Friday, July 25, 2008

Ants Marching

Today begins my first post/rant about commuting in the DC metro area. I’m hoping that sharing my craptastic daily ritual will be cathartic, or at least entertaining in a sick, schadenfreude way.

A. and I decided while looking to buy a home last year that we should settle somewhere between our two jobs. With her working in Frederick, MD and me in D.C, we ended up in one of the many Maryland ‘burbs along the I270 corridor. Consequently, A. migrates north in the morning and I head south. These are very different commutes. Her’s is a quiet, peaceful meander toward the hills of western Maryland. Mine is a Darwinian struggle for survival. She arrives at work calm and ready to face the day. I arrive disheveled, twitchy and pretty sure that I was groped in the Metro.

For those unfamiliar with commuting in the D.C. metro area, traffic from West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware is sucked into D.C in the morning, only to be spit back out in the evening. To combat this mass of humanity, there are basically 4 options for getting to work: 1) Drive. Under no circumstances is this recommended. If you manage to actually survive your drive to work without being run over by an SUV driven by someone texting, eating, putting on make-up, reading, etc., you can’t afford to park your car. 2) Metro. This is D.C.’s subway system, and the main way that people get around. It’s also much in need of upkeep/repairs. However, since said upkeep/repair costs are shared between the Federal government, Maryland and Virginia, there will never, ever be an agreement as to who should pay for what. It is also ridiculously expensive. 3) MARC. This is the commuter train that shuttles between the Maryland and West Virginia ‘burbs and Union Station in D.C. It’s the cheapest of the options and the most unreliable. 4) The pu-pu combination platter.

I’ve chosen option 4 as my preferred commute – combining at short drive, long MARC ride and 3-stop Metro jaunt. This is the cheapest, but most inconvenient option. Following the printed schedules, this commute should take 1 hour each way. I have never, ever, ever, made the commute in 1 hour.

For example, last night I hit the metro station at 5:15pm. With the goal of making the 5:35pm MARC train, this left me with 25 minutes to make the stated 4 minute trip. I actually got on the first Metro that came into the station, no small feat during peak tourist season. However, after pulling out of the station, we suddenly stopped…and sat…and sat some more. Finally, 10 minutes later, we started s-l-o-w-l-y c-r-a-w-l-i-n-g to the next station, only to realize that there were waaaaay more people waiting for the train than usual. Apparently, the Metro in front of us had a mechanical problem and had to completely unload. Bad words and much B.O. were exchanged during the next few minutes, as all of those people attempted to cram into our already full train. Needless to say, this took a bit of time. We finally arrived at Union Station with 5 minutes to spare before my train was due to depart. Like O.J. in a Hertz commercial, I – and 400 of my closest friends – sprinted for the escalator that would take us one step closer to home. I was going to make it! Until a really, really large man got there first, causing a 400 person pile-up as he commandeered the whole width of the escalator and slowly rode it to the top. I missed the train. Many of us missed the train. There was much swearing.

Thankfully, I was able to catch the 6:00 MARC train. Since it was running 15 minutes late, I finally arrived home at 7:15pm, 2 hours after I left my office. Sadly, this was a good day. *sigh*


  1. M- I give you guys so much credit for the commuting nightmare, I could never do it. I've always gone out of my way to avoid lights and such! Get some good books on tape....:)

  2. This is why Husband and I leave home at 7 am. He'll keep doing it after the tykes are born whereas I'll leaev for work at 9 am - in both cases hopefully missing the worst of rush-hour. The other thing this indicates is that you should move to Boston - I swear traffic in DC is worse than Boston.

  3. I learned to love schadenfreude on Friday night because of Avenue Q. You definitely make me feel way better about my 20 minute commute into uptown Charlotte. My office is moving, however, to outside the city and it may result in a 30 minute commute. The horror! This is another reason you should move down to North Carolina (no, I'm never letting that go).