Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Anatomy of a Commute

After a month and a half, I've become pretty good at analyzing the intricacies of my daily commute from SW DC to the heart of God's Country (Fairfax, VA). The drive out is about a half hour, the drive back about forty five minutes and rather than listen to the radio like a normal person I coast alone with my thoughts.

Thoughts of murder!

See, the northern Virginia commuter is an odd combination of jerk, moron, and incompetent, and they all gather for little Idiot Conventions on Route 50 twice a day. Unfortunately for me, my drive takes me right through the heart of these conventions. Let me break down each part of the drive out to Fairfax each day:

1) Hop onto the 14th Street Bridge. Avoid the rightmost two lanes as long as possible, since these are backed up with clods who thought the GW Parkway wouldn't be a total mess. Every single day it has been a total mess, starting well before 7 AM. Either they're all first time commuters, or they never learn.

2) Get onto Washington Ave, and avoid the far right lane since that disappears with very little warning and people don't like merging taking place in front of them. Then, merge onto 50 West, taking care that no idiot bikers are using the trail that inconveniently bisects the on-ramp.

3) 50 West is generally smooth, unless you are lucky enough to be behing a Metrobus. Did you know that Metrobus is one of the few companies that hires its drivers directly from insane asylums? I like that they want to do something for the criminally insane, but it'd probably make more sense to give them office jobs instead of commanding a several ton vehicle down highways with no fear of job loss (thanks, labor unions!).

4) From Patrick Henry Drive to Annandale Road in Falls Church, you go through what some call "Seven Corners" (I haven't counted the corners, I'm too busy cursing and weeping) and which I call "the seventh circle of hell". On the way out in the morning, it's usually not too backed up, but in the evenings it gets clogged with suburban bastards who all decided this is the best spot to drive through. I'm not sure why it's so congested--there's nothing but strip malls, big box stores, and despair here. No landmark or metro stop, in fact, population here shouldn't exist. But it does.

5) Once out of the seventh circle of hell, it's relatively smooth past the Beltway, with most lights staying green for a while, and the reverse nature of the commute giving you a chance to whip by while you see the eastbound lanes sitting like a parking lot. You then pass through "Fairfax Circle" which is a pointless exercise in road construction. It's not really a circle--Route 50 goes straight through it--and would have been better constructed as a normal intersection since now it's a jumble of confusing lights.

6) About a mile past the circle, there's a fiendishly clever speed trap, where during key times of day a sign flashes that the speed limit is down to 25 mph. For those of you unfamiliar with this road, Route 50 is a six lane (three in each direction) highway here, and it is about impossible to keep any vehicle under 25 mph for any real length. Hence, the cops here have had an easy time bringing in extra money for the county so they don't have to raise taxes to pay for their lousy roads.

7) On the way back in the evening, GPS comes in handy with it's "traffic" function, so you can tell whether the 14th Street Bridge is completely clogged or whether you're better off taking Constitution through town. This can add time to the commute, but at least you can see the White House and monuments and curse at stupid tourists and joggers on the way in.

And that's the commute. Could be worse--could be going in the direction of most of the traffic (east in the mornings, west in the evenings--meaning not just more congestion but the sun directly in your eyes), and could be far greater distances as some co-workers face. But I'd certainly rather be doing this in a train.

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