Monday, January 31, 2005

Are You Going My Way?

As a little kid, I remember hitching rides from my grandpa. We'd stand at the end of the walk, and as he drove by we'd stick our thumbs out just as he'd taught us and then pile into the car when he slowed down to pick us up. I also remember hearing my dad tell stories about how for fun they used to pull up in front of hitchhikers and then as the hitchhikers got close to reaching the back door of the car, they'd peal off and leave the man standing there. But most of all I remember being told to never, ever, ever under any circumstances actually get into a car with someone I didn't know. Hitchhiking was like a legend. It wasn't something people really did, aside from the scraggly looking couple of men you'd sometimes catch walking up the interstate on-ramp. And I never actually saw anyone pick them up.

But apparently the times are changing. Hitchhiking is now vogue. It is the way to get around DC. But it's not called hitchhiking's called slugging. And it doesn't involve randomly picking a street to walk down and hope that someone picks you up. And you don't even have to stick your thumb out to catch a ride.

Right outside of my office, on the corner of 14th & Independence, a line of people forms every evening around 5pm. There are actually a couple of lines, with many of them being lines for buses that run out to suburbs in Maryland and Northern Virginia. There is one line, however, that is different. This is the slug line. This line starts at the fire hydrant and continues down the road. In this line, people who are heading toward Potomac Mills, Virginia and the surrounding area stand and wait for drivers who are also headed in that direction to come by. You see, in order to use the HOV lanes in the area, you have to have 3 people in your car. And with traffic as terrible as it is around here, using the HOV lane can cut your travel time in half. So solo drivers pull up and announce to the first person in line where they are going. That person then passes the information down the line, and the first two people who are going to the same place hop in the car and head home with someone they have possibly never met before. If the driver doesn't get the two people he needs at this stop, he can go on up to another one since there are quite a few of these locations all over town.

To find out more about slugging, you can go to Here you can find a slugging location near you (both am and pm locations). You can rate slug-lines. You can find out when are the best times to use certain lines. You can check the Lost & Found board to see if that last driver you were with has found the sunglasses you can't seem to locate. And you can learn about the Rules & Etiquette of slugging. Here is a sampling: Slugs don't talk, unless conversation is initiated by the driver. Slugs don't smoke or eat. Slugs don't carry on long cell phone conversations. Both driver and slug say thank you at the beginning and end of the ride. No one offers or requests money. The line doesn't leave a woman standing alone....

Pretty interesting, don't you think? I can't help wondering how it got started and how it ended up so organized. Seriously, how did people first know where to go or how did they decide that getting in the car with a stranger might not be as taboo as their parents made it out to be? I'm tempted to give it a try. Maybe I'll check out the website and find a line that goes my way. At least it would make for an interesting life experience.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

How Disturbing

On Friday I was reading CNN online, and I saw the article about the 19 year old Wal-Mart cashier who was forced into her car as she was leaving work at midnight, abducted and later killed. There were a couple of things that were disturbing about the incident to me.

First of all, the man had been wandering around the parking lot for 2 hours, following women and then for some reason or another, giving up on them. 2 hours! And at one point, he was approached by private security guards who talked to him but did nothing. Okay, if someone has been hanging around a parking lot for two hours with no clear purpose, there's something wrong. Whether or not he or she is doing anything else particularly suspicious, there is something odd about someone just hanging out in a parking lot. If nothing else, charge them with loitering and get them out of there. It's even more sketchy when it's way past dark and when the man is following around women. Yes, some of these details probably came to light after the fact, but that he was stopped by security at one point does reveal that there was something a little off about the man. And if for someone reason after talking to the man and deciding not to do anything, would it have been too much for security to have observed him a little more closely? I mean, obviously, they weren't too intimidating or annoying since he hung around and did what he did.

Secondly, and most terrifying, is that this man would, without knowing this woman at all, abduct her and kill her. I know this isn't the only case of it, but any time it happens, I find it extremely disturbing. Any time anyone is killed or assualted, it's terrible. It's wrong. It's unbelievable. But at least sometimes you can see a motive, however wrongheaded it is. A jealous lover, an angry spouse, a deal gone wrong, etc. It's not right. It's not any less terrible for the family and friends of the person killed. But it's something you can detach yourself from...I wouldn't be in an abusive relationship...I wouldn't hang out with those kind of people...I wouldn't be in that situation...It wouldn't happen to me. But something like this is personal because of the fact that it's so impersonal. This girl was working, minding her own business, and then this happens. How scary is it that some people are so messed up that they can just kill for absoluetly no reason other than some unexplained anger or hatred or disturbance? It's something I just can't fathom. Did he wake up that morning and decide he wanted to kill someone? Did he have any idea what he was doing? If he was in the parking lot for 2 plus hours, I have to believe he had some kind of plan. It wasn't random. But what made him pick the woman he did? It's terrifying that there are people like that in the world and that no matter what you do, you are never completely safe from them.

Anyhow, I don't think we should all quit going out alone or cut ourselves off from the world. I've said it many times before...we can't live in fear. And we can't be paranoid. But we can be prepared as best as we can. I don't know the exact details of what happened, and I have no idea what that woman was thinking, but I can't help wondering why she didn't fight back. Please, please, please...if you are ever in a situation like this (God forbid), fight. Don't get in the car. As soon as you do, your chances of survival drop dramatically. Most attackers are looking for an easy victim. If you put up a fight...kick, scream, yell, bite, scratch...they're likely to let you go and get the hell out of there. If it's your car they're trying to get you to get in, throw the keys as far as you can. Even if they have a gun or a knife, fight back. Make them attack you right there in the parking lot. God knows if they're willing to attack you right there, they are definitely not going to hesitate to do it in some isolated place where no one is around to see or help. Your best chance of survival is fighting right then and there. Later on, it might be too late. So think about it, make a plan, know what you would do, because if the situation occurs you might not be able to think straight and will have to rely solely on instinct. It's terrible that we have to do that, but it's a sad fact of our current world. And I'd rather we all be safe.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

I think it's going to snow on President Bush's parade. Or at least it's going to be really, really cold. Perhaps that is God's way of expressing his disapproval for Bush or at least for all the money being spent on his inauguration. Or maybe that's just what happens in winter.

Anyhow, tomorrow is the Presidential Inauguration. A day to celebrate "the peaceful transfer of power," according to W himself. Now if we'd elected someone else that might be somewhat true, but I don't think the re-inauguration of Bush really counts as a transfer of power. And how many instances of non-peaceful transfer have there been here in the US anyway? I think Bush has a little too much Iraq on the brain. A little too much Iraq rhetoric at least. I'd be giving him too much credit to say that he actually gives the situation in Iraq that much thought. Or maybe he does these days, since he didn't do the thinking when he should have and now we're in a huge mess. Whatever. I don't want to get into that. What I want to know is how all of this inauguration stuff got so out of hand. When did it become necessary to spend millions of dollars that we don't have just so the man we elected to be President months ago can take his oath of office? It all seems so unnecessary to me. And not just unnecessary, but also embarrassing. We're living in a world that's facing a lot of hardship currently, yet we seem not to have any regard for that. No, I don't think that we should all dress in black and go into mourning until the world's problems are solved, but I do think we ought to have some restraint and make the process at least a bit more subdued than it has been in the past. It's become somewhat of a foreign concept here in America, but we don't always have to make things bigger and more expensive. We don't have to collectively keep up with the Joneses. Just a thought.

But anyhow, I must say that there is one part of this whole Inauguration that I will enjoy, and that is me sleeping in. Tomorrow is a holiday for all federal employees who work in the District, so yay for me. Too bad for you.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

...And I Feel Fine

Hurricanes battered Florida all fall. California was hit hard with floods, and the weather there isn't improving with mudslides taking out cities now. Locusts plagued Egypt and other parts of Africa. And the strongest earthquake on record resulted in tsunamis that killed well over a hundred thousand people and left the earth's geography and rotation altered. Is this the apocalypse?

Funny, isn't it, how lots of people talk of the apocalypse, the end of the world, the return of God, etc., but nobody ever really thinks it will happen in their lifetime. Maybe we'll be the ones. Ha Ha.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

One Good Thing for Living in DC

I feel like I should write a blog, but I can't really think of much to write. I know that's lame, but right now it's the truth. My mind just won't settling on anything substantial. I could do a Christmas recap or a New Year resolution thing, but I'm not really in the mood for either of those.

So I'll just write a little random thought.
The nice thing about not living in the same city as your family is getting to go home for Christmas. If I lived in Louisville, I'd be in my own place, and I'd wake up on Christmas all alone except for whoever I was living with. And there wouldn't be piles of presents from Santa Claus, and I'd probably be bored and piddle around a lot until it was time to go to wherever I was going for Christmas lunch or dinner. But since I do live out of town, I get to go home to my parent's house for Christmas and act just like a little kid. I get to line up on the stairs in my pjs with my brothers for our morning picture. I get to race downstairs to tons of presents. I get to whoop and holler as I open them up. And I get to play with everyone else's presents. It's fun. I think that even if I move back to Louisville, I'm still going to spend Christmas Eve night at my parents. And I'm going to demand that my brothers do too. I guess it could get a little crowded if we all have kids, but hey, that would be even more fun. Yay for Christmas!