I love living in the DC-Metro area. I really do. But I hate driving here. In the city, I can take the metro. I’m great at the metro. I’m also great at walking. DC is very pedestrian friendly due to the grid system, and I’ve never had a problem navigating myself around there. But when I’m in Northern Virginia, I don’t really have a choice. I have to drive. And driving on highways in Virginia is particularly difficult for numerous reasons.
1. They don’t give fair warnings for things like highway entrances/exits. It’s very easy to see a sign only when you are already passing the exit.
2. Many signs are hidden behind bushes and trees. Now I grew up somewhere that had just as many trees and bushes, but they at least had the decency to not grow over the only sign for an exit.
3. Streets don’t run perpendicular to each other. This may be due to me growing up in the Midwest, where roads were built later and didn’t have to work around the random roads that have been there since the 1800s and were mapped by drunken cows. But still. There are too many diagonals.
4. It’s not easy to fix a mistake. Exits are far apart, and often lead you to either another highway or a national park/historical marker/butter churning exhibit/other thing that I don’t feel like visiting, as I am usually late for something else. So if you miss an exit or take the wrong one, get ready for a solid 45 minutes of hell trying to get back in the correct direction.
5. There is no cohesive driving style. Most people that live in the DC-Metro area are transplants. They all learned to drive in their respective communities where everyone drives the same way. So when all of these different styles collide, it’s chaos. You can be on a major highway, squished between someone going 10 mph under the limit and someone going 20 mph over the limit while weaving through lanes with no turn signal. It’s like Forrest Gump’s proverbial box of chocolates–you never know what you’re gonna get.
Despite these set backs, I will admit that not every journey is a confusing mess of sign-less terror. But anytime I have to go through this intersection above, I feel like heading to the backseat of my car so I can curl up in the fetal position and weep. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Seven Corners. This is one of my least favorite places in Northern Virginia, second only to Tyson’s Corner. Now that I think about it, places with “corners” in their names are ones that I generally try to avoid.
After the Hubbster and I first moved here, and I was working at Starbucks, this intersection made me cry. Like I was literally in tears. I was being nice and allowing myself to be loaned out to the Seven Corners Starbucks. I had never been there before, so I printed out the directions (this was before I was blessed with an iPhone) and went on my merry way, not thinking that because it’s named “Seven Corners” it might actually have seven corners. Guess what? It does. It’s on Arlington Boulevard, which is basically a highway with stoplights, and a median, and it also happens to have a frontage road on each side. So really, it’s like four roads running parallel to each other. Then if you exit, this intersection sits on top of it. Let me just answer some questions I know you have right off the bat after staring awkwardly at this picture:
Yes, there are three stoplights in quick succession. Why? Because two additional roads intersect within the distance of these stop lights.
Yes, some idiot actually thought those signs would help you figure out which lane to be in (it also could’ve been an ass hole with a sadistic sense of humor).
Yes, this intersection is always packed. This makes it nearly impossible to be in the correct lane (if by some miracle you know which lane that is), unless you are a former Illinois driver and were taught to be aggressive.
No, nothing about this intersection is clearly marked or logical.
So you can see why, in this situation, when 1) I had no idea where I was going, 2) couldn’t see a Starbucks sign anywhere (no one bothered to tell me it was inside a Barnes & Noble), 3) was late for the shift because 4) I had already gotten lost earlier taking my sister to the airport, and ended up sitting right there in this intersection, I started crying. I try to never go there if I can avoid it, because I get flashbacks every time I return. It’s horrible.
If anyone is reading this that has some sort of role in the government with influence over highway signs in Arlington and Fairfax Counties, I would really appreciate some help here. Thank you.