Sweet land of park­ing lots

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

At 31, I’ve ac­cepted that much of life is be­yond my con­trol. But you know what’s not? My steer­ing wheel. I’ve al­ways en­joyed the open road: loud mu­sic with the win­dows rolled down; cuphold­ers with hot cof­fee for early-morn­ing ad­ven­tures. Save our re­cent trips, I don’t ac­tu­ally spend much time in the car — which is prob­a­bly why I still en­joy it. Ex­tra drive time would prob­a­bly cure me of that.

You see, at the risk of get­ting hate mail, I must have one of the short­est com­mutes in South­ern Mary­land: seven min­utes, tops. And that’s if I’m stuck be­hind a school bus.

Hav­ing watched my mother en­dure her hours-long com­mute for decades, I’ve never as­pired to work in the city. As she re­cently joked, Mom has used ev­ery mode of trans­porta­tion pos­si­ble short of lac­ing up her sneak­ers and walk­ing to town: car­pool; van­pool; driv­ing alone; rid­ing the bus; tak­ing the Metro. A trip that usu­ally takes an hour and a half, at least. Each way. Ev­ery sin­gle day.

And she’s not alone in that — not at all. Ev­ery­one has ter­ri­ble traf­fic sto­ries. I was a Belt­way baby for three years dur­ing col­lege, deal­ing with de­tours and back-ups be­fore I fi­nally got that de­gree and ran home to the sub­urbs: sweet, sweet land of park­ing lots.

After so many years of rarely ven­tur­ing be­yond a 10-mile ra­dius, I’ve be­come the butt of fam­ily jokes. Mom goes to North­ern Vir­ginia daily, of course, and my sis­ter’s work takes her to all cor­ners of the state. My father is a city tour guide and proud Wash­ing­to­nian — a man with wheels on his feet.

On Tues­day, we were all crammed in his SUV headed down­town for a tour of Wash­ing­ton Na­tional Cathe­dral. It’s fun to play tourist — es­pe­cially mid­week. Katie and I ar­ranged a tour and tea months ago as a Mother’s Day gift, and it was time to gawk at some stained glass.

Our do­cent was an unas­sum­ing woman with a sur­pris­ingly ro­bust voice. A long­time tour guide, her sto­ries echoed eas­ily down the lime­stone halls. She ex­plained the cathe­dral’s his­tory and fu­ture plans on an en­ter­tain­ing walk, leav­ing us later to in­hale tiny squares of cu­cum­ber salad at our tea.

And scones, of course. Can’t for­get the scones.

The af­ter­noon was re­lax­ing and re­flec­tive. Peace­ful. A won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence shared with Mom and Kate, and also ed­u­ca­tional — a buzz­word that sends all stu­dents on forced marches of Wash­ing­ton flee­ing, our guide joked. But I’m not afraid of learn­ing a lit­tle some­thing. I pre­fer that, ac­tu­ally.

And then? Well, then we had to drive back.

Life is all about checks-and-bal­ances. We started the af­ter­noon mar­veling at a panel of stained glass fea­tur­ing an ac­tual piece of the moon. It ended with us star­ing at a stag­nant sea of tail lights, go­ing nowhere. Nowhere. Nowhere. Earth­bound, for sure.

My back­seat driver kicked in. All I could see were the ve­hi­cles around us inch­ing too close, pedes­tri­ans dart­ing into traf­fic, bi­cy­cles nearly clip­ping our mir­ror. Ev­ery route was too crowded. Police stopped a ve­hi­cle in the mid­dle of a neigh­bor­ing lane, prompt­ing a dis­or­derly evac­u­a­tion of ev­ery­one around us. No one used turn sig­nals. There was nowhere to pull off. It was hot. We weren’t mov­ing.

Was the air con­di­tion­ing even work­ing? “This is aw­ful,” I mut­tered. Dad laughed. “This is nothing,” he said.

“It’s re­ally not bad to­day,” Mom agreed.

Katie nod­ded, fight­ing me for the one back­seat spot within strik­ing dis­tance of an air vent — just like the old days. “It gets much worse,” she added.

A wall of ve­hi­cles by South Capi­tol Street as a Na­tion­als game be­gan. Bumper-to­bumper traf­fic get­ting on 295. Com­muters stuck in Brandy­wine, ev­ery traf­fic light burning red.

I mar­veled at it all, eyes bulging.

“When’s the last time you went north?” my dad of­ten jokes. “When’s the last time you left Wal­dorf?”

Some­times it’s been weeks. Some­times months.

But I’ll tell you this: when I do? It’s prob­a­bly for dessert.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.