Friday, July 13, 2012

Slugging Along in DC Metro

Traffic, slugs, and the cycle of life
by Kristine Meldrum Denholm

I was a slug-picker-upper. It was about a decade ago, but I remember those late afternoons: the frenzied dart onto southbound I-95 followed by an abrupt halt at the Pentagon to grab my people, my slugs.

They succumbed wearily into my car, as I aided and abetted two unknown Feds everyday into my 2- door Saturn coupe with promises of a quick getaway in the HOV-3 lanes rocketing down to the Potomac Mills area.

Though they uttered a few sighs when it came to comfort in my file-cabinet sized car, their small talk seemed acceptable, so we ventured into the highway of life together.

Swapping an occasional story was usually pleasant, though sometimes stinky (by that hour deodorant and defenses were worn down). There was the 7-foot man who wasn't happy to be in my car, but still managed to read the paper; the 20-something woman who chatted my transmission off but was so kind, and the 40-something man who didn't want to utter a syllable, not to be outdone by Grumpy, who didn't like the agency I worked for.

(I also remember when no one wanted to be my slug because I was nine months pregnant, which labeled me "unpredictable", in a let's-not-have-a-baby-on-rush-hour-95-sort of way.)

I usually didn't say too much to my slugs, because I wanted these slugs, selfishly needed them, and I didn't want to get a bad slug reputation. (Being deemed Talkative was akin to Bad Driver.)

Slugs feed on each other, and I didn't want to be branded in the slug community, which would only result in a decreased selection of slug riders and lobbying against me. Plus, by the end of the day in my job in a press office, I was pretty much done with talking.

And so went a life of slugdom.

Fast forward 10 years, and though slug-ism should be a distant memory, it's not.

I sit in car pool lines now, waiting on my three children at two different schools.

I spend entire quarters of an hour waiting in the line, speed-reading the newspaper leads, jotting to-do lists or thank you notes, writing story ideas, but always using my time judiciously, a characteristic which never left me from my Washington days, because we all know what we secretly think of idle (read:wasted) time.

It occurred to me in one of these car pool lines, that my life is strikingly similar to my old life as a picker-upper, slug section.

The car's still a Saturn, but now a four-door Vue. The kids sometimes want to talk about their day, and sometimes don't, particularly if it involves my interrogations -- and they don't give me a dime for 20th ride.

I'm a free chauffeur to them, yet I cultivate their potential.

Like slugs, I want them to want and need my ride. They don't necessarily appreciate it, but they're intent on getting from point A to point B quickly.

I'm satisfied with this quid-pro-quo arrangement. I'm getting to know their tales pretty well, though I admit to tuning out some of the finer points.

Do I need to hear a play-by-play on Joey throwing up at lunch?

So we form a slug-like alliance: I pick them up from school and they tell me their stories.

Or they tell each other their stories, and I eavesdrop. They poke each other because they're not comfortable sitting together, but they put up with it, and surprisingly they don't deck each other in my backseat.

And today, when we arrive home with a few extra minutes on our side, I announce, "We got one whole half-hour! We now have more time for homework!"

The groans are drowned by my mental to-do list. I remember their basketball practice tonight and contemplate how to squeeze in homework and dinner before practice.

"So, what do you guys say we hit the drive-thru line?"


When she's not Head Chauffeur, WbtR member Kristine Meldrum Denholm is a published freelance journalist and humor columnist. Her bylined work has appeared in Police Magazine,, Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Dog's Life, Cleveland Family Magazine, NJ Family Magazine, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, WOW! Women on Writing,, and many other outlets.

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