Rush hours in Washington, it would seem, are on their own flexitime schedule. Once called the 9 o'clock rush inbound and the 5 o'clock rush outbound, they now take up more than their share of the clock.

Highway officials restrict lanes, and even entire roadways, to one-way traffic during certain hours. On such roads as I-66 in Virginia, early and late rush hours develop as those who shun car pools try to outflank the peak-period restrictions. Just try to drive out to Tysons Corner right after the evening restraints end! It's slow bumper- to-bumper.

Metro, for its part, charges generally higher rush-hour transit fares for more than half -- to be precise, 6 1/2 -- of the 12 hours between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Actually, another half-hour is tacked on, until 6:30.

Yesterday provided an unusual two-directional opportunity to look at the automotive rush hour, which turned out to be very much a two-way street. An early-morning professional appointment in West Bethesda required a round-trip drive from Rosslyn that provided both insights and frustrations. The diary:

8:05 a.m.: Traffic on Key Bridge backed up from Georgetown to Rosslyn Circle, frustrating hope of crossing bridge and turning left for travel, ultimately on MacArthur Boulevard, to reach the Beltway near Cabin John. Turned instead onto Virginia leg of George Washington National Parkway toward Cabin John bridge.

8:15 a.m.: Noted that Washington-bound traffic on the parkway, waiting to get onto the central area bridges, was backed up and stopped near the first Potomac overlook, a full 2 1/4 miles from Rosslyn. Glad not to be in that line!

8:22 a.m.: Just beyond the first sign marking the turnoff onto the Beltway's Cabin John bridge, got onto the end of a mile-plus line creeping toward the river crossing.

8:40 a.m.: Maryland! No further problems in this direction.

9:12 a.m.: Returning, noted continuing heavy city-bound traffic on River Road. Continued down Seven Locks Road toward MacArthur Boulevard and eventually, the Maryland leg of the GW Parkway toward Washington.

9:28 a.m.: Washington-bound parkway traffic backed up half a mile from signal at D.C. end of Chain Bridge. Took seven minutes of signal cycles to get through. Most traffic goes on to Washington; we turn.

9:42 a.m.: Crossing one Virginia-bound lane of Chain Bridge, clogged with Tysons area commuters, got held up because cars stacked up to go straight ahead onto Glebe Road (Rte. 120) from the narrow roadway at the Virginia end are blocking cars that otherwise could make a right turn onto Chain Bridge Road (Rte. 123). A right-turn lane there strikes me as an overdue priority item for Virginia highway officials.

9:58 a.m: Home. Returned borrowed car. Later took Metro downtown without delay.