Driving in DC is a nightmare. There are too many people, too many cars, too many old narrow streets that meet at cattywhompus angles (L’Enfent, the French planner retained by none other than George Washington, designed the city with spokes radiating out from rectangles. All well and good until it’s 221 years later and city’s population doubles during the day, and you end up at an intersection of 12 of those different spokes meeting at angles that would make a pile of ‘Pickup Sticks’ proud.)
So anyway. I had to be in DC at Children’s National Hospital; my six-year old daughter was seeing a specialist. Our appointment was at 11:20, and while it takes me about half an hour to get across the Potomic, I knew traffic would be heavier earlier, and I also factored in that I was heading to a part of town unfamiliar. I left the house with my daughter 2 hours and 20 minutes before our appointment. Should be enough, right? I even imagined getting there early and having time to duck into a cafe and grab a cup of chocolate or something cozy and Hallmark-y with my kid, who doesn’t get a lot of one-on-one time with mom.
First, it was raining. That always caused people to forget how to drive, for some inexplicable reason, but I plugged the address into my trusty GPS with confidence, smugly noting the two-plus hours I had to make this happen. You know what’s going to happen, don’t you?
Abby and I pop on some Christmas carols and hit the freeway. 66 East is a nightmare during commute, but it’s usually late morning when I head in and it’s smooth and open. This time, so close to 9 am, I expect traffic, but there are two of us, and we should be fine. FYI, during commute hours, 66 inside the Beltway is entirely HOV. The WHOLE FREEWAY- not just a few lanes. So you best have a buddy with you or you are screwed.
The freeway wasn’t so bad- yeah, we hit brake-lights around the Beltway interchange, and it was slower, but it wasn’t bad. I was patting myself on the back. We crossed the Potomac and headed into the District with more than an hour to spare. My trusty GPS was telling me in her soothing British voice where to turn, as we curved north around the Kennedy Center, hopefully avoiding the congestion of the National Mall. The interchange at 66/50/Constitution and E Street looks like a pile of snakes from the air, and it’s as much fun on the ground. Despite the dulcet British voice, I missed my turn. Recalculating. Just go up to M Street and cut across Georgetown and George Washington. Still not panicking, I’m now several miles from where I want to be. Traffic is bad, the streets are wet but at least it has stopped raining.
Now I am in the University District, which are charming and full of delightful tiny little cafes and shops and interesting smart people- and hella crowded on tiny, delightful 200 year old cobblestone streets. The Hospital is on the other side of town, and there is NO simple way to get there. I tell the GPS to find me the quickest route, which would have been awesome, had those streets actually been not utterly torn up with construction. She sent me through Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle, and up New Hampshire. It was a nightmare, but, two hours down (!), I still had about 20 minutes to get there, park, check in and get Abby upstairs to the appointment. Have I mentioned I hate being late?
Enter the Hipster. I am on a narrow street with orange construction barrels lining one side. It’s a spoke intersection, and there are several chanels of traffic moving through a very small space. It can be disorienting knowing when to go, and if you don’t know which spoke is your exit spoke, it’s sort of stressful. Add in the wet, the daughter singing Rudolph for the fifth time in the backseat, the impending lateness, the two hours of traffic, and you can feel your own stomach knotting up.
I made it through the spokes and immediately found myself at a four-way stop. The Hipster is a man with an orange and white umbrella standing at the corner across the intersection from me. I am at a full stop, and wave him with my hand to go ahead and cross. I find this quite magnanimous of me, considering my time and stress levels. He is about 3/4 of the way across the street when I start to inch into the intersection. The only other car is a blue Mercedes behind me. The Hipster sees me inching forward, and stops in the crosswalk. I frown and tap my brakes. The Mercedes starts to honk.
Here’s where it gets fun.
The Hipster is gesturing to me to get back on the other side of the crosswalk (the crosswalk on the other side of the street from him). I frown again, and looking at the clock and glancing at my daughter in my mirror, figure I don’t have time for this. I stay right where I am, waiting for him to finish crossing so I can keep going. That’s all I want. To just continue on my way. I am regretting waving him across.
He now stands himself right smack in the middle of the street, holding his orange umbrella aloft, and begins to scream profanity at me, questioning my intelligence and insulting my female parts. My daughter is listening. I’ve had enough. I very slowly start to drive around him. There is a good four feet between where he is planted and where my car is passing. The Mercedes is now honking more and has rolled down his window to yell back at the Hipster.
The Hipster ATTACKS my car with his umbrella, poking and smashing it into my hood as I creep by. I am not revving my engine, I am not close to him, ALL I WANT TO DO IS GET MY KID TO THE DOCTOR and this entitled a-hole decided this particular sidestreet crosswalk is his Appomattox where he’s gonna take his stand against all the lazy, consumptionist, breeders and SHOW THEM!
His mistake was not bashing my car with his umbrella and screaming words I wish my child had not heard- nope. His mistake was moving on to the Mercedes behind me when I passed, and bashing HIS car with his now-bent and mangled umbrella. The last thing I saw in my rearview mirror, the Mercedes pulled over, turned it’s flashers on, and a very large man in a nice suit got out and CHASED THE HIPSTER DOWN THE STREET.
Abby and I were ten minutes late.