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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Gridlock at the Library

A web page on The Washington Post site captures one of the most important jobs of Ron Shaffer, the traffic columnist more commonly known as Dr. Gridlock, when it says “Dr. Gridlock offers therapy for that most intimate relationship: the one between you and your commute.”

Dr. Gridlock offers much more than tips on the best hours to take the inner loop or the outer loop. I remember reading Dr. Gridlock as a high school student, studying harder to get my learner’s permit than I was for my classes, and gaining more knowledge about how to handle the roads than I did from my driving instructors and Department of Motor Vehicles manuals. What stood out about learning from Dr. Gridlock was that it was simply so much fun. He never missed an opportunity to interject some humor into the often frustrating experience of driving in the Washington area.

He also offered valuable advice on road etiquette and how to defuse tense situations. In addition, I learned from Dr. Gridlock that a downside of playing the Indigo Girls and Guns N’ Roses at full volume was that I could not hear the horns blaring at me from behind. Also: not to eat hot soup and, most importantly, not to shave while driving in my car.

As I began commuting from my home to college classes on the other side of the Beltway, Dr. Gridlock’s tips for safe ways to calm yourself and find a diversion in traffic became helpful (Tip: Don’t try to read Dr. Gridlock in traffic, especially not on your Blackberry).

There are some online resources out there. The Virginia Department of Transportation, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary next year, offers a number of cool online resources for the commuter, including maps on lane closures, incidents, and views of roadways from traffic cameras. And Google just gets ridiculous with the traffic check plug-in to its desktop sidebar. Even though the Internet has all these wonderful resources, there’s something to be said for the advice of a homespun traffic columnist who knows how to find each and every piece of the now-infinitely chopped up Braddock Road.

Join us at 1:30 p.m. on December 2 at the Lorton Library and ask Dr. Gridlock questions directly (instead of hoping to be one of the few letter writers he gets the chance to respond to in his column). You can discuss anything from the best way to respond to hand gestures on roadways to the best way to get from Reston to Fort Belvoir at 2 p.m. on Mondays. I’ll be there for all those reasons, but most importantly to thank Dr. Gridlock for years of advice that kept me -- just barely -- out of the traffic section of the Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court!

Guest Blogger, Jayson Blair

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