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Politics

I Truly Cannot Believe How Dumb This Convoy Shit Is

A stupid-ass truck with a bunch of stupid shit on it
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

By now you’re likely aware of, and possibly exhausted by, the dumb trucker convoy protest thing. First there was the dumb thing in Canada, then various abortive dumb things in the United States: Truckers, in trucks, being dumb and pointlessly obstructive, together and for unclear purposes. Some kind of aggrieved incoherent Trumpist rage-brain tantrum. Who knows. Certainly none of them. A representative sample:

Ah yes. The threat of being digitiled into a robot. Glad we cleared that up.

Anyway lately, as you may have seen, there’s the dumb thing where a bunch of dummy truckers with paranoid right-wing brain-soup politics are driving in circles around Washington D.C. on the Capital Beltway, Interstate 495, in what they imagine is an act of protest against, like, people agreeing that it’s good or at least not-evil to take reasonable precautions against contracting COVID-19, or anybody in the government doing literally anything at all to help, or something. They have gotten lots of bewildered and/or ominous media coverage for it. Much of this coverage has done these dolts the immense favor of pretending they have actual actionable demands or even any clear complaint other than that the world generally isn’t enough like how they want it to be. Much of the rest of the coverage has politely declined to address the subject of what these morons want or claim to want, in cringing both-sides-ist fear of seeming to Do A Bias in describing truthfully a ludicrous, incoherent spasm of entitled foot-stomping. None of the coverage I’ve seen has concerned itself with the logistics.

The truckers congregated at the Speedway in Hagerstown, Md., when they arrived last week in what press coverage very generously has tended to call “the D.C. area.” They rallied there for a couple of days, I gather, before heading toward D.C. to circle the Beltway, which as far as I can tell they’ve been doing daily for the past few days. (Today Ted Cruz is with them!) What I had not quite registered until this morning is that, apparently, at the end of each day of this protest of driving in a large circle around the most miserably congested highway in the country, they have been driving back to Hagerstown. That makes this, by miles, the absolute stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.

Readers from outside of the wider D.C. area may not understand this, or may get a misleading impression from coverage that grants Hagerstown a place in “the D.C. area.” Google maps might clear it up a little, when you see that the Hagerstown Speedway sits approximately 68 miles from the nearest point of the Capital Beltway, in Bethesda, Md. Sixty-eight miles is a pretty long way, on just about any road, to be driving back and forth each day, especially when you’re doing it just to drive in a circle for a while. Even people who experience 136 miles of round-trip driving only in the context of the straight and largely empty interstates of, like, northeastern Wyoming, might at least wonder whether there’s any place nearer than 68 miles away from which to stage your pointless daily circle-driving.

I live about three miles off the only realistic route from the Hagerstown Speedway to the Capital Beltway; I interact with that route nearly daily. I am also a middle-aged dad, which means I have put more than normal amounts of thought into issues related to commuting and the relative merits of various routes for getting places by car. Thus it is with utmost confidence that I write the following:

The way to get to D.C. from anywhere in Washington County, Md. (where Hagerstown is), especially in a big truck, is to take Interstate 270, which stretches around 35 miles from the city of Frederick, at its outer end, to Bethesda, where it terminates at the Beltway. And to get to the Frederick end of I-270 from Hagerstown, you must* take Interstate 70; that’s around 27 more miles.

*I-70 runs concurrent with the older U.S. Route 40 as both roads pass through Hagerstown, and they divide again between there and Frederick. Then they meet back up and overlap again through Frederick. Theoretically you could stay on the slower and more meandering Route 40 for the 20-mile-or-so stretch between the two towns where the roads split apart, but this would be a true Chaos Choice in any circumstances other than I-70 being jammed up by a wreck (which it sometimes is). It brings me such joy to share this terrible knowledge with readers of Defector dot com.

The crucial things to know about I-270 are:

  1. It is the only plausible route for anybody west or northwest of D.C. to approach the city.
  2. It’s also the only significant road connecting the D.C. area to I-70. It makes this connection via an ugly tangled interchange somehow involving like four other major roads; this interchange grinds to a near-standstill at least once on probably seven out of 10 weekdays.
  3. I-70 is the major cross-country interstate connecting the industrial midwest to the extremely wealthy, busy, and congested D.C. metropolitan area.

That’s a lot of responsibility heaped onto I-270! Even if this were all I-270 did, it would be a very busy road. And we haven’t even gotten into the daily commuters in Montgomery County, Md., yet.

I-270 is the primary daily route of all the commuters in all of the dense, prosperous D.C. suburbs (Rockville, Gaithersburg, Germantown, etc.) arrayed along its length through Montgomery County like bulbs on a string of Christmas lights. This is a lot of people; a lot of them work in D.C. or closer to D.C. than where they live; all of them are serviced in their daily commute pretty much entirely by I-270 and the Washington Metro’s Red Line train, which runs along I-270 for only the innermost fourth of the highway’s length. This portion of the Red Line is an absolute circus every single weekday of the year except for the ones when it’s out of service. It’s fairly normal for car traffic on the D.C.-bound side of I-270 to pile up around Rockville in the morning just from the sheer number of drivers from farther northwest trying to get into the Shady Grove Metro station so they can finish their commute on the train instead of having to park their car in D.C.

Picture it: Every morning, everybody living in those towns along 270 gets up and gets in their car and hops on 270 toward the city. The ones getting on in Gaithersburg end up behind the ones getting on in Rockville; the ones in Germantown wind up behind the ones getting on in Gaithersburg; the few from Clarksburg get stuck behind the Germantown commuters; the suckers who convinced themselves they could commute to D.C. every day from Frederick end up behind all of those and immediately regret every moment of their lives. (Don’t even get me started on the not insignificant number of absolute psychos who moved to bleak commuter developments on the edges of freaking Virginia and West Virginia, believing they could just zip up Route 15 or Route 340 to Frederick and buttonhook onto 270 every morning to make it into D.C.) And nearly all of them, in order to get to where they’re going in the city itself, must then pour onto the Beltway, the Maryland side of which is an absolute fucking zoo not less than 16 hours a day. This process goes in the other direction in the afternoon and into the evening. This is no small part of why Washington D.C. pretty routinely ranks among the most traffic-congested cities in the world.

You get the idea. 270 is a nightmare. When I was a kid, we lived for a while in Alexandria, Va., right near the Beltway, and my mom had a job that required her to commute to Frederick for several months: She had to drive halfway around the beltway, and then all the way up 270. It was like she had moved out. She was home for so few waking hours of the day she might as well not have lived with us at all. Her car might as well have been an apartment. And she was going against traffic: Driving outward on 270 while everybody in western Maryland drove inward, and vice versa.

Hagerstown is a further 30 friggin’ miles of interstate driving beyond Frederick, beyond the end of 270. It’s on the far side of a hellish interchange that turns into a giant snarled parking lot at least as often as it doesn’t. Hagerstown might as well be freaking Cleveland! It might as well be the surface of the moon. It is “the D.C. area” like a rat is “basically a dog.” And these goons, these absolute nimrods, are driving all that distance, voluntarily, one day after another, just to drive in a fucking circle around the Capital Beltway some number of times, get flipped off by 10,000 different people …

Spoiler alert: That is not the Beltway.

and then turn around and drive back to Hagerstown again. Because, at this action’s nearest pass to any kind of legible unifying purpose, they vow to do this every day until the liberals get sufficiently mad at them. And that’s only when they don’t get lost, or confused about what road they’re on:

Is it possible to make “laps around I-270,” which as we have established is basically a ramrod-straight line-segment running from Frederick to Bethesda? Reader, it is not. If you are doing anything on I-270, anything at all, are you on the Beltway? Reader, you are not. If you are driving along I-270 in the early afternoon, during the quietest and least-trafficked part of the day, are you interacting with the city of D.C. at all? Reader, you are not.

Forget bothering to come up with a list of specific grievances, or any kind of plan for how driving their trucks around aimlessly for a while might persuade or force anyone to address those grievances—these dinguses haven’t even bothered to figure out where they are. They congregated from around the country to Hagerstown, Md., to voluntarily make North America’s worst possible commute, twice a day, in order to drive in a circle on the most miserable road in the world and possibly unintentionally improve its flow of traffic, to protest being digitiled into robots. Not only have they somehow convinced themselves that this is a punishment for anybody but themselves but they’re not even fucking doing it right. These are professional drivers, man! They literally drive for a living! I have figured out the recent problems with the supply chain. All of the truckers apparently suck shit at driving places in trucks! I think this is the dumbest the world has ever been.