Fuck the beltway

This weekend I was away on one of my patented biweekly summer vacations designed to get me the hell out of Washington. And it was fun; I went to Colorado Springs, which is beautiful country. The incredibly scenic Red Rock Amphitheater was a great place for a rave... errrrr, electronic music festival. (The first person who asks me if Jack Diamond was there gets a glow stick in the eye.)

What are the chances we could get something like that at Wolf Trap? Negative eight percent, you say? Hmmm.

Anyway, the trip was fun, but it didn't start out that way, thanks to our old friend the Washington beltway. For those who are unfamiliar with the beltway, count your fucking blessings right now. Also known as I-495, the beltway is a three-to-five lane highway encircles the Washington area, and is often congested and under construction. You can plan on sitting still for a good long while if you find yourself on the beltway during rush hour.

However, since my flight was leaving from Baltimore-Washington International Airport at 3:50 p.m. Friday, I figured on more of a normal-condition mid-afternoon beltway: a few trouble spots here and there, and maybe even a half an hour of delay due to unforseen accidents or congestion. That's why I left my office near Tysons Corner, which is at about the 10-o'clock position on the highway, at 1:20 p.m. With no traffic, that would put me at the airport parking lot at about 2:20, a good 90 minutes before departure. Even if a half hour delay cropped up on the roads, I would have plenty of time to get a boarding pass and get through security.

Ahh, but there was a fatal flaw in my plan: the beltway was not moving. At all. An accident at about 12:30 has backed traffic up, and the average speed going around the northwest turn of the beltway was about 5 mph. I turned on the radio and learned that the congestion started at the Georgia Avenue exit, at the 12-o'clock position. I need to get to about the 1-o'clock position for the I-95 exit toward the airport, so I figured I'd stick with it and grind my way through the traffic.

Things started to look bad an hour later when I still hadn't reached Georgia Avenue. It had taken me one full hour to travel about 14 miles, which I hadn't counted on at 1:30 on a Friday. Then, mercifully, I passed Georgia Avenue, and the traffic cleared up... only to stop dead again one minute later.

By this point, I was panicking, and needed to bail out to have any chance of catching my flight. I did so at U.S. 29 north, which travels up into Marlyand, hoping to cut over soon to I-95 and gun it toward the airport. At one point, a van nearly changed lanes into me; I laid on the horn, which caused him to swerve back. I gunned it ahead, but had to stop at the next light with the van behind me. The kids in the van laid on their horn for a good 10 seconds, apparently in retaliation. Then, after I cursed them out in the mirror, one of them tried to throw a tennis ball at my car (?), but missed badly to the left (from 5 feet away). The sad thing was, I was so filled with road rage that I probably would have been willing to throw down with them right in the street and get my ass kicked.

When I finally got to the airport at 3:30, sweaty and stressed, I dumped the car in hourly parking and raced to the check-in... but they wouldn't give me a boarding pass because takeoff was less than 30 minutes away (even though I had no luggage to check). I had to pay a $100 fee to change to a later flight. After that, I was in no mood to, for example, spend an hour waiting to get through the security checkpoint for the C Terminal. At which only two out of four metal detectors were open. For 300 people to get through. With little to no air conditioning in a tiny, claustrophobic space. So that's of course what happened.

Anyway, I don't really want to relive being stuck in traffic any more. Suffice to say, I now hate every other person in Washington who owns a car. Sorry y'all. And I really, really hate the ones who were in front of me Friday, for costing me $100. I also hate the airlines for charging up to twice as much to fly out of the more-convenient Reagan National and Dulles airports as the far-away BWI, which is indicative of the "luxury box" mentality that comes with living in Washington. I make a normal salary, and I've been trying not to spend what is sometimes an extra $150-$200 per ticket to fly out of National or Dulles.

But if I want to avoid the fucking beltway and all the human traffic at BWI, I'll have to pony up. Right now I'd rather stick an ice pick through my groin than have to set foot in that steaming turd of an airport again. Fortunately my next two trips are out of National, which I like. (They actually put a Metro station at an airport! What a fucking novel idea!)

In the meantime I can work on my plans to atmoize the beltway, preferably via the use of heavy nuclear weapons.