Coming Soon: The Beltway Chronicles

This post is Part I of a multi-part series.

I wrote this entire series while in traffic.

I know what you’re thinking. Sam, this sounds dangerous. Shouldn’t you be paying attention to the road? Don’t you need to keep your head on a swivel and have your hands at 10 and 2 (or the hipper 9 and 3)? *Clutches pearls* Distracted driving is as bad as drunk driving! How could you possibly write while driving on a busy highway?

Well, concerned citizen, if you’ve spent any time in Northern Virginia, you know how possible this task actually is. There’s a lot of downtime when you’re sitting in traffic, especially when you’re gridlocked on one of the busiest roads in the country. I’d wager the majority of our great nation’s governmental decisions are hatched while traversing the asphalt of Interstate 495.

…Shit, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for the quality of this series, is it?

If you’ve not had the pleasure of journeying around our nation’s Capital Beltway, the 64-mile donut-shaped track of hellacious highways surrounding Washington, D.C., let me simulate it for you.

Here’s the scenario: you need to get across town to the pharmacy. It’s not an emergency, but it’s kind of important. The distance to the pharmacy is three miles. You could confidently make it there without thought, even after seven shots of Fireball.

Got it? Good.

Now go out to your car. Turn on the ignition, put your favorite tunes on. Put your car in gear, but leave your foot on the brake.

Now sit in your driveway for 45 minutes. If you want, you can roll forward a couple of inches every few minutes, but this is optional. And don’t you dare touch the gas pedal.

This is my life every time I go to work.

Seriously. Over the last year, I’ve spent almost 12,000 minutes commuting to and from work. That’s 198 hours, or 8.3 days. That’s a lot of life wasted staring at brake lights.

So instead of contemplating life or watching my hair recede in the rearview mirror, I decided to get productive and write about it.

I’ve seen plenty of awful things. Car crashers, nose pickers, makeup appliers, phone talkers, movie watchers, a driver who may have been dead but was probably just asleep.

These are my tales.

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