8.21.2006

Going Crazy With Google Maps

OK. Imagine you're relatively new to Washington. Your extended family has tricked you into going to the zoo with them. You're giving your second cousin instructions on how to get to your group house on 49th and Brandywine from Connecticut Avenue. So, we're driving, we spot Brandywine, and we take a left-hand turn. After all, it's my street.

But it's not my street. Taking Brandywine from Connecticut Ave. will lead you straight to Wilson High School. See. Brandywine starts up again about a half mile later. Same thing happens to you on Chesapeake, Davenport, and Ellicott.

A few years later I was staying at an apartment complex off of Macomb and Massachusetts. At this point I had a better feel for DC. My family knew my cross streets, but I was very particular about one thing: If you see a Macomb, avoid it at all costs. Why? Well, Macomb starts and stops as it pleases. That's three Macomb Streets. And none of them are connected!

The confusing roads persist in other parts of town. In Friendship heights there are two 42nds and two 43rds. There's a 9 1/2 Street by the 9:30 Club which, incidentally, has its own set of problems. The numbers are just as bad across the Anacostia which features two 31sts and two 32nds.

I guess my point is this: This is an abortion of a grid plan! It seems like proper city planning would prevent this silliness. To think, this is a city that depends on tourism dollars! This "system" is confusing for people who are new new to DC. Heck, it's confusing for me. When I was looking for housing in January I walked down 42nd Street instead of 42nd Place. Result: Knocking on a lot of wrong doors. (A big apology to that family whose baby was asleep.)

I understand that it's kind of fun to watch people who don't know DC as well as they should get all confused and disoriented. But they deserve a little pity. Washington has made it as difficult as possible with its duplicate streets, no J Streets, and traffic circles. It can be pretty easy to get lost if you don't know the city's idiosyncrasies like the back of your hand. Just another negative quality of DC to throw onto the pile.

Most of my examples are limited to the 20016 zipcode. There are probably a ton of other examples of this. Feel free to leave more examples in the comments.

65 comments:

  1. I once heard that DC was designed to have so many traffic circles to stave off invasion in Olde Tymes. But when I lived in present-day DC, I wondered whether I was mildly retarded, since I often got lost driving despite having lived there for four years. Then I moved to NYC and realized that DC, in fact, is the retard.

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  2. 1. The city was designed by a Frenchman--enough said.
    2. The Frenchman committed suicide afterward.
    3. The city was designed to confuse British people, as the French have a long grude against the British.

    Confusion over sense of direction led me to actually reside by the zoo in Adams Morgan for nearly three years. When I figured out where I ACTUALLY was, I moved to Virginia.

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  3. The popular myth that the city was designed to thwart invasion is an urban legend.

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  4. Alanna,

    New York City is so easy to navigate. Whenever I'm there and call someone for directions because I'm "lost" they get confused. How'd you manage to get lost? There's two ways you could go and you've managed to go the wrong way.

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  5. Northern Virginia actually took some getting used to, btw.

    You know the sinking feeling when you're proud of yourself for being punctual, then realize that you've just gotten onto to a highway and in a direction that's going to cost you 45 minutes to fix?

    And then you run into heavy traffic around an accident and then, if you're like me, you realize you have to stop somewhere to get gas but, Jesus, where'd I put my wallet?

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  6. "When I figured out where I ACTUALLY was, I moved to Virginia."

    Well now thats just stupid. Arlington is by far the most confusing place around here to navigate. How many N. 19th St. and N. 10 st. are there in Arlington, and none of them relate to each in other in any way i can tell.

    At least in DC streets like Riggs and Brandywine, while cut up, all continue on their same paths after their breaks, as if those blocks were filled in after the streets were built.

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  7. NoVA streets are really bad in my very limited experience with them, but I don't know enough about it to speak with any authority.

    Seriously, send in as many examples as possible.

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  8. Agreed. Arlington is a mess, street-wise. Especially Rosslyn. I actually like Arlington as a city, but don't get me started on Northern Virginia traffic.

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  9. I quite agree with you.

    I meant that I moved to Roslyn/Arlington because for reasons other than more orderly street designations. As we've discussed before, this is one big metro area so it's pretty much the same damn thing. I get lost there too. I'm glad I'm not the only one and I'll be getting GPS w/ my next car for sure.

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  10. I have to agree, I hate driving in DC. I especially hate all the damn circles. I can never get of on the right street the first time around. I always end up going around the circle like an idiot, trying to figure out where the fuck my street is. They definitely need better signage.

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  11. i think we all know that dc was designed for horsies... and im in the midst of writing a post about the awesomeness of nyc's layout

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  12. The only way you can get lost in NYC is if you end up on the wrong side of Central Park...and that would be an enormous blunder.

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  13. FUCK ALL YOU FUCKING TRANSPLANTS

    GO THE FUCK BACK TO WHERE EVER IN THE FUCK YOU ARE FROM

    I HOPE ONE DAY YOU FUCKERS TAKE A WRONG TURN AND END UP ON ALABAMA AVE. THEN RUN OUT OF GAS

    DC NAVIGATION IS EASY

    TRANSPLANT AND TOURIST STUPID FUCKS ARE THE PROBLEM

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  14. whoa, looks like someone needs a nap or some vicatin or something...

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  15. I think someone's tired!

    Stupid transplants. Hate 'em. Hey man, have you ever seen that book "White Liberals and Black Rednecks" in the bookstore? No. I didn't think so.

    Apparently, there are such things as black rednecks, and I'm guessing you might be one. You remind me of a white redneck who lives out his life in the same small town and knows the back roads like the "back of his own hand."

    PLUS, I THINK YOU NEED TO BUY A COMPUTER THAT DOES LOWER CASE!!!!! THEY DON'T CHARGE EXTRA FOR THAT.

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  16. You've hit on one of the main reasons why I hate DC... and the amazing thing about the surface transportation system here: LACK OF STREET SIGNS. We live in a venus fly trap-like city.

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  17. FUCK FRIENDSHIP HEIGHTS

    GREEN LINE TO ANACOSTIA YOU BITCHES

    COME RIDE THE METRO WITH ME

    YOU FUCKING TECH FIRM NON PROFIT INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY HILL INTERN OUT OF TOWN TRANSPLANT PIECES OF SHIT

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  18. ahhh google maps. could be worse. you could have been using yahoo maps or map quest. it's a little knwon fact that the main reason we invaded iraq is because bush plotted his afghan battle plan using map quest, but he wound up in the middle east.

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  19. DUDE, ARE YOU LOGGING ON FROM THE PUBLIC LIBRARY OR DO YOU MEAN TO TELL ME YOUR DISH PIT OR CONSTRUCTION SITE HAS INTERNET ACCESS.

    I'LL RIDE THE SUBWAY WITH YOU. I'M NOT AFRAID OF YOU. I LOOK GUYS LIKE YOU RIGHT IN THE EYE. THEY CALL ME 'BUCK WILD.'

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  20. Hey MR CAPS,

    Why don't you turn off the DMX CD, put down the malt, and step away from the computer.

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  21. Years ago, I went to a Hexagon show (co-worker was in it). And one of the skits was L'Enfant, in a pub, working on the DC grid. The bar wench wakes him up (he'd passed out), and points out that, as he fell over, he'd marked a crazy diagonal line all across his nice, perfect grid, and that his mug of ale had left a ring. Still drunk (and in a perfect Pepe LePew accent), he declares "I like it!" and proceeds to put more beer rings and slashes all over the map. It was hilarious.

    Yeah, DC roads are confusing, but if you're there long enough (11 years, in my case) you figure it out. At least you have a grid. The roads in Santa Fe may be continuous, but they loop around on themselves and change names on you. And, they're mostly in Spanish. Paseo de Vista = Camino de Las Crucitas = Paseo de Peralta = Hickox Street = Camino Alire = Bob Street. No lie.

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  22. I thought I had a good sense of direction -- coming from LA -- until I got to DC.

    I was innocently driving on Mass Ave. crossing an intersection. As soon as I crossed that intersection, I noticed there were cars coming at me. I was on the wrong side of the road, and there were absolutely no street signs telling me "DO NOT ENTER. WRONG WAY".

    Luckily, I didn't kill myself or the three other passengers in the car with me. It's rough living here.

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  23. i'll put a cap in yo ass, fool. you betta shut yo ass up, indefinately. people tryin' to conversate.

    --lil cap

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  24. Salma,

    Keep going on Mass Ave and it magically turns into NY Ave and then into Rte. 50.

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  25. Vous fils stupide de bâtards de l'Amérique d'un Jr. de buisson. regard affamé d'argent de républicains vers le bas sur d'autres. Merde française de la France sur toi et votre ville. Cessez de parler l'entretien de pistolet au-dessus de l'Internet que vous déshonorez à toi l'idiot américain stupide de famille. Paris chie sur New York City que vous souhaitez que vous pourriez vivre dans notre pays et dater nos femmes. Vos femmes sont sexe hanté par argent dégoûtant et les putains adorantes de observation de célébrité de ville. Vous venez au détritus parlant de la France que nous dirigeons le bout vous les personnes gaies dans le visage comme Zenadine Zidane vous shitcock sanglant de l'Amérique ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

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  26. Now... that's some kind of different language, like a dog speaks a different language, barking and yapping and whatnot and then you can't understand him but he and his kind can understand perfectly?

    Damn. I am slack-jawed and speechless.

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  27. Les Américains dégoûtants stupides regardent vers le bas sur des immigrés et les gens qui parlent un autre pénis sale de snobbish de langue ont collé vers le haut de votre propre Américain laid obèse de poids excessif d'âne gros ! ! ! ! Les Américains ignorants et paresseux ne peuvent pas parler plus de 1 gouvernement paresseux de langue permet aux personnes étrangères de rester au-dessus de leur visa important l'élément crimial de crime dans les citites américains. Troupes non instruites dangereuses sales et dégoûtantes peu sûres et de pollution de civière partout d'Etat d'écoles et écoles d'Etat d'adolescent de C.C de grossesse de toxicomane buidling des pistolet distants en chute et tirant des holdups de magasin de bijoux en large jour ! ! ! ! ! !
    Le fils d'un buisson a retardé le président permettant à votre pays de habiller l'éclat de l'Amérique de toliet vous en bas des conduits d'égout ! ! ! ! ! ! !

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  28. Les Américains vont à l'enfer et souffrent pour vos atrocités ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
    Les Américains vont à l'enfer ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
    Les Américains vont à l'enfer ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
    Les Américains vont à l'enfer ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
    Les Américains vont à l'enfer ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
    Pour toujours dans l'enfer vous restez pour toujours ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
    L'Amérique est mauvaise ! ! ! ! ! ! !
    L'Amérique est mauvaise ! ! ! ! ! ! !
    L'Amérique est mauvaise ! ! ! ! ! ! !
    L'Amérique est mauvaise ! ! ! ! ! ! !
    Les Etats-Unis sont détritus ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

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  29. From the French I picked up as a child from French-Canadians, I get your meaning.

    But that's the typical attitude for a Frenchman. (I fart in your general direction, oui, oui.) I remember being insulted when I met a Check woman with a French husband and it's like, Isn't the Check economy going into the toilet... and you're giving US YOUR opinions? Okay....

    I'm not ethnocentric. I'd just prefer to learn Chinese than French or Spanish.

    But I agree w/ you on one point. Our president is in fact retarde. Primarily because he refuses to enforce our border laws, kowtowing to the Business Roundtable and the K Street lobbying crowd.

    Btw, it's this one language that is keeping together what is already the most diverse country on Earth. You see what's happening in Iraq. Economic prosperity (Iraq is comprised of relatively affluent, educated and sophisticated people)is no guarantee that differing ethnic groups won't fight--a recent study showed that.

    I wish I knew enough German to tell you to pet my monkey.

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  30. And we don't keep our Muslims in ghettos either, as they do in France. Far from rioting against unemployment, they're actually one of the most affluent groups in this country, right behind (Southeast Asian) Indians.

    How can you even afford car insurance in France? I read somewhere that even when there are no riots cars routinely get burned down around Paris and other major French cities.

    Before focussing on our problems, you guys need to start building flame retardent vehicles.

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  31. Frenchmen and other Yorapeons are catching up in the obesity department, btw.

    I saw some French tourists the other day and they made fun of my Dr. Pepper baseball cap. "Ahhh, le Dr. Pepper, hehehehe."

    I wanted to point and say, "Ahhh, le polo shirt, hehehehehe."

    Y'all our the worst snobs.

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  32. http://www.albinoblacksheep.com/text/victories.html

    I can't believe this page is still up. You get this when you Google "French+Military+Victories."

    Ha!

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  33. http://www.albinoblacksheep.com/text/victories.html

    I can't believe this page is still up. You get this when you Google "French+Military+Victories."

    Ha!

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  34. i didn't really have a hatred for traffic circles until i saw the newly installed ones on colorado between 13th and 14th.

    they've actually taken very insignificant interesections (colorado and longfellow, madison) that would normally only call for 4-way stop signs, and placed circular curbs in the middle of them, with a sign that reads "Yield to traffic in the circle". It is the most assanine thing I have ever seen. The friggin' "circle" itself is no more than 6 feet wide! If my car could bend, I could wrap it completely around this thing. How can there be any traffic in the circle?

    If you haven't seen this wonder of city planning, I suggest you check it out.

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  35. Anonymous-

    You misunderstand. The ease with which I navigate NYC helped me to realize that there's nothing wrong with my directional skills - it's just that DC's layout is incredibly confusing. I have never gotten lost in NYC.

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  36. this_shithole_sucksAugust 21, 2006

    How about the fact that the roads and highways in NOVA have to have:

    a) a highway number
    b) a route number (or two or three)
    c) a street name
    d) a "business loop" number
    e) an honorary title of some dead civil war General

    It's fucking impossible to go anywhere here without getting lost, unless you've already made the trip five or 10 times.

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  37. Well put, Sh-thole.

    I am so embarrassed when people ask me for directions and I have to basically advise them to find a more competent person.

    Route 50 in Arlington is a perfect example of what you're talking about. It's also known as Arlington Boulevard. I tried to get to South courthouse road from NORTH courthouse road and had to take 50/arlington boulevard b/c that interrupts that street. After getting off the wrong way and going back into D.C., I took one wrong turn and ended up on GW Highway and actually went to Woodley Park before getting back to Virginia. Then I missed a sign for my connection to Washington Blvd. because of construction and a burlap bag over the sign, for some reason.

    Then, I had to take a couple of other streets to get back to Courthouse road... Slowing down at one point to look at a street sign, I think I scared a little girl who coincidentally happened to be walking there. But you can't shout out and explain that you're lost and not a pedaphile so I just ate it and drove away.

    Glad I'm not the only dummie. :)

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  38. My god this comment thread has gone to hell and back. First off, people out there need to spend a few minutes looking at a map before setting out to someplace they don't know. I agree with people that signage in some areas is crappy. Notwithstanding crappy signage, DC is very easy to navigate. If you don't like the diagonals (State Avenues), you can ignore them. Use the underlying grid (#'s and letters) and either do the two legs of the triangle or saw-tooth your way there. If you're smart, you'll take the diagonal and save yourself time.
    NYC is only easy to navigate if you're in midtown or above. Try going down below the grid and you'll be begging for DC's layout.
    In conclusion, stupid people amaze me.

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  39. Thank you anonymous for finally calling out the idiots who post here. All the people gushing about how easy New York is to navigate have obviously never ventured outside of midtown. Lower Manhattan is a fucking nightmare and the outer boroughs are just as bad, if not worse, than DC. Oh and Rusty, as far as navigational ease I'd take downtown DC over downtown Boston in a heartbeat.

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  40. DC isn't nearly as bad as Arlington. I believe there are 46 different Glebe Roads.

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  41. One more thing. I agree that it’s annoying when street names continue over several disconnected segments. However this problem is hardly unique to DC. You can find hundreds of examples in Brooklyn alone.

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  42. Brooklyn doesn't pretend to have a grid plan.

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  43. "Brooklyn doesn't pretend to have a grid plan."

    and DC does? Who ever claimed that this city had a grid pattern? The city was designed around diagonal avenues. The exact opposite of a grid. Pretty weak come back Rusty.

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  44. Read the wiki article I linked to in the post. Washington is considered one of America's earliest grids.

    And of course DC is a grid. It has lettered and numbered streets traveling vertically and horizontally respectively.

    Broadway is a diagonal...does that mean Manhattan isn't a real grid?

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  45. He said below midtown you idiot. NYC is much more than Manhattan you trendy fuckers!

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  46. You have it right about NOVA. Look at Route 7 Virginia. It changes from Leesburg Pike to Broad St back to Leesburg Pike and then to King st. The block numbers have nothing to do with distance from each other 7300 Lessburg Pike and 6800 Leesburg Pike at at least three miles from each other. It goes through multiple "corners. And last, the exist signs for it off of 395 are different depending of whether you are headed north or south.

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  47. And Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan (which is the only part of Manhattan I'm even a little bit familiar with) are not grid systems!!! Washington is. Granted, it's a wacky grid...but it's a grid.

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  48. formerly anonymousAugust 22, 2006

    Rusty,

    Move to Utah. Then you'll have all the nice, neat grids you want.

    Sincerely,

    Formerly Anonymous

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  49. krystalkoons (a.k.a. pimp daddy)August 22, 2006

    BL218,

    I am FROM Manhattan so I'm not a trendy fucker. Okay? I think that most of NYC is easier to navigate and makes more sense than just midtown and lower Manhattan isn't that hard either.

    But you're pretty sophistated, however.

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  50. NoVA TrafficAugust 22, 2006

    I'm very surprised that nobody's mentioned the infamous Seven Corners in VA... I've lived here for two years and still steer visitors well clear of the area, even if it means going the extra 10 miles to go into Alexandria via 495 to 395.

    Satellite View here...
    (http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=seven+corners+va&ie=UTF8&ll=38.872291,-77.154601&spn=0.007033,0.021629&t=h&om=1)

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  51. this_shithole_(and France)_suckAugust 22, 2006

    Pimp,

    I can't find anywhere that L'enfant committed suicide. Did he really? Anytime a Frenchman commits suicide it's a good thing. One less frog to stab the US in the back.

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  52. Without the French we would still be English property...we'd be no better than Canada.

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  53. Nova Traffic --

    You beat me to it. When Route 7 was mentioned, that's when my brain went to Seven Corners.

    Yeesh. Makes the Springfield Interchange look like the intersection of Routes 7 and 123, circa 1947.

    It's one of those cases where you have to drive it every day (as I did for six months) and know exactly what lane you need to be in from as far back as Falls Church (eastbound) or Bailey's Crossroads (westbound).

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  54. You're right, I am a moron who has never left midtown Manhattan... except for the fact that I live on the Lower East Side. And when I say "The City" I mean Manhattan, not the outer boroughs. STFU.

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  55. Krystal Koons (a.K.A. Pimp Daddy)August 22, 2006

    Alana,

    So right. My family lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn and I can tell you that Brooklyn is a beautiful place--the fourth largest city in the United States of America!

    The "city" is Manhattan. Everyone in New York knows what you mean. If you say, I'm going to the "city" they'll know what you mean. Communication 101. If you're going to Queens, you say you're going to Queens.

    Shithole,

    I've heard that story about L'Enfant committing suicide numerous times; I guess he was pretty bummed out. I'll have to do some research.

    And I have to agree. The only thing more annoying than a Spanish Hispanic invasion would have to be a Hispanic French invasion. They'd be talkin' that French, throwing cigaratte butts everywhere and giving attitude.

    In Quebec, they pretend they don't know English and give you a dirty look. And then their politicians call us bastards. Why can't we just be an island like Australia and then Canada and Mexico could go live next to Iran, Hezbollah-stan and, just for the annoyance factor, France.

    Now that'd be some neighborhood!

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  56. You know what else sucks? The crossing guards by Farrugut Square. Every morning they confuse the hell out of drivers and pedestrians alike with those damn whistles. They constantly whistle and gesture wildly and you can't discern whether that means stop or go. Why are they even there? There are stoplights and crosswalk signage. Why the irritatingly incessant whistling every morning??? Why aren't they in the traffic circles that make no sense?

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  57. Alaana Alena ALAH whatever the shit your name is nobody gives a shit that you are from Manhattan.

    In fact you are probably only old enough to remember the pussified Manhattan of the Giuliani and Bloomberg eras.

    If you were to go back to the REAL Manhattan of the Dinkins and Koch era you would shit in your pants.

    Similar to how Rusty and the rest of the out of towners on here only know the pussified version of DC. If they were to go back to the Barry era they would shit in their pants too just like you.

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  58. Anonymous,

    You're right, "Alanna" IS a really difficult name to grasp.

    And I'm actually 86. In fact, I'm Ed Koch's mother. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

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  59. You wouldnt know who ED KOCH was if it were not for the internet. You only know the pussified version of Manhattan. Deal with it. Happy safe jogging trails for you in central park now bitch.

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  60. The absolute worst traffic situation in the district would be the 16th St/Colesville Rd 'Circle'. For one, it has lights. For two, once you enter the circle, you have to yield to everyone else. For three, it has lights. What the hell does a traffic circle have lights for? Logan Circle I understand-it's huge. But this is a 100ft wide circle shaped like a freaking egg-one of the lights has about 20 ft of room to stop in, which inevitably causes backups and rear-endings when people race down 16th St in their Mercedes to get back to 16th St Heights and out of the hellhole that is Maryland as quickly as possible.

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  61. meh. i don't see what the big deal is. most circles in dc have decent signage, and seven corners and bailey's crossroads are not particularly complicated if you pay attention while going through them.

    yeah, it takes some getting used to and you have to be comfortable with driving and navigation...

    but it's not impossible.

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  62. The crossing guards by Farrugut Square. Every morning they confuse the hell out of drivers and pedestrians alike with those damn whistles. They constantly whistle and gesture wildly and you can't discern whether that means stop or go.

    I've seen it! They're just being them. Just horsing around and having fun. Man, give someone like that just a little bit of authority and it goes straight to their heads. :)

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  63. I bet the guy talking bluster about old-school Manhattan and DC is some little wimpy Russell Simmons- or Diddy-looking guy.

    Congrats on your continuing survival. And you might want to change your panties more often.

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  64. You do know that 'J' wasn't a letter -- or at least, wasn't considered separate from 'I' -- when DC's grid was laid out, don't you?

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