I am one of those rare, strange people who enjoys driving in New York City.
There’s an easy explanation for this: I learned to drive in the DC area.
No one is ever going to dispute that New York City drivers are crazy. They are. But they’re the GOOD kind of crazy. They’ll scream at you and give you the finger and zigzag around you in traffic. But they can do all that without ACTUALLY endangering your life. That’s why I say they’re good drivers. They have to be good to drive in NYC without dying. I can identify with that kind of driving. I respect that kind of driving.
But DC drivers are the worst of the worst. Marylanders will argue with you that Virginia drivers are the worst, and Virginians will say Maryland drivers are the worst. But it doesn’t matter where you hail from. If you’re driving in DC, I probably hate you.
I’m a native Washingtonian, and I love my home city. But as far as traffic goes, it is the worst city in the world. Part of the problem is the city itself. I know it was laid out deliberately to be confusing to anyone who attacked, but honestly, no one who attacks is going to do it by land anymore. It’s as out of date as a walkman.
I still don’t understand why there’s no J Street in DC. Like there’s all kinds of theories about it. But none of them make any sense. Why would you use letters for streets and then leave one out? I mean, I get it if they did it to screw with peoples’ heads. I would be impressed if that was the case. But it’s not. It’s random.
Then there are the traffic circles. I have no problem with traffic circles in general. I understand how they work (if not the need for them), and don’t have a problem navigating them. But 99.999 percent of the population lacks the ability to handle them. Putting the average person in a traffic circle is like putting metal in the microwave; it causes a serious problem and it stinks. And something (in this case, my head) might explode as a result.
Traffic circles DO, however, have one perk. Say someone you hate is crossing through the circle. If you don’t manage to hit them when you try the first time, you can drive around the traffic circle a couple of times to wait for them, and get them when they cross the other side of the circle.*
(*Note: I am not responsible for any legal repercussions if you do this. I’m only telling you for entertainment purposes. Or in case Dan Snyder is crossing Dupont Circle. No Redskins fan jury will
find you guilty. Go for it. You may even get a medal.)
I have seen more stupidity from people driving in DC, however, than in any other area of my life. And I’m a teacher. There literally used to be a sign on Constitution Avenue that said “Red means stop.” Really? Are there REALLY people driving who don’t know that? Don’t you think there’s a bigger problem if you need a sign like that?
The DC government knows that its drivers suck. That’s why they have a law against talking on a cellphone without some kind of hands-free device while driving.
In theory, this law is great and could save lives. In theory.
But this law has a side effect (one that even I have been guilty of). You’re driving in DC and your phone rings. You’re not sure where you’re going (and your navigation system is useless in DC because sometimes there are two streets with the same name, but one is in NW and one is in SW and there’s no distinguishing between the two on your nav system—been there, done that, felt like an idiot), and you need to talk to the person calling you so that you can find out where to go.
But you can’t find your headset.
This leads to the frantic scramble to find it before the phone stops ringing. During this panicked digging through your purse/center console/backseat/glove compartment, you wind up paying less attention to the road than you would be if you were texting while driving.
In desperation, you look around for somewhere to pull over so that you can call your friend back.
HAHAHAHA that doesn’t exist in DC! What are you? A tourist?
Then, you finally decide that you HAVE to break the law so that you don’t spend the rest of your life driving around the city aimlessly looking for streets that don’t exist. So you answer your phone, but you have to keep your head low, to avoid getting a ticket if a cop sees you. And at this point, if you’re still alive and haven’t crashed your car, you’re probably going to get pulled over anyway for weaving all over the place like you were drunk.
Again, in theory, it’s a great law.
But it doesn’t help with the idiots who think they’re still on the Metro and are reading the newspaper while driving! (I’ve seen it! I mean, who still reads a real paper newspaper these days, let alone WHILE DRIVING? And they’re worried about people talking on their phones?)
Then again, maybe the bad driving and the horrible street layout is part of a plan to make DC more green. I know that I’m more likely to take the Metro than drive there, because I fear for my life every time I cross the border from Maryland into DC. But then again, if that was true, wouldn’t Metro service be better to encourage people to take it?
Like the mystery of J street, I guess there are just some questions without answers.