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Ode to Billie Joe

Ode to BIllie Joe - Bobbie Gentry -

“Ode to Billie Joe” comes to mind as I travel 25 miles in a mere 2.5 hours. Washington, DC, how I have not missed you.

I’ve had a rental car since Friday, so now I can get to areas that are outside the Metro system. Trouble is, I’ve spent way too much time in that car. Washingtonians, I’d be bitter too if I spent two-four hours a day on my roundtrip commute.

On Friday afternoon, my intent was to drive from Reston, Virginia, to Rockville, Maryland. Drive time should have been around 30 minutes. Ninety minutes into the drive, I abandoned that plan and headed back to my temporary home in Mount Rainier, MD, where I’m staying. It took me 2.5 hours to get home.

In that time, I witnessed yelling, cell phone talking, drivers refusing to let other cars over, cars dead stopped in the middle lane hoping to get into the exit lane, motorcycles weaving between cars, and traffic circles with no reasonable means of exit due to aggressive drivers (“Look kids, there’s Big Ben, and there’s Parliament!”). A shit ton of car horns.

Reston is 25 miles from Mount Rainier. Again, 2.5 hours.

Back in the day, I carpooled to the Pentagon from Damascus, Maryland, with my stepfather. Our roundtrip commute took two-three hours. My stepfather liked to listen to the oldies station. Every day, Bobbie Gentry sang “Ode to Billie Joe,” that song where everybody jumps off a bridge or dies of a virus or suffers from depression or possibly murders someone. Everybody’s chopping cotton and baling hay and plowing fields, but at least they don’t have to drive during DC rush hour. Anyhow, Bobbie Gentry’s a staple in the oldies’ world.

And every day as my stepfather and I inched along — on average, one mile every two minutes — I thought, if I hear this song one more time, I myself might murder someone.


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