Tuesday, August 16, 2011

On Commuting

After living in the UK, I felt like I had a sufficient handle on public transportation.  Buses, walking, an occasional Tube ride (if I was visiting London), more walking, random cabs, and did I mention? Walking.

My brief visit to DC last Spring Break only bolstered my confidence. I totally got this whole Metro thing, I thought smugly to myself, stepping cleanly off the Blue line. I bet I don’t even look like a tourist. No fanny packs here! And once I moved to DC, I proudly joined the ranks of young professionals who complained about their commute.

“It takes me an hour from my front door to the door of my office,” a friend told me, clearly frustrated. I can relate – 3 years of being able to literally roll out of bed in my sweats, tie my unruly hair into a knot, grab a notebook and pen and traipse the five minutes across campus to class (sometimes through snow! Oh the agony!) have instilled some bad habits in me.

Those happy habits suffered a swift death on my first commute to work. It took me 2 hours. And I was definitely not wearing sweats.

Since then I’ve managed to shave off about 20 minutes of my commute. Actually, I try to make it a game – how efficient can I be today? If I stand near the doors in the very last car on my first line, I can zip out quickly and beat the rush to my second line. If I walk quickly in the morning, I’ll catch my first line in time enough so that I don’t have to wait 10 minutes for my second line.

Yeah, I mentally brag to pretty much everyone who dares to complain about their measly half hour or even 40 minute commute, my commute involves a 20 minute walk, 3 different lines and at least an hour on the metro, and then a 30 minute bus ride. As a clearly gay man told me on a bus recently, “Oh God, honey that’s awful!”

Not that I was telling random strangers about my adventures commuting. Actually, my Metro line had a track problem, and so they off-loaded everyone at Reagan National Airport and bussed us to Braddock Road. On a Monday morning. During peak rush hour. It was joyful. Envision angry crowds of well-dressed, frustrated people pushing, elbowing, using briefcases as shields, and other sorts of professional mayhem.

I was lucky. I was commuting to a suburb and managed to load onto a shuttle bus fairly quickly, where I stood awkwardly in the aisle for about 15 minutes with a handful of other people, including my gay friend.

People commuting into the city had more trouble. The lines for their buses were…ridiculous. I’m struggling to find a better word. One woman had to wait 47 minutes for a bus!

Hmm, try this. Envision a crowd of young Twihards (I don't get it either) waiting for the debut of the last Twilight film, where Edward and Bella (their real names escape me) have personally promised to show up and kiss each person on the cheek.  Then envision that crowd being told that Edward and Bella have decided not to come after all.  Then lose all the vampire paraphernalia and teen hormones, age your audience a few more years, and add briefcases. Yay – instant crowd chaos.

I snapped a pic on my phone, but this isn't it...still
working on getting it from my phone to the computer.
This photo taken by Gordon Withers, special to We Love DC

Actually, I thought it was grand fun. My week isn’t complete unless I have an unintended adventure. 

Oh, and I thought this was funny -- would that we could all commute this way!

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