I like to think of road rage as a personality test.

17 Oct

For the umpteenth year in a row, DC has been named America’s worst city when it comes to traffic. Considering I’ve only put 13,000 miles on my car in the last three years, it’s hard for me to weigh in with any real authority, but I will say that I can generally get to my office faster on foot (25 minutes) than I can by car.

While I don’t love it, at least I can understand rush hour traffic. Hundreds of thousands of people are trying to get to roughly the same place, at the same time. That’s naturally going to lead to some gridlock.

What I don’t understand is weekend traffic. Nothing makes me more infuriated than when I think I’m going to run a quick errand — and end up sitting in my car for an hour trying to leave the District on a Saturday. Which is exactly what happened this weekend.

Margaret (homeless from selling her place) was staying with me for a few nights before flying out to LA. Saturday morning she needed me to run her out to Alexandria before her flight, ideally getting her there by 11:30. Unfortunately, our brunch ran a bit long, so we weren’t actually leaving the city until 11:30.

Should’ve been no problem, since — without traffic — we had a 20 minute drive ahead of us. Except, for some inexplicable reason, the city streets were gridlocked. There were cops everywhere and people who looked like they couldn’t tie their shoes without assistance were wearing yellow vests and directing traffic. There seemed to be a combination of motorcades, protest rallies, and street fairs tying up the greater downtown area.

Rather than flip our collective stack about the ever-ticking clock, Margaret and I tried to calm ourselves by getting a bit squirrelly. We cranked some tunes (Bohemian Rhapsody, Viva la Vida, Mr. Blue Sky) and sang at the top of our lungs, making up new lyrics, primarily about the traffic and the fanny-pack-wearing tourists that surrounded us.

At some point, I happened to think about my double-jointedness. “Hey Margaret,” I asked. “Can you hyper-extend your arms like this?” I put my arms in front of me like a zombie and began twisting them around in a way that sometimes makes people nauseated.

Continuing to sing her heart out, Margaret put her arms in front of her and confirmed that she, too, possessed special joints. We were both sitting there, shrieking made-up lyrics with the roof open and twisting our arms around in front of us, when we happened to look at the car next to us. Apparently they found us amusing, because they were pointing and laughing.

Meanwhile, the girl in the Prius behind us was NOT amused. I generally expect hybrid owners to be a bit more relaxed than other humans, but not her. She was clearly in a hurry, because every time the light turned red without us having made it, she would lay on her horn and scream.

At first I thought she was screaming at me, but then I realized it was directed at the traffic marshalls. She had her window rolled down and was berating them. Admittedly, they weren’t helping the situation — only making it worse — but I’ve never heard so many expletives fly out of a person’s mouth at a stranger. She unleashed the type of fury most people reserve for professional sports teams that are losing in a big match-up.

Had we not been a hurry ourselves, I would’ve enjoyed messing with her a bit — though come to think of it, I’ve already seen the ugly side of a Prius once this year and that was plenty.

No matter. As soon as we crossed Independence Avenue for the 14th Street Bridge, traffic opened up. Before I could even react, she had floored it off the line and passed me, giving the traffic cop the bird on the way. Margaret and I raised our (double-jointed) arms and clapped high in the windshield so she’d be sure to see us.

And maybe that is the real reason I’ve only put 13,000 miles on my car in three years… I don’t want to become that girl. Besides, there’s nothing more ironic than an environmentalist trying to burn rubber.

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10 Responses to “I like to think of road rage as a personality test.”

  1. Lorna's Voice October 17, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

    What are the odds? 2 double-jointed gals in the same car and a Prius laying rubber? You have to be making at least one of these things up! 😉

    I know DC traffic. I once thought that I was going to ride around the city all night and go to work in the same clothes I wore on my 1st day at work because I got lost on my way home. I started riding the Metro after that. 15 blocks. No problem!

    • pithypants October 17, 2011 at 9:39 pm #

      Seriously. It’s why I walk to work most days. And for the record – I implied that the Prius WANTED to lay rubber. I don’t think it actually did. Bless her heart.

  2. Byron MacLymont October 18, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    Whenever you see people getting that angry about something like traffic, you always just know that the traffic is contributing to about 5% of their actual anger. They’re generally not in a happy place, is what I’m saying.

    And I definitely include myself in that statement.

  3. totsymae1011 October 18, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    She Prius driver had to have borrowed that car. I mean, the personality didn’t fit. And I really don’t get that people get all uptight in DC kinda traffic. Doesn’t it make you rebel and just go slower? 🙂

    • pithypants October 19, 2011 at 8:53 pm #

      Yes. I wished I was driving a 1982 Crown Vic so I could take two lanes, pump my breaks and give her a barge to crash her plastic car into. Awesome point. And thanks for reading – your art is great!

  4. An Observant Mind October 18, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    This created the perfect picture in my mind, felt like I was there! Though being a bit of a greenie myself, I am flabbergasted at the prius-girl and her rage. I’m just going to tell myself that she was borrowing the car, so I sleep better tonight!

    • pithypants October 18, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

      Agreed. I would’ve felt MUCH better if it had been a ZIP car.

  5. skippingstones October 18, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

    I used to work at the Cracker Barrel in Dumfries. I had to leave work by 3:30 (at the very latest) to beat the traffic -meaning slow, but not stopped -or stay until at least 7pm. We had tourists in there from all over the world, and I’d be rich if I had a quarter for every person who bitched and/or marveled about the traffic. People from New York and New Jersey and L.A., all saying the same thing, “I thought we had it bad; then I came here.”

    • pithypants October 18, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

      When I visit LA and ride with someone who complains about their traffic, I’m like, “Really? This? It’s NOTHING.”

  6. Gavie Valerio October 26, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    Lol. I love this. I just recently went to DC last month for the first time and was extremely surprised at how terrible the traffic was! And never had I heard so many people honking their horns at each other. Coming from Houston, I thought our traffic was ridiculous, but now I’ve seen otherwise. Good thing for DC they have the subway transit system and everything’s walking distance. I loved it, except for the traffic! Good luck with that.

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