Bye Bye Baltimore (Part 1)

After six months of a five-hour daily commute (sometimes six), I am finally making the move to DC (well technically downtown Bethesda but close enough). I will be a 10-minute walk from work.

Of course, my Baltimore friends are sad and don’t understand why I’d want to move to DC when Baltimore is so hip and has that small town charm for a city.

But after three years of graduate school and another year working in my field, it’s time to cut my ties with a city that was a stepping stone for my career and an escape from the Midwest.

So before I make my exodus at the end of June, I’d like to reflect on things I’ll miss and things I won’t. This blog post constitutes the “won’t.”

I Won’t Miss …

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The DC Metro: It’s Not Baltimore (Baltimore has a metro?)

After kicking and screaming along the DC beltway, I decided to try my commute with the MARC train and DC metro. I’m not new to public transportation. When I moved to Baltimore for graduate school, I sold my Honda Civic and navigated Baltimore’s best and worst neighborhoods using the local bus system (sometimes I pretended to be a Hopkins student and caught a free ride on their shuttle), Light Rail, Metro Subway, and the Charm City Circulator.

More often than not, however, walking was more reliable than public transportation, but either way, I survived without ever being stabbed, robbed, or raped (although I was often harassed by men).  But that’s because I had a series of rules, which I rarely broke:

  1. Do not look anyone in the eye
  2. Do not talk to strangers
  3. Do not respond even to a “hello” – you do not want to initiate dialogue or let your guard down
  4. Always walk like you know where you’re going
  5. Always wear a frown (what I like to call the “don’t fuck with me; I’ll kill you” face)
  6. Never accept help
  7. Always be aware of your surroundings and stay away from “suspicious” characters
  8. Always leave yourself extra time and have a back-up plan – public transportation is anything but “reliable”

What do I consider suspicious? Am I too dependent on stereotypes? When it comes to my safety, I don’t care. If anything makes me uncomfortable, I remove myself from the situation. For example, one time an older gentleman sat next to me on the Baltimore metro and started talking to me even though I had my headphones on and every other seat was empty. He wasn’t threatening me, but I didn’t want to be bothered, and he was making me uncomfortable. I simply acknowledged him, stood up, and walked to another train. He didn’t follow me. Continue reading

Kicking and Screaming: The DC Beltway

Stop and go. Stop and go.

One lane moves. The other three don’t. Change lanes. Now the other lanes move, and mine doesn’t.

This describes the epic battle on the DC beltway during rush hour. Yes, I’ve somehow convinced myself this new job is worth the 3 hour commute from Baltimore to Bethesda and back again.

I’ve tried 29. I’ve tried local traffic. Nothing changes. No time is saved. So far, my best bet has been to travel among the lost and forsaken on 495.

I’m in the process of looking for a carpool. I feel bad being a sole traveler in one vehicle, but when I look around, I am not alone. Not to mention the added gas expense, wear and tear on my car, and the increased carbon emissions.

And then there’s the train. I’m also trying this option out, but this requires waking up at 5:30 a.m. to catch a bus to the train station, which takes me to Union Station in DC, and then the metro to Bethesda. It’s a roundabout way to commute, but it would save me $50 per month and the hassle of driving in rush hour traffic.

The catch? I have to get up an hour earlier only to get home an hour later. But you can be so productive on the train, they tell me. Except with such long days, all I want to do is zone out or sleep, but I’m too paranoid to sleep in public. Continue reading