On Wednesday, I said goodbye to an old standby: The auto commute.
No longer will I have to circumnavigate the Beltway or zip up the left lane of the BW Parkway, trying to break the standing Capitol Hill-Laurel record of 29 minutes. And lord do I feel for those making the Laurel-CH commute, grinding their lives down in a fine powder of stress. At least for them, Metro or MARC might make a bit more sense.
In my year-plus of making this drive, usually 2-3 times a week, four stop signs and two mobile speed camera zones have been added to my commute. All these measures have been added in D.C. The only traffic work I have seen on Maryland is related to the ICC, a new highway. Certainly D.C. made my commute a little longer, a little more painful and the streets a little more safe for pedestrians.
I will not miss scanning the radio dial, trying to find someone more interested in playing music than screaming at me in the morning. I will miss Big Tigger making me laugh out loud with his ridiculous freestyles and The Quiet Storm lowering my blood pressure at the end of an 11-hour day.
I will not miss seeing lanes upon lanes of highways, getting stuck in curiously timed traffic jams and cowering as aggressors whip by me in the right lane. I will miss the beautiful flora on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and seeing fog rise off the Anacostia River, polluted as hell but still breathtaking.
I will not miss my brakes curiously squeaking, or the heart-dropping vision of the “maintenance required” light snapping on. I will miss having a sunroof on a fall day; they haven’t added that amenity to Metro trains quite yet.
Many talk about the personal space and privacy of an automobile, a feeling of freedom. On road trips, I get that. But not much makes me feel more claustrophobic and stressed than commuting; perhaps I am immune to that supposed mental medicine. A good book and some headphones is more privacy than I will ever need.
Most of all, I will not miss cheating death on a weekly basis. Near-crashes are just the way of the road here. People are in such a rush they forget they are trying to fit through tight spaces at 80 mph in a vehicle weighing two tons. It’s scary, and I though I haven’t crunched the numbers yet, I imagine my life expectancy just increased by a couple years.
So long for now, arch nemesis auto commute. Shall we meet again, I will no doubt still be fearful of you.