flotsam, peeves, travel, ups and downs

Travel misadventures: Lost in DC

English: Power car 2037 for Amtrak's Acela Exp...
Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been a person of few words (here, anyway) for the last few days because I was busy expending my words elsewhere.

I was in Washington DC and environs for… well, a bunch of work stuff.

A colleague and I were supposed to fly midday to make our first appointment, in the afternoon.

But the annoying airline (cough cough United) that survived the merger of two major carriers postponed our flight by 30 minutes due to “a delay of the inbound plane.” Well, what’s 30 minutes?

40 minutes. 1 hour. 2 hours, 4 hours. 4 hours 15 minutes. 4 hours 25 minutes.

By the time we got the second delay notification, we already knew we needed to scramble… either to find another way to DC, or to change our appointments. The next 90 minutes was a rollercoaster – it turns out that no one else offers direct service between the two desired airports, so no wonder they could hold us hostage – but we scrapped air travel altogether and ended up catching the Acela. We had far fewer hassles, rental car pickup was actually easier, and our meeting only had to be pushed out 1/2 an hour to accommodate our travel change.

We made our meeting, and it went well, and then… then it was time to head north into Maryland for the night before our morning meetings.

Washington DC is a great and interesting city. But you do not want to get lost in it.
And for a city that’s laid out like a grid like that, it’s incredibly easy to get lost.

If there was a place to go wrong, at any point in the trip, we went wrong. It took us 1.5 hours to make a trip that should have taken 30 minutes.

Tuesday morning we went to the first meeting, no problems. We went to the second meeting, only got slightly misdirected on our way out, and managed to end up where we belonged for the third and final meeting without any significant redirection. (I led that discussion, and God was merciful to me – as always.) Then we headed back toward DC to catch our return train.

Hints for how to make your city really (not at all) easy to navigate:

  1. Usually exit signs go before the exits themselves. Buck the trend, dare to be different! Every now and again, throw the exit sign immediately after the exit. It keeps people on their toes to never quite know where to get off the road.
  2. Lots of old cities have streets that fork at odd angles. Don’t mark any of yours to indicate the names of the resulting streets anywhere they might be read from the opposite side of an intersection. People like surprises, and discovering that they’ve chosen the wrong tine of the fork is just the thing to make a busy workday interesting.
  3. When you’ve got a number of major roads intersecting and splitting at once, nothing is handier than putting the signs for each of the splits on the front face of an overpass in the distance ahead, rather than as the fork is approached and the actual decision needs to be made…
    unless it’s putting the sign on the front of an overpass in the distance and then building anotheroverpass immediately in front of it, so that the view of the signs is obstructed.

    Folks, I wish I were making that up.

We wandered off the mapped route more times that I could count and I’m just glad that we weren’t too pressed for time and that my colleague is even-tempered amid travel fiascoes.

So my new theory of US politics is that nothing gets accomplished in Washington because everyone is too dang turned around most of the time to get anything done.

The Acela is nice, though.

1 thought on “Travel misadventures: Lost in DC”

  1. Always an adventure, travel is. That’s what makes it fun, right? Whether to the local grocery store, or across country or across the world to Tuscany. You’r descriptions of travel are the best.


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