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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Broadlands Vigilante

I live in a quiet, unassuming neighborhood in Ashburn, VA called The Broadlands. Thirty miles northeast of D.C. - it's a place where children play in the streets and neighbors call each other friends. All in all - a great place to raise a family - amidst the neighborhood block parties, community pools and beautiful running paths and trails.

There's a kind of joviality that can only exist when you place large homes in such tight quarters that you can spit on your neighbor's crepe myrtle from your driveway.

Some people call it suburban hell. But me? I fondly call it home.

But behind the smiling faces, behind the laughter of the children riding their bikes in the street lurks a horror that we never knew existed before we moved here. Something so shocking, neither John nor I could foresee the evil until we were settled into our cul-de-sac.

My friends, I am talking about the driving.

Nobody warned us about the dangers of the abundant four way stop signs or the over-aggressive soccer moms, both of which seem to go precariously hand in hand. Why have traffic lights when you can have people drive up to busy four way intersections and use good judgement and the honor system to decide who goes next? In a MAJOR, METROPOLITAN area.

Well - because that would actually make sense.

You see that docile, sweet lady in the Juicy Couture sweats? The one with the pretty, expensive highlights? Well she will RUN YOU OFF THE ROAD if you make her late dropping her kids off at the ice skating rink. So smile at her in the checkout line at Harris Teeter but you better STAY THE HELL out of her way once you pull out of the parking lot.

In a town close to the Dulles Technology corridor, many of my own peeps have settled down and while I am proud to say they can probably write kick ass code, I have been almost run off the road by my own more times than I can say. Since I moved to Ashburn, DWI means something totally different. Driving While Indian has become a reality of our every day life.

A few years ago - I was turning out of our neighborhood onto a 45 mile an hour road to get to a major throughway. As I was turning, I realized a car that was already established on the road was coming at me with alarming speed. As I completed my turn and accelerated to 45 mph - I looked in my rear view mirror and realized that the car was gaining distance and must have been going at least 65 mph.

I identified the car as a Honda Accord and allowed it to pass me, as I didn't trust the driver. The driver made a series of aggressive, jerky moves which caused me to question whether he/she could be drunk. But it was a Tuesday morning and I highly doubted this was alcohol induced.

But you know what? NOW I WAS PISSED OFF. How dare this person drive in my neighborhood with so little regard to the speed limit? How dare they so blatantly disrespect all traffic laws?

And how dare you CUT ME OFF before I have had my morning coffee?

I wanted to see who was in the car. I had already villified this person by about 100 so I wanted to know who was STOMPING ON THE DREAMS of the neighborhood children and threatening their safetly. (It was a school day and I don't think there were any kids around, but it's really the principle I am getting at).

I had almost caught up to the car when it pulled off to take the Dulles Toll Road towards Washington, D.C. Cool Beans. I was going that way so maybe I could see who this person was. I bet this person was one of those people who gave kids crappy Halloween candy or didn't give volunteer firemen money at those traffic intersections. I could just tell.

Now, I know it sounds a teeny bit like road rage at this point. But it's not. I was just performing a civic duty.

So as I went about my civic duty and made sure I stayed behind that car going East on the Dulles Toll Road, I realized that the person was nervously looking in their rearview mirror and was TRYING TO LOSE ME. Which makes sense, but at this point, I had invested too much in this and after all, we were headed in the same direction - and I just wanted to see THE FACE OF EVIL that had stomped on the safety of my future children.

Crazy right? Yeah. So I realized that and as the traffic thickened, I gave up and pulled back. This was ridiculous! What had I become? But as I got ready to pull off my exit for Centreville Road/Herndon, I realized the car was also pulling off onto the same exit. It was a two lane exit, and the Accord was in the left lane waiting in a queue to turn left at the light, whereas I had to go right.

As I pulled up alongside the Accord and slowly made to pass it, I looked over and saw that the driver was an Indian woman (Holla!), probably just a few years older than me and was clenching her steering wheel in terror. She nervously looked in my direction and looked back at the road . . . looked at me and looked back at the road. I guess I had her attention. I looked over, shook my head at her and shook my finger, admonishing her for her recklessness.

"Uh, uh uh." Which translates to "Oh no you DIDN'T Girlfriend."

And with that, I drove to work. Boy, did I tell her.

This experience empowered me. I realized that I had a duty to make the roads of Broadlands safe for my fellow neighbors. That feeling increased tenfold once Shaila was born and I had a child in the car with me. Now when someone cut me off, or almost accidentally swerved into me because they were texting, they were not only jeopardizing me but my, I MEAN my daughter's dreams of going to Harvard, being a valedictorian and a concert cellist.

One night, after picking my daughter up from daycare, we were driving back home when a car aggressively overtook my car.


It was only about a mile away from my neighborhood when this happened, so as I swerved around cars and made sure I stayed on the tail of this car, I realized it was actually headed into my own neighborhood.

And then - the weirdest thing happened.

At the next four way stop sign (I swear, Ashburn gives them out like freaking candy), the car gained some distance on me. I could still make it out, when it pulled into the parking lot of the elementary school, parked and turned off the lights. Far, far away from the school and near nothing else. And then I realized.

The driver was hiding from me.

With that, all the adrenalin left my system and I was disgusted with myself. I drove by and decided that I had had enough of my vigilante/enforcement days. Let someone else carry that burden - it was too much for me. With my daughter in the car, I was chasing down people to make sure they drove safer? Somewhere along the way, I had lost perspective.

So I retired my red satin cape with the BV (Broadlands Vigilante) on it, as well as the matching one I had special ordered for Shaila. No, I am kidding - I never got those. But seriously, how cute would those have been?

I'll admit that I went a little overboard in my zeal to keep the streets of this neighborhood safe, but I have backed off now. But if you ever drive up Ridgeway Drive and are going much faster than the requested 25 mph, just be careful.

Cuz I'm still watching ;-)


Mangesh Chaudhari said...
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Mangesh Chaudhari said...
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