From Iowa to DC

If you had asked me in – say – 1992 if I saw myself moving to the nation’s capital, I’d look at you and go, “Huh?”

Things change.

I moved here in the summer of 2001, having received a promotion with my previous job. This promotion required my move to the DC area. I was excited…not all my friends back home shared my enthusiasm.

One friend wanted to give me a year’s supply of mace. I told her, “No, because I may use it on my husband.” (BTW, I am divorced now, but I can honestly say I’ve never maced the guy.)

Another friend said I wasn’t political enough. I replied, “I’m not going there to take the President’s job. Have you seen how those people look when they get out of office? No thanks.”

My family had mixed feelings about it…crime, crowds, gourmet grocery stores…all things to be feared. However, since I’m stubborn, I went anyway.

If you’re a midwesterner (or from anywhere, really) that might be relocating to the DC area, keep a few things in mind when you get here.

1. The cost of living is DEFINITELY higher than the midwest. If you’d like to know a way to give your mom a heart attack, call her up and tell her how much milk costs. When she asks you where you got it, say “Safeway”. I guarantee, all you will hear on the other end is a “whoa”. However, my mother is not so concerned that she went out and bought me a cow and milking machine gift set for Christmas. She just says, “Drink more water and don’t break any bones.” The point I’m trying to make (and I’m sure you’ve read about it) is estimate about $10 – 15K more than what you’re used to.

2. No offense to natives of this area, but when it rains, it causes just as much of a traffic pileup as if there’s 10 feet of snow. It seems as though many people are afraid of rain…and if you plan to be here a long time, it’s not changing anytime soon. Trust me on this one. If it starts to rain, count on traffic slowing down to a crawl and have plenty of cell phone minutes. You may want to call several long-lost friends and catch up on old times.

3. I think every radio and TV station has traffic reports every so often during AM rush hour. Find one you like and make it your friend. Trust me on this as well. If you’re from a large midwestern city (Omaha, Minneapolis, Kansas City, et. al) you already know the importance of a good, trustworthy traffic report. For those from smaller towns, get used to judging your new station by the decency of the traffic report. Talk radio/News radio stations usually have good ones, but the rest of them do too. Find one you like and USE it well.

4. I know that carpooling and/or public transportation can be a pain, but trust me – sometimes it’s the best way to get around in your commute. You see, here in the DC metro area we have HOV lanes (stands for high occupancy vehicle). In other words, anyone with 2 or more people in their car get to bypass all the rest of the traffic. BIG WARNING, though – if you get busted driving in the HOV lane and there’s only one person in the car, you will be heavily fined and points will be added to your drivers license, thereby making your insurance go up too. One incentive to public transportation – government jobs provide metrocards, and some contractors give incentives to their employees for public parking/public transportation (pre-tax dollars, etc.), so it’s good to check that out.

*****POSTSCRIPT: Don clued me in (and honestly, I didn’t know this information…I will use it wisely, sir!) and here’s the straight scoop:

One note though – several of our HOV lanes are HOV-3, meaning that 2 people in the car doesn’t cut it – you need a full 3 folks. Telling them there’s someone in the trunk of your Miata doesn’t cut it either – they know you can’t fit a full body in there.

5. Finally, whether you live in the ‘burbs or DC proper, life in a major metro area is what you make of it. If you’re from a small town, you will find that many communities have a variety of things to do. It may take time to get to know people, but if you take it easy and relax a smidge, you’ll find things to do and people to enjoy good times with. Many activities around here are free – go to the Washington Post on Fridays, as they have a whole Weekend section to peruse. If you want to try new things or get back in the swing of old, the DC metro area has quite a few opportunities, so check them out. Many of the museums are free, and the National Zoo is accessible by train, car and bus. (Word to the wise…parking at the zoo can cost a lot – I suggest taking the Metro to the zoo.)

DC is large enough that I haven’t discovered all there is to do, but for better or for worse, I’m glad to call it home.

5 Comments so far

  1. Don (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 3:27 pm

    Welcome aboard, Sue Ellen. One note though – several of our HOV lanes are HOV-3, meaning that 2 people in the car doesn’t cut it – you need a full 3 folks. Telling them there’s someone in the trunk of your Miata doesn’t cut it either – they know you can’t fit a full body in there.

  2. Doug (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 4:03 pm

    Someone (I forget who) told me this story of a girl who moved to the DC area and took to riding in the HOV lane with a mannequin in her car. She got caught, had to pay a hefty fine and had points put on her record.

    A better solution is to pick up one or more “Slugs.”

    *****I heard that story too, as well as the one about a pregnant woman driving by herself who claimed her fetus as the 2nd passenger. That’s a stretch.

    I think I’m going to try out this “slugging” thing and see what it’s all about. Thanks for the tip!

    Sue Ellen (aka DC Sudie, I guess)

  3. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 4:45 pm

    You’d think a car at its maximum capacity would be legal, but yeah, 2-seaters don’t qualify in the HOV-3 areas. Motorcycles are legit all the time, though.

  4. Mik (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 4:48 pm

    Welcome Sue Ellen!!

    A friend of mine used to commute from Burke, VA into Crystal City, VA via “slugging”.

  5. Ian (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 4:59 pm

    Hey there, welcome to dc.metblogs!

    I’m the friend of MIK that used to slug from Burke to Crystal City, and I can’t tell you how nice it was (I’m in Arlington now). I slugged for 2 years, but during that time, I ran into people who had been doing it for over a decade, so it’s definitely a viable method.

    I was a rider, which meant I was one of the poor saps who stood in line at the bus stops and waited for a car to pick me up. But it was free, and usually fast. Ocassionally there were days where I had to wait for a ride for more than 30 minutes, but there were other days when I could walk up and find a ride immeadiately. But it beat waiting for the bus, and was almost always faster, due to not having to stop anywhere.

    I know people who look at me weirdly when I tell them how I used to get to work, but I’ve never heard of anything happening to a slugger. The worst is getting dropped off at the wrong point and having to call for a ride from a friend, or walking it home, and that was rare. Everyone I’ve encountered who was involved in slugging was very professional, and just wanted to get to work or home in a quick and easy manner.

    If you’re some place near a slug line, I highly recommend it, both as a driver and as a rider.

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