November 29, 2011

November 29, 2011

Slug It Out

Though I’ve written quite a bit about my adventures in commuting (note to self: possible memoir title) on Metrobus and Metrorail, I hardly ever mention the commutes of others. Chalk this up to my general misanthropy, because there are some really interesting ways for people to get around the DC area. You’ve got your fancy commuter buses (padded seats! functional A/C! alert drivers!). You’ve got your commuter rail (for those living so far away, their state starts with “Delaware”).

And you’ve got slugging. (Sounds dirtier than it is.)

See, in the DC area, we have these things called High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes (HOV lanes). During rush hour, a vehicle must have 3 passengers to use the HOV lanes. Since our traffic is so bad, this can cut your travel time by a good day and a half.

The rub, of course, is finding two other people to ride with you. If only there were a way to pick up strangers who claim to also be headed in your direction.

Thus, at designated pick-up points—including the Pentagon, and certain streets in DC and Arlington—people will line up at destination signs and wait for a ride. In places where queues are discouraged, they will walk around with signs proclaiming their destination. In either case, a car will pull up, the person will get in, and they will wake up the next day in a bathtub full of ice missing all their vital organs.

Well, sometimes they just make it home quicker. Same dif. I mean, does this sound like organized hitchhiking to you, too?

To its credit, slugging is Really Organized hitchhiking. There’s a website where you can map routes, print out destination signs, and read up on the etiquette. As my bus leaves the Pentagon every day, I see hundreds of people in the slug lines. I assume that only forty, maybe fifty percent of them end up in grisly murders.

I’m the first to admit that Metro has a lot of problems, overcrowding among them. I rarely mention the benefit of crowds: lots of witnesses discourage a gruesome death at the hand of “Bob” from “Springfield” who would “love” to “give you a ride” “home.”

People are weird.

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