Dear Dr. Gridlock: This complaint has to do with the rudeness of people taking up two seats on the MARC commuter train, but not because of their physical size.
They put their suitcases, briefcases, purses or other packages on the seat next to them instead of the overhead rack just so another person can't sit there. I've even seen two women take their shoes off and put them on the seat next to them, and then not move the shoes when asked.
Most of the time I get dirty looks when I ask people to please move the item so I can sit down.
Just this week, one woman tried to avoid having anyone sit next to her on three separate days.
On Monday, she had a small bottle of makeup on the extra seat and proceeded to apply it. When another lady asked her to move the makeup, this lady made a fuss, but moved the makeup.
On Tuesday, this same lady had her purse on the seat next to her when I asked her to please move the purse. She made a fuss, but moved it.
On Thursday, this same lady also had her small purse on the seat next to her, but this time pretended to be asleep. No one tried to sit next to her.
Shouldn't people be a little more courteous toward their fellow traveler? If a person doesn't want anyone to sit next to them, then that person should not be riding public transportation. They should drive their own car to work.
When someone appears to want to sit down and casts a glance my way, I'll quickly move the package. But, as you point out, not everyone is sensitive. Dr. Gridlock is curious to know what approaches you folks use with seat hogs in order to get them to move their paraphernalia and free up a seat on MARC, Virginia Railway Express, Metrobus and Metrorail.
Another Road-Rage Tale
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Here is my experience with road rage. I commute daily between Kensington and Glover Park on Wisconsin Avenue. It's a very stressful drive, with cars making illegal left turns, illegally parking in the right lane during rush hours, and construction. The rules appear to be everyone for themselves.
One night on my way back to Maryland, I was traveling in the right lane and got stuck behind an illegally parked car. I had my signal on, no one was letting me in, and there was no break in the traffic. So when I saw a small space coming up, I floored it.
Yes, I cut them off. There were two women and a man in the car, and the women yelled obscenities with something about, why don't I look where I'm going?
Unfortunately, I yelled back, "Why didn't you let me in?" accompanied by a finger gesture. They yelled more expletives (something about my mama, too), threw something at my car and tailgated me. I told them to get over it, and this was when they pulled in front of me, and two very large women got out.
I was trapped, as traffic was heavy, so I picked up my phone to call the police, and one of them said, "I don't care who you call." I feared for my safety. Before they got to my car, I noticed a way out through a service station, and I made a getaway through the lot and down a side street. I made another turn to get to Nebraska Avenue and saw their car go down the side street I had been on. I assume they were looking for me.
I was shaking, and took a different route home.
I now realize that any driver could be the wrong person to anger and that I never should have engaged in conflict. It scared me straight, and I keep my big mouth shut now, and there are no more rude finger gestures.
I'm 32, a wife and a mother. I can't afford to do anything so stupid again.
I know it's sometimes easier said than done, but you don't want to engage another party in a road rage situation. The choice to engage is yours. The trouble is, the two parties usually don't look at an incident the same way, and it's nigh on to impossible to convert the other driver to your point of view.
Many Stars, No Gridlock
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
You've been asking for gridlock-free places to vacation/settle. I've got just the place for you. Try Portal, a town in southeastern Arizona's Cochise County, adjacent to the Coronado National Forest. It's about six miles west of New Mexico.
At night you'll swear you can see a billion stars. Try camping in the area first on a western vacation. Then you'll know where you belong.
Thanks, Brian. This place sounds ripe for development, Washington-style.
First, let's scrape away all the natural vegetation and put up town houses as far as the eye can see. Then we can build Tysons Corner West (with more office space than Miami) in the suburbs. Be sure not to serve it with a rail system. (Study it for 10 years instead.)
Construct a $10 billion rail system into and out of Portal, but don't connect the ends, and don't take that system to the other suburban, high-tech employment corridors, so everyone has to drive.
Make all the rail stations open to the elements and escalator-dependent. (Never mind the sand on the equipment; consultants say the escalators will not break down.)
Make sure there are no road signs, no street signs, no overhead lighting on the roads or in the suburbs, so people are constantly lost. Lane lines should be invisible. Make the residential and commercial growth go out, not up, so the road system eventually collapses. Build a Beltway and watch it fill.
Put a drawbridge on the major interstate highway, and make sure it has to be replaced every 30 years. Start a Dr. Gridlock column.
Do all this and voila! You have metropolitan Washington, D.C., West. It may be a transportation nightmare, and parts of it may be an eyesore, but it's jobs, jobs, jobs, and a high per-capita income! Besides, isn't growth good?
If I seem ahead of the developers and transportation planners, forgive me, Mr. Aby. They'll be coming your way soon enough.
Thanks for your tip, and let's enjoy Portal while we can.
The Longest Red Light
Last call for your nominations for the longest red light in the metropolitan area. I need the wait timed in seconds (or minutes). Let me know what street you are on, which way you are heading and the name of the intersecting street.
Dr. Gridlock's assistant, Jessica Medinger, contributed to this column.
Dr. Gridlock appears Monday in the Metro section and on Wednesday or Thursday in the Weekly and Extra sections. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, P.O. Box 3467, Fairfax, Va. 22038-3467, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Doctor's fax number is 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.