The Little Focus That Could

I’ve put a lot of miles on my little baby Buttercup this week. (Buttercup being, for the uninformed, my car. She is very, very yellow.)

I had kind of forgotten what my hair looked like in a shade of brown. Whoa.

Being the Northern Virginia-dwelling suburbanite that I am, it’s pretty safe to assume that I do a lot of driving. And while that may be true to a certain extent — I certainly find myself visiting all corners of this region more often in my current role with Yelp than I ever did previously — I actually don’t drive that much. Since I don’t have a regular commute anymore, I’m not putting a steady stream of miles on my car — it’s only when I have a meeting or drive out to an event or have a desperate, searing craving for Korean BBQ that I take my baby out. In fact, due to the endless supply of schnauzers at my house and the fact that you can buy gummy bears in 5 pound bags on Amazon, there are usually quite a few days a week when I don’t have to leave the house at all. (I prefer not to think of that as being sad and pathetic, by the way.)

My little Ford Focus, purchased new in August 2012, only has about 16,000 miles on it. I’m no expert on car mileage, but I hear that’s fairly low.

This week in particular, however, I have been racking up the miles. And the frustration. Because lately it seems that any time I have to drive anywhere, I have the joyous benefit of sitting in lots and lots and lots of traffic. Between last night’s taillight-laden trip to National Harbor to see Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna (such a fun show — you should absolutely go if you’re in the area!) and the weekend’s horrific trip to New Kent for my college roommate and super preggo bestie Bethany’s baby shower, I’ve definitely been making up for the aforementioned lack of mileage.

Speaking of Bethany’s baby shower, fun story. So, Sean and I are headed down to New Kent, VA for Bethany’s coed baby shower (with Sean giving me grief about how coed baby showers aren’t a thing the entire time, but I digress), and New Kent  is about 20-ish minutes or so outside of Richmond. So, figuring that it usually takes about 2 hours to get to Richmond, we leave at around 10 AM to get there.

We arrive at 2:30 PM.

Yep, it took us FOUR AND A HALF HOURS to go 120 miles. I-95 traffic is no joke, folks, especially on a weekend, especially in the summer. Although, it does make me wonder WHERE all these other people who are stuck in equally bad traffic are really going. I mean, even if they’re taking a day or two off from work, are they really taking 6 – 8 hours to get to the beach, only to have to turn around and come right back in one or two days? #notworthit

Anyway, by the time we finally got to Bethany’s sister’s house, the shower was pretty much over. Womp womp. Which really worked out for Sean, since he got to avoid all of the baby games, and admittedly it kind of worked out for me, too, because I basically just got to hang out with Bethany, her hubster, and her sisters for a couple hours on my own.

Perhaps that was really my plan all long! Bwahaha. No, I kid, I kid, I’m really bummed that I missed out on the whole shebang. At least I still got to decorate a onesie! I really should have taken a picture of it, it was a masterpiece. (Reality: it was not a masterpiece. It said, “Will Cry for Milk” and then “I love boobs.”)

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It did seem like a shame to have to turn around and head back on the highway after only a couple hours of visiting, but all was not lost. On our way back, which AMAZINGLY took less than three hours in total, we stopped in Fredericksburg and I got to experience a kickin’ restaurant there called Foode, AND we got Carl’s Ice Cream after that – STRAWBERRYYYYY! Carl’s is evidently a Fredericksburg institution. It reminded me of Kline’s in Harrisonburg, and it was delicious.

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So at least my car ride from hell ended on a sweet note. Unfortunately, the driving isn’t over yet, as today I’m headed out to Annapolis! Luckily, it’s for a great reason — lunch with the bestest best coworkers ever! And at least I’ve got my DC counterpart Kimberly ridin’ shotgun and keeping me company. We miiiiight be going to the beach afterwards. Just sayin’.

At least this time I’ve learned my lesson and am giving us ample time to get there. Since I’m sure that even at noon on a Thursday, there will undoubtedly be traffic. Wish us (and Buttercup) luck, and see you on the flip!

Stormborn

Yes, that is a Game of Thrones reference. Yes, you should be ashamed if you can’t place it. Yes, you should go watch GoT right now if you haven’t seen it. If you have any power, that is.

So, last night was one of the single most terrifying experiences of my life. Granted, I know that might not be saying much considering I’m a staunchly middle class, fairly privileged, mostly-white person, but still. As you might already have heard (or experienced for yourself if you’re unlucky), Virginia, Maryland, DC, and much of the rest of the mid-Atlantic area was pounded by severe thunderstorms Friday night. And when I say severe, I mean SEVERE.

Technically, I’ve read that what we were hit with is called a “derecho“. Essentially, it’s a wall of successive thunderstorms all following each other in a line. We got winds up to (over?) 80 mph, an incredible amount of rain, and general mayhem.

And guess who was out driving when it started? Yep, this guy.

I was driving back from seeing “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”, which was quite a lovely movie, in my opinion, if not kind of emotionally traumatizing at the end. What it WAS, however, was quite possibly the absolute WORST movie to see before getting stuck in a torrential downpour (the movie is essentially about the armageddon). Also, I should probably note that our original intentions had been to see “Magic Mike”, but it was sold out. But I digress.

I was waiting at a stoplight when I saw the first signs of a storm that I had absolutely no idea to expect. I hadn’t heard anything about it (I freaking posted the weather in yesterday’s post, and it said 10% chance of rain. TEN PERCENT!), had no idea that anything was even amiss. Not until I saw that first dust cloud sweep across the road, that is. It was like something out a movie: a giant wall of sand and grit began hurling towards me. Lightning lit up the sky like fireworks, the bolts were flashing so frequently. The trees began to sway, violently. I heard the wind before I felt it, rushing through the trees like a steamroller before it finally hit my car. And when I say it hit it, I mean it HIT it. I felt it actually move my car.

My first thought was that I was about to be swept up into a tornado in my car, a la the movie “Twister”. My second set of thoughts was a mental battle about whether I should pull over or not. I was on a road that was lined with trees on either side, thrashing like crazy, so I ultimately decided that pulling over seemed less safe than continuing on. A few minutes later, the clouds opened up and the heavens rained down on us. Well, I guess technically the hail came first, crashing into my windshield along with leaves and twigs and road debris with a resounding “whack” that made me jump every time.

It was at about this time that I started to panic. Every time I started to cry, I had to tell myself to quit it because it only made it that much harder to see. The rain was pouring down with such intensity that my windshield wipers couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t see the lines in the road, only the tail lights of the car up ahead. I gripped the steering wheel so hard at this point that my forearms are actually a little bit sore today. I crawled along, keeping a fair distance behind the few cars that remained on the road. When the lights all suddenly went out, traffic lights included, I turned my hazards on, treated each stop light like a stop sign (see? I do remember things!) and prayed for the best.

Obviously, I did make it. I crumpled into a mess of tears and hyperventilation as soon as I stepped through the door, of course, but I made it. I consider it a miracle, considering how many downed trees, branches, and power lines there were. There are at least eight people in the DC metro area, however, that weren’t as lucky.

We, as well as the entire city of Falls Church and 1,000,000 people throughout Virginia, are without power. Today has seen record-breaking heat (but of course!). Rumors say it could be a week until power is restored, which is slightly staggering. I know that the power companies are doing all they can, considering the downed power lines they are having to repair, but it’s still a little disheartening. I snagged the dogs and took them to Sean’s place because he, miraculously, still has power and A/C.

I’m seeing a lot of “first world problems” jokes being tossed around on Facebook. And I know that in light of the Colorado fires and world hunger and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and every other global atrocity, this is not necessarily high on the logical complaint list. I’m not really complaining, I promise. I’m just telling the story of how I was personally traumatized by Mother Nature yesterday, and reporting the after-effects of the worst storm that this area has seen, well, probably ever. And people ask why I hate to drive.

For those of you who have been affected by the storm and subsequent power outages, I hope you’re finding a way to stay cool! Take special care of your pets, as they are far more easily affected by the heat than we are! Don’t leave them trapped in a steaming home (just like you would never leave them in a car, right?!) and make sure they have plenty of water. Stay hydrated yourselves, too!

Panic

So. Yesterday. Hrm.

You may have caught a few glimpses of how things were progressing on Facebook and Twitter.

I’ll sum up the events of the day in case you don’t want to wade through what is sure to be rather hysterical by saying this: the day was not a good one. And I have nobody to blame but myself, which just makes it worse (it’s always better when you can blame SOMEBODY else!)

The day started off innocuously enough. A bit rainy, a bit trafficky, but nothing I couldn’t handle. After all, I had started my day with toast smothered in Dark Chocolate Dreams so it couldn’t be that bad, right? Er, wrong.

Let’s start with the part where I am an idiot, and ventured out into the drizzle and rain (umbrella-less, of course, because only a sensible person would have brought an umbrella with them) to meet my dear friend Lizzie for lunch. We were all set to try a brand spankin’ new pizza place in Chinatown called District of Pi which I was obviously excited for, since I was willing to trudge through the doldrums to get there, haha. Of course, since this is me we’re talking about, upon arriving I was forced to come to the horrifying realization that we aren’t meeting for lunch until tomorrow.

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Womp. Womp.

Unwilling to shuffle my shame back to the metro and get even MORE wet (although at this point that probably wasn’t really possible), I took a cab back to the office in an attempt to run away from my own stupidity. But okay, I felt moronic and looked like a drowned rat, but all in all it wasn’t the worst thing. I was still in a mildly elevated mood, minus the being cold and wet thing, and the day was over halfway done at this point.

Enter my journey home.

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I’ve told you in the past how I don’t really like to drive. Blame it on the fact that I’m young, or that other people like crashing into me (they really do!), or that I’m a half-Asian woman driving a car with the turning radius of a military tank, but I just don’t really dig it. That being said, I have been driving to work lately because I discovered that A) it’s easy to drive to my office and B) the metro is so fracking expensive ($9 a day really adds up!)

Of course, the only reason I don’t actually mind driving is because my office is literally right across the street from the 395 ramp. The entirety of my commute is spent on the highway, and not trying to make sure I don’t turn the wrong way down a one-way street with tiny signs and stoplights on the side of the road instead of overhead. Yeah, I don’t really dig “regular” DC driving.

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So I’m sure you can all imagine my absolute delight when I learned that the massive amount of rain that has already half-ruined my day, has also flooded the highway and backed up traffic at my exit up the wazoo so I couldn’t even turn onto it. My boss had told me that there’s another on-ramp just up the street a little ways, so I headed in that direction to try to make my way back to the highway. I think you can imagine what happened next.

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What ensued was an hour of silently freaking out as I managed to get myself more and more lost in the streets of DC. Somehow I made my way from L’Enfant Plaza to the Mall, to Dupont Circle, to the weird little sideroad that follows alongside the Kennedy Center, all the while crushing my iPhone in my hand as I begged the Maps app to save me. Somewhere in my third traffic circle, I started tearing up (expected), hyperventilating (unsurprising), and shaking (unexpected). I couldn’t stop driving though — where was I going to pull over? — and somehow I finally made it back to a recognizable road.

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I pulled into my driveway and literally burst into tears, hahaha. Let’s just say I’ve never been so happy to see this face:

Wisdom

I really thought that the day’s chain of sucky events was going to send me tailspinning into a binge of epic proportions, but surprised even myself when I didn’t. Maybe I really am growing up. Instead of burying my crummy day in Baconators, I cuddled extra long with the dogs, took a real shower (since I’m not sure that being rainsoaked quite counts), and then made myself some “comfort” food:

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Still tweaking the recipe on this one, but my efforts resulted in a warm, creamy bowl of pasta which is just what I needed to nurse my emotional wounds a little.

Now if only the sun would come out.