With idiotic drivers out in the D.C. snow, observers are driven to distraction

GO HOME AND STAY THERE: There's something about all this snow that brings out the worst in D.C.-area drivers.
GO HOME AND STAY THERE: There's something about all this snow that brings out the worst in D.C.-area drivers. (Ricky Carioti/the Washington Post)
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By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Some idiot was sliding around near Arlington's Court House Metro station in a tiny BMW with pathetic rear-wheel drive, spinning his tires uselessly as he tried again and again to climb an unplowed street. "He kept trying to get up the hill, and I kept encouraging him to park," says a dumbfounded Brandon Tudor, who observed the mess. "At least 10 times -- locking up his brakes, sliding back down the hill. I almost yanked him out of the car."

Some other location, some other idiot. This one pulled into the parking lot of the Montgomery Village Shopping Center in Gaithersburg, where he was spotted by Dan Wasyluk blithely driving around with three feet of snow piled on top of his SUV. "How can he not realize," Wasyluk wondered, awestruck, "that a 60-pound chunk of snow on top of your car is going to fly off and hit someone else's windshield?"

(Why is this particular infraction -- yes, it's illegal -- so common? After digging the rest of a vehicle out of an avalanche of snow, what makes a person suddenly stop and say, "I'm liking this snow-pompadour look on top"?)

These past few days, the sane people of the region have been dedicating themselves to making sure you do not have to drive anywhere. The federal government has been shut down. Employers have offered telecommuting options. But as roads are plowed and cupboards are bare and cabin fever sets in, cars have begun to appear on the roads again, and many witnesses agree: The idiots are on the loose.

"So this Chevy Suburban," Rudi Reik says. "This Chevy Suburban was driving behind a firetruck," down a narrow Dupont Circle street in the middle of blizzard conditions. Apparently, the driver decided that the official vehicle was not moving fast enough. "He pulled out into the opposing lane of traffic and tried to pass," beaten back only when the fire engine honked wildly. Idiot.

"The road hadn't been plowed or even salted." Kathryn Hedrick describes a midnight scene outside her College Park apartment. "But there was a group of people pushing a sedan." Over and over again, they would send it skidding dangerously close to a row of parked cars, before disappearing onto another road, with other opportunities for damage.

We are agreed, yes, that the biggest trouble with the incompetent snow boob in Washington is that he never recognizes that he is the boob? That he tootles into the gas station in his Mini Cooper, then complains that the entryway hasn't been shoveled properly? That he endlessly spins his wheels in the middle of an intersection, then looks baffled when he has produced a tractionless patch that will later become ice?

Some idiot appeared driving a Miata in the District's Mount Pleasant neighborhood, where he tried, for reasons unknown to God or man, to park on an unplowed street. Jason Kowal and friends spent much time and muscle helping him, only to have the idiot demand to be moved out again: He was afraid of getting a ticket and wanted a better parking space. That might be the last time Kowal offers assistance. "I think we're all at the stage," Kowal says, "of shaking our heads and moving on."

Washington idiots cannot be taught, in the course of one snowstorm, advanced snow behavior. These skills must be acquired through lifetimes of bad weather driving.

Kevin McCann left his Southwest Washington townhouse complex on a recent morning to discover that his neighbor, wearing dress pants, was trying to dig his car out using the oar from a rubber dinghy. When he finished, he began inexplicably breaking up the ice under his car with a claw hammer. McCann is from Canada, and as he watched this bizarre routine, he felt mostly sympathy. It would have been idiotic, if it weren't so sad.


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