Daze of My Life: Snowed by the Possibilities
Daze of My Life
Snowed by the Possibilities
by Kenneth B. Lourie
Today, Saturday, January 22, the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area is having its first-of-the-season, and somewhat-late-in-arriving, significant snowfall, predicted to be in the 4- to 7- inch range, as reported earlier this morning on WTOP's "Traffic and Weather on the 8's." And to tell you the truth, I'm a bit nervous about the snow's effect, not so much due to any outside responsibilities that I have today (parents, spouse, work, major purchases, minor purchases, miscellaneous errands) but rather due to the fact that I feel my time may be up.
Specifically the time to which I refer is the time when yours truly, as a regular commuter driver, will suffer the consequences of having to drive at the exact same time and under the identical conditions (snow, sleet, freezing rain and then ice) as every other driver. In our area when it snows, traffic snarls and for drivers and passengers, driving can become hazardous to your health, seriously. I express this anxiety not to belittle the Maryland, Virginia and/or Washington, D.C. snow removal efforts. Hardly. I mention this concern because I feel, as a driver who drives an above-average number of miles, the future may very well be this afternoon. You see, I think I may have dodged a bullet, so to speak, just the other day in fact.
It was three days ago, Wednesday, January 19. If you remember, that was the day when we actually had the season's first snow. And though the inch or two we received (earlier than predicted) wasn't quite enough to call out the National Guard, it certainly was enough, and particularly well-timed--during a midweek workday. It was compounded, I'm sure, by the pre-Inauguration Day festivities and related road closures, to cause Washington-area drivers yet another day, and in some locations, evening, of gridlock brought on by acute snowfall ridicules.
As co-workers left our office in McLean after our bi-weekly morning sales meeting and cellphone calls that started reporting driving experiences somewhere between panic and chaos on Route 7, on Interstate 66, on the Dulles Toll Road and of course, on the Beltway, with commutes being double and triple the norm.
As I heard the stories, I contemplated my own commuting fate. On a good day, my drive home can easily take 1 hour and 15 minutes. Today was not a good day.
It was snowing, so I waited: 12, 1, 2, and finally at 2:15, I couldn't wait any longer. The stress was killing me, so I grabbed my stuff, went to the bathroom, packed some provisions (food and water, for dinner in the car) and began my 25-mile journey home.
And the short story is, even though it took me a bit longer to get out of Tysons Corner and onto the Beltway, heading toward Silver Spring, the inner loop was sort of moving. Once across the American Legion Bridge, traffic improved and was still better as I headed north up the 270 spur and best of all as I exited onto Tower Oaks Boulevard, then east on Wootton Parkway and across Route 355 to Route 28 and on home. My commute, on this day of all days, was in a word, well two words, relatively normal.
And as I prepare to brave the elements yet again, today, Saturday, January 22, I feel destined to suffer at the hands of both Mother Nature and of all those inexperienced-in-the-snow Washington drivers, who likely will make my next few hours in the car feel like days, hopefully not literally. After all, who am I to not get stuck in the snow? Who am I to not feel the pain of drivers acting stupid? And most likely, who am I to not get waylaid on the way home?
Nobody, that's who! I'm like everybody else. And the more it snows, the more likely I am to feel the effect of being out and about with a bunch of drivers who shouldn't be either.
Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.