, then reverse it again to let people leave at night. Six inches of buffer between bumpers is considered excessive. Honking is considered a stress reliever, and therefore encouraged. Add to this drivers with diplomatic immunity, congressmen who don’t have to pay tickets, and about a million tourists and you have the recipe for big league traffic (you can spot the tourists easily enough – they’re the ones trying to make U-turns near the mall across four lanes of highway).

If you have never driven in DC, I have some pointers.

1. If you have to use a map to get to your destination, do it before you start the engine and commit your route to memory. Never stop. Ever. Stopping will earn you a chorus of honks from the drivers behind you (and beside you for that matter). Stopping is the one unforgiveable sin, especially to read a map. Which brings us to point number 2.

2. You will get lost.

3. The beltway is a trap. They will try to lure you there with promises of speedy travel, but it’s a lie. The beltway was built to get tourists out of the way so that locals can drive in the city.

4. People in DC use one hand for the horn (mandatory), and the other to eat, gesture and/or drive (optional). This is why they declared a “hands free” zone for cell phone talkers – otherwise they would all drive with their knees.

5. You can either try to read the traffic signs and hit the car in front of you, or ignore them and get hopelessly lost. Either way you won’t reach your destination. Your choice.

(National Archives)

But that’s all behind me now. These days if I get that rare honk, I just smile and think, “Rookie.”

I almost miss the challenges of DC traffic, except during the holidays, of course, when you toss in a couple million additional shoppers (i.e drivers) into the mix. But even then you can arrive safely if you’re careful.

And you take the METRO.


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