Monthly Archives: June 2014

10 Things Commuting on the DC Beltway Has Taught Me About Life

When I accepted my position at UMUC last summer, I have to admit that one of my biggest concerns was actually related to the change to my daily commute. Public transportation is unfortunately no longer my best option, and I now drive on the DC beltway every day. Fortunately, the experience has turned out to be a lot better than feared and in my opinion has actually taught me a little bit about life – at least enough to think up a post about it. The lessons I’ve learned include:

1) Constraints are often out of your control
While heavy traffic volume and road construction can unexpectedly get in the way, even on perfect days there are still speed limits. Roll with what you have, and make the best of it.

2) Be aware of your surroundings
Whether brake lights in the distance, someone cutting in front of you or texting while driving right beside you, or someone too close in your rear-view mirror, be constantly aware of your surroundings. Gaps in traffic lead to opportunities to pass. Being cognizant of a swerving driver can avoid disaster.

3) Sometimes you need to just go with the flow
…even if it is only at 10 mph. Slow, steady progress is still better than none.

4) Be grateful when things are going well
Sometimes it’s my side of the beltway that is stopped; other times, it’s the other. Be thankful for those times when it’s not yours.

5) The lane that is moving won’t always be your own
Sometimes it’s the left lane that’s moving; other times it’s the right. The bottom line is that it won’t always be your own.

6) Find your balance
When I started driving to work, it was really the first time in my adult life that I had to do so. I started by keeping track of my stop-and-go tendencies and mastered the zipper merge. By then going easier on braking and acceleration my rides are now smoother, my maintenance costs are down, and my gas mileage has increased.

7) Don’t let your frustrations get to you
There’s a lot of crazy things that happen on the beltway. Let them go.

8) Sometimes it’s best to take the road less traveled
When the beltway gets jammed, a different path to your destination may very well be in order. Learn, explore, and experience new things by trying a new path forward.

9) Be patient with others
Sure, the person speeding past you might just be a jerk. But they might also be racing to the birth of their child, or to a spouse or partner in the hospital, or to their child’s first recital. Maybe they should have planned better, but whatever the real reason don’t always assume the worst.

10) Things come in cycles
Ever notice how traffic jams come in waves? On a longer time-frame, I’ve also noticed that traffic patterns vary by season. Sometime’s traffic gets worse or better for weeks or months at a time, but it all seems to even out in the end.

Bonus: Always be on your best behavior
You just never know when the vehicle behind you is an undercover state police officer. Two times in the past year I’ve witnessed poor driving etiquette dealt with immediately because of this.

This post written by George Kroner