So I-270 and I aren’t friends, and probably never will be


I’m totally spoiled.

For the last five years, my commute has been . . . an excruciating, horrible, soul-crushing ten minutes. Maybe fifteen at busy Christmastime (like now), or twenty when the weather is bad (those two or three mornings in winter). My drive is a familiar one: down the same narrow streets I cruised as a teen, through the center of town, past the post office and 7-Eleven and office parks. Same parking spot. Door to door, I’m at my desk before I’ve even processed what the morning-show DJs are discussing.

Last week I was given a new adventure: training at company headquarters. I’m excited to be transitioning to new software at work — and never hesitated to get on board. I like learning new skills and challenging myself. It was fun to be taking notes again, feeling like I was in school — forcing my brain to think differently, acquiring new ways of doing what I’ve always done. After three days, I felt really comfortable with the software . . . and excited about moving forward.

Only problem?

Training was in Gaithersburg. Fifty miles — and many snaking lanes of traffic — away.

In anticipation of the journey, I covered myself in war paint — or, um, chocolate. Worried I would get stranded in the D.C. Beltway’s notorious traffic, something I know all too well from commuting to the University of Maryland years ago, I loaded my passenger seat with drinks and snacks. My trusty GPS easily got me from point A to point B, and I made great time every day. What I worried would take me two hours wound up taking just one or so, and the trek home — in rush hour traffic — wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected.

I mean, it was still an hour and a half. But it could have been worse. Having grown up in Maryland and listening to a few traffic reports in my day, I’m well-versed in how awful 270 can be. So while we’re not friends and probably never will be, I’m thankful the congested roadway stayed open enough for me to get in and get out without too much bother. We only slowed a few times — and never came to the grinding halt I remember from driving to school.

After just three days of making that commute, though, I’m sipping Diet Coke at my own desk with a sparkly new appreciation for how good I really have it — and how I shouldn’t take my local job for granted. As a college commuter, I was used to running the roads, getting snarled in traffic and planning everything around whether or not I’d be able to get home from College Park — but this? On I-270? This was a whole new level of crazy. If I’d ever doubted how fortunate I am to work locally, that solidified it for me.

Though I did enjoy listening to an entire audio book — Devan Siphon’s The Wedding Beat — on my drive! Tore through that baby. And I definitely polished off more than a few of those snacks, too. Like, all of the peanut butter M&Ms and that huge bag of trail mix.

That was my early Christmas present to myself.