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If you’re a denizen of our great nation’s capital, you know living in Washington, D.C. can be a double-edged sword.

You have free access to the District’s many museums. Archaeology fanatic? Take the Metro to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Aerospace buff? Check out the National Air and Space Museum just down the road.

However, sometimes you need to drive your car — and you’re sick of hearing people complain about Los Angeles traffic because, in reality, D.C. traffic is the worst in the country. Every morning, you know you’re going to wince even before you look up the traffic maps (there will be red).

You’re not alone if you find yourself frustrated during your commute, whether it’s during rush hour or on a Saturday afternoon. Here are 10 thoughts every D.C. motorist goes through while sitting in the area’s most notorious traffic jams:

1. “Why do I live in the suburbs again?”

You’re on your way to work — sort of. Mostly struggling to get out of your neighborhood. It’s during this time that you are wondering why you didn’t look into a modular home that you could plop in Triangle Park. I mean, hey, they’re good for the environment and who needs a house anyways?

You’re so used to the traffic that you don’t even calculate the length of your commute using time. Instead, you estimate it based on how many times you’ve heard the same Adele or Taylor Swift song while you’re sitting in your car.

When your co-workers ask you how long it took you to get to the office, you respond, “Adele said ‘Hello’ to me five times” — and they know exactly what you mean.

2. “Dammit, GPS!”

There’s no way you’d be able to navigate around this city without your handy global positioning system (GPS).

The problem is, while your GPS may think it knows the best alternative route when highway traffic is unbearable, sometimes it leads you directly into a construction zone in Tyson’s Corner.

You know it’s not the fault of your GPS. It’s just that the construction never ends in this area.

Still, you need someone or something to curse at — and you know your GPS won’t talk back. She’ll just tell you to make a bunch of annoying U-turns to get back to the main road.

3. “Why didn’t I get an E-ZPass?”

If you’ve lived in D.C. for a while, chances are you’ve braved the Dulles Toll Road — especially if you’ve ever had to get to the airport. If you don’t have an E-ZPass, you probably kick yourself every time.

There’s nothing worse than watching the cars in the next lane whiz by while you sit and wait for a line of vehicles ahead of you to throw their quarters into the automatic machine — and unless you drive up super-close to the basket, you need to be LeBron James to dunk your coins in on the first try.

And if you’re out of change? Expect a ticket in the mail that’s way more expensive than the toll. Do yourself a favor and get an E-ZPass for the next insane trip.

4. “I’m so sick of the Mormon Temple!”

If you commute on I-495 often, you may have the pleasure of observing the beautiful Mormon Temple. The first time you saw it, it looked rather majestic.

But when you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic every day, you’re kind of sick of looking at it. After all, until you pass it, the fact that it’s ahead of you means you haven’t moved much on I-495. As pretty as it is, you want to put it behind you.

No matter what your destination, when your friends or family call to ask where you are, saying “before the Mormon Temple” or “past the Mormon Temple” makes total sense to everybody.

5. “What’s the deal with HOV?”

What’s up with the over-hyped high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane?

You finally have a passenger with you, and you’re super excited to merge left and sail past all the other traffic, especially on I-66 or I-270 during rush hour. Just kidding — everyone else had the same idea.

You should have stayed in the right lanes, but now no one will let you get back over. Might as well “pump up the jam” and turn on the radio since you’ll be trapped for a while. Actually, go with your CD player if you want to avoid hearing the same Adele song every 20 minutes.

6. “Why are you honking?”

Sure, every now and then you use your own horn, especially in parking lots. After all, people hardly pay attention as they’re backing out of their spaces. But seriously, when you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, why do other people need to honk?

No one is going anywhere, buddy. Honking isn’t going to get you to your destination any faster. Everyone is in the same boat — or on the same congested I-270 Spur.

Unless you’re Moses, you’re not going to be able to part the Red Sea, much less the highway, with your weak little horn. Please, just stop the madness.

7. “I REALLY need to pee.”

To pee or not to pee: That is the question.

You’ve been trapped on the Beltway for so long you can barely contain your bladder. You’re dying to get off at the next exit and find a McDonald’s or gas station where you can take care of business. However, you know that once you get off, there’s no turning back — at least not anytime this century.

What is a D.C. driver to do?

Exit at your own risk, but you might want to make a plan — even though there’s a bathroom literally half a mile away, it may still be a while before you can get there. After all, the people in front of you probably have to pee, too.

Better have an empty bottle handy. Just in case.

8. “Um, I’m going to run out of gas.”


Gas is so expensive in D.C. that you’re used to never filling up the entire tank. However, you probably regret this each time the shiny low-fuel light pops on while you’re sitting in rush-hour traffic,

The cars are hardly moving, so you’re not going anywhere soon, especially not to the gas station. You may just run out of fuel on the dreaded American Legion Bridge and get stuck on the side of the road, waiting pitifully for AAA to come save you.

Don’t worry. This is your magic moment. You may get your 15 (or five) minutes of fame with a shout-out from WTOP’s traffic report for being the disabled vehicle on the highway. Sure, your breakdown is only making traffic worse, but it’s the other drivers’ faults for rubbernecking.

9. “Crap. Was that a traffic camera?”


No more worrying about the cops pulling you over — now there are robots for that.

You haven’t lived in the D.C. area until you’ve gotten a ticket in the mail via a speed or red-light camera.

Even though you know where they are (basically all over), on the rare occasions you have the opportunity to speed, you get excited and gun it until you’re jammed again at the next intersection.

And you really, really, really have to make that light. It doesn’t matter if it’s green, yellow or red. Color means nothing. You’re not sitting through another 10-minute cycle at the Seven Corners death trap.

Carpe diem. These tickets are par for the course.

10. “Screw it. It’s my turn to be a jerk.”


If you’ve lived in D.C. for long enough, you’ve been scorned on the road more times than you can count on two hands.

Now it’s payback time.

You’re sick of being the nice guy (or girl) who lets everyone in on the Parkway. Now it’s your turn to use the exit lane as a means to get ahead, speeding up and then forcing yourself back into the main lanes. In the process, you cut off some poor sucker with the patience and compassion you once had when you were new to the area.

It’s OK. A wave of the hand to the other driver is sometimes all it takes to mitigate the damage. But congrats! You just made you commute that much shorter.

Embrace the Positives

Let’s face it, D.C. traffic sucks more than anywhere else in the country. If you weigh the pros with the cons, though, living in the District isn’t so bad.

Besides the museums, the city has a diversity of cuisine you probably couldn’t find somewhere else. The music scene is hopping, too. Just think about U Street.

You don’t need to drive all the time, either. D.C.’s Metro infrastructure ranks as the top transit system in the nation.

Next time you’re feeling road rage — and we all do — upgrade your SmarTrip and hop on a train. Even if the Red Line is delayed (as it always is), taking the Metro can be a lot less frustrating than navigating the “red zone” in your vehicle.

As the slogan goes, “Metro opens doors” — and they usually open quicker than your car door.