If I’d wanted to see the Cherry Blossoms in Washington, D.C. today, I could’ve taken the Q or the 2 from my apartment in Brooklyn to Penn Station, which is about a 40-minute trip, and then taken the Amtrak Northeast regional to Union Station, which would’ve taken three-and-a-half to four hours, and then hopped on one of Washington’s Capital Bikeshare bikes outside Union Station to ride down to Hains Point at the southern tip of East Potomac Park, about a 25-minute ride in what looks to be beautiful, sunny weather.
I also could’ve left from much closer to the city, say somewhere in Maryland or Virginia, and spent four hours sitting motionless, in my Kia Telluride or Audi Q7, slowly going mad, because I, along with thousands of others, are among the dumbest people ever created by a wealthy and scientifically advanced civilization. I might’ve done this despite days of warning that traffic would be difficult, due entirely to people like me.
I could’ve even heard or read this dispatch from WTOP last night on yesterday’s traffic conditions, caused, again, by thousands of people making the same decision as the one I—in flagrant contradiction of common sense and denial of several iron-clad laws of geometry—was preparing to make myself: that the best way to experience an immensely popular tourist destination in the middle of a dense city on a lovely spring weekend would be to drive directly into the center of it, in my personal automobile. Other people—grown men, possibly with tears in their eyes—had already called the “WTOP traffic center” to report being stuck for absurd stretches in traffic, on account of the callers themselves being that traffic.
“Multiple WTOP listeners sent us emails,” the station reports, “one writing that they had been stuck on the side of Hains Point across from National Airport for nearly three hours, starting at 4:30 p.m.” Boy, that sounds like it sucks! Much as it always sucks to face the consequences of your own dumbest decisions!
According to a WTOP reporter, the multitude of calls and emails indicate that “some were taken by surprise about how difficult it was getting around the Tidal Basin and Potomac Park.” He did not go on to suggest that these people might've also been surprised at how bad a dirty shirt that they got really sweaty in smelled, when they actively chose to smell it, but it seems possible that they would've been.
There is something slightly baffling, but almost touching, in the decision to email the local news traffic desk to report that traffic is quite bad at the most obviously traffic-inducing event of the season in your region of the country. It is a bit like complaining to the local news that sitting on a freshly painted bench, with a “Fresh Paint” sign on it (one that is also repainted annually in a quite extensively reported-on and nationally popular tradition!) has left big, comical, white lines all over your expensive suit. Hello, is this the touching hot things department? I’d like to report that the front burner is very hot, and it burned my hand. Yes, I did see your report on all the other guys that touched it.
The National Parks Service and the U.S. Park Police might’ve avoided this fiasco if they’d decided to close these roads to traffic, rather than belatedly and feebly suggesting that people consider taking public transit, but that might’ve caused some inconvenience to the many thousands of area residents who chose quite clearly to inconvenience themselves this weekend.