Traffic, for a lot of us in the D.C. area, was lighter than usual yesterday. Even lighter than many days in August which, traffic-wise, is usually our best getting around month.
Much of downtown D.C. is roped off, chained up or locked down, so that VIPs here for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit can get around quickly. That way they don’t have to go though the VIP-generated gridlock that the norm for we hapless commuters just trying to get to and from work.
The Office of Personnel Management wisely recommended that telework-ready people work from home and stay off the roads, from Aug. 4-6. So far, so good.
A survey of FederalNewsRadio workers indicated most of them had an easy Monday commute. In part because it is August (our best traffic month), and in part, maybe because so many feds stayed home to telework. The fact that there are so many telework eligible, and agencies like OPM encourage it, represents a sea-change from the not to distance past. Back when bosses were suspicious of teleworking, because they wanted to eyeball their subordinates. Things have changed. At least some of them. Then again, some things are the same: The hopes and dreams of commuters here in in other crowded areas. For example …
Years ago, before the D.C. area was Number One nationally in traffic congestion, a colleague at The Washington Post wrote an opinion column that I never forgot. The headline, I think, was something like Twenty Minutes From Reston.
The column, although outwardly about commuting, was in fact much deeper (and darker) than that. It was about man’s (and woman’s) inner struggle between good and evil. The split between hope and despair. The how-things-should be and the more ugly reality. In other words, how long it takes you to get to work. And back again.
His premise, back then, was that most people (even if basically honest and decent) lie about their commute. He thought people were ashamed, somehow, to live in the suburbs so they shoretned their commuting time. Making it a piece of cake when in fact it was often the commute-from-hell. Bottom line, he said, everybody says it takes them “about 20 minutes to get to work” even if it was two, three, four or more times than that.
We laughed, at the time, because we all knew that Reston was a lot more than 20 minutes from D.C.. At least by land transportation. Now I have several friends, and a couple of relatives, and for them an hour-plus commute is S.O.P. Especially in spring, summer and fall. Anytime but August.
So it was a shocker yesterday when, in prepping for this, I googled some travel websites: Interesting results. One said the distance to Reston is 23.2 miles and it takes 30 minutes. Another said it was 21 miles and 23 minutes. Yet another put the driving time at 32 minutes.
But not 20 minutes. Not even in your souped-up Shelby with a police escort. Whether you live in the D.C. area; Ogden, Utah; Huntsville, Ala.; or Houston do everybody a favor. Stop shaving time from your commute. It is unseemly and nobody believes you anyhow.
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