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LA freeways they ain’t

Poor car only had 18 miles on it
An aptly named vehicle.
Caution: This blog post contains actual language that may be offensive to some. Like, a lot of it.

Today I drove to Virginia.

That was a very bad idea.

It’s a beautiful drive, don’t get me wrong. Especially along the river, through the trees…until you get off at the wrong exit, and can’t figure out how to get back on. (Attention, DC area: Y’all have no freaking clue how freeways are supposed to work.) And then a half-hour drive turns into a two-hour drive, and you end up nearly being late for a meeting you left super-early for.

And then you leave said meeting, and the fun really begins.

But first, let me back up (something I do far better in dialogue than I do in vehicles, but more on that later). For my appointment in McLean, I rented a car. ‘Cause I’m from California, y’know? And public transportation doesn’t really occur to us. I specified that I wanted the smallest, most compact car available. I hadn’t driven in nearly two months, and I did not want to brave downtown DC traffic in anything larger than a Mini Cooper.

When I arrived at Enterprise to pick up my vehicle, the kind man gave me a free upgrade to an SUV. A brand-new SUV. With 18 miles on it.

As my mother will tell you, “Heather’s rough on things.”

It also happened to be a brand-new SUV with no GPS, leaving me dependent upon my iPhone and Google Maps for directions (thus the two-hour drive to McLean).

My appointment ended at 5, just in time for me to hit rush hour. Somehow, I ended up driving around in circles. When I finally got myself going the right direction, I noticed I was almost out of gas. So I looked for stations. Every damned one of them was on the wrong side of the street. Every. One. Finally I took a five-minute detour around the block just to get on the right side of the street and fill my behemoth tank.

Then, Google Maps decided that instead of taking me on Dolley Madison, as it had done to get me *to* McLean, It was going to take me on Dulles toll road. Which is fine, except being a toll road, you have to pay a toll. Which is also fine, except that you have to be smart enough to figure out how to pay the damned toll.

I, apparently, am not.

After about 30 seconds at the automated toll, wondering how the hell to give it my 75 cents, I realized I was supposed to throw it in a little basket. I thought. Sure enough, the “cash owed” decremented to 0, but my light refused to change to green. Frustrated, hungry, and afraid of blocking traffic, I channeled my inner Mr. T and blew through the stoplight. It blared loudly behind me, as if to say, “She did a BAD THING!”

I got off the toll road about 400 feet later, because I realized if I had to pay again, I was probably just going to get myself in more trouble.

So after driving around hopelessly lost thanks to Google’s less-than-accurate directions and my inability to tell left from right, I realized there was no way I was going to make it back to the rental agency before it closed at 6. They told me no problem, just bring it in in the morning at no extra charge. Phew.

I circled back and looked at my phone again, trying to find Dolley Madison (which intersects, sort of, the Dulles). First I went the wrong way. Fuck! Then I went the right way on the wrong street. Fuuuuck! Then I got on what I thought was Dolley Madison only to see that it looked like it became THE FUCKING TOLL ROAD AGAIN.

I glanced at my phone to see if it was actually the toll road again (the thought of which terrified me) and glanced up to see that traffic was slowing down. I slowed too. What I didn’t realize was that traffic had actually stopped.

I slammed on the brakes of the brand-new, had-60-miles-on-it-now SUV, smelling the pads burning, and stopped inches away from the bumper in front of me. The girl behind me couldn’t stop so fast.


She’s in a compact car and the hood’s been smashed to bits. It doesn’t look like she’s moving. Is she OK?

Holy fucking hell, do I remember my first aid if she isn’t?

You’re in a rental car. Does your insurance cover this?


In my panic, after I made sure she was OK, I called Triple A. After verifying that my car was still drivable and I didn’t need a tow, they asked me ever so politely why the hell I was calling them instead of the police.

Shit. Duh. Shit shit shit.

So I spent the rest of the hottest day on record in DC standing on the fast lane of the Beltway, during rush hour, getting honked at by angry commuters, attempting to understand the thick Italian accent of the mother whose daughter had rear-ended me while waiting for the police to take their sweet time to get there.

Nearly two hours later, I finally left the scene and made it home without incident. Until I actually got home and realized that I don’t have a place to park the very large car that I am shackled with until the morning.

I could park on the street somewhere…

You mean I have to parallel park this sucker? Fucking hell, woman!

Eventually, I pleaded with the woman at the front desk to allow me to park just overnight in the employee “lot.” I use quote marks because the “lot” is, in fact, an alley that can handle at most three cars.

Mine was the fourth. Squeezing between two cars was easy. Backing out will be another story. Backing out at 7:30 a.m., when I have to be out of the employees’ way (or risk getting blocked in, in which case I’m going to tell Enterprise to come pick up their own fucking car), is going to be, as my father would say, an adventure…

Published in A Cowgirl in D.C.

One Comment

  1. Leslie-Jean Thornton

    Leslie-Jean Thornton

    Oh, oh, oh. You poor thing! What a nightmare. And re the language: Words exist to convey information and express intangibles, context, feelings, relative importance, etc. I’d say you chose the right words throughout. Maybe a bit restrained, actually, judging from what I remember thinking in similar straits! :-)

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