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When I Blocked Three Lanes of Traffic

March 30, 2019

Photo by By DrTorstenHenning – Own work, CC0, plaza of the Dulles Greenway, westbound, photographed from LH flight 418 approaching Dulles Airport

Another Way for week of March 29. 2019

When I Blocked Three Lanes of Traffic

Yes I was that car.

You saw me trying to inch my way across three lanes of traffic.

I was the silly grandma from the Shenandoah Valley heading to metropolitan Washington D.C. in Friday morning rush hour, on the Dulles Greenway and Dulles Toll Road. It is used by thousands of commuters every day. I was headed there to help my daughter get ready to go back to work (sorting baby clothes, etc.) after her last maternity leave.

This is a little of how my inner drama went that morning:

Wow this toll road is really great!

No semi’s. Ahhhh. What a way to drive. Not like Interstate 81 down our Valley where you either have to stay in the passing lane and go around all the trucks, or get wedged between two semis and stay there fearing for your life but at least avoiding darting in and out.

This is sweet. I wonder what it costs. Oh well, whatever. I’ll just pay it.

Maybe I should invest in an EZ pass thingy someday, so I can just whiz through those toll plazas.

I wonder what lane I need to be in anyway. There will surely be signs telling me.

At least I avoided the major back up that was inches long on my Google maps screen over on I-66. No siree bob, didn’t want to get in that mess and maybe miss seeing the older grandsons off to preschool and daycare.

Ah there’s the toll plaza. Panic! Which lane should I be in?

Rats! Way over there? In the lane farthest to the right, and here I am three to the left?

This is when my husband would bellow, “Well I can’t make that now! Too late! Forget it!”

This is when I have no choice because I can’t get stuck in the EZ pay lane without a pass. There is no human handling poor novice commuters like me. I flick my right blinker on.

Other drivers are still whizzing up their lanes, way too fast for me to scoot in front of them, suicide-like.

Ah, I manage to inch over one lane. Two more to go, slowly rolling ever closer to the point of no return. People behind me will be getting mad. Cussing. Honking.

Another opening, I dart over. There goes the first horn.

One more lane. Will I make it? Will someone T-bone me? I am now totally perpendicular to the lane of traffic, blocking it fully. I’m a little shocked I don’t hear more horns. The unlucky pickup I’m blocking must come from the country too, he’s waiting!! He’s letting me cross. I lean forward and flash him the biggest wave in the semi-darkness I can manage, as thanks. He did his good deed for the month! Saved by a sweet pickup truck driver letting me budge the line. I wish for the flashing sign my husband wants to invent with which you could alternately say “Thank you” or “So sorry” or “Where’d you get YOUR license?”

I finally wiggle my minivan into the credit card line where there is a glorious grandmotherly human, a woman wearing a hijab.

I say “credit card ok?”. Duh.

She nods, eyes creasing into a smile. I slide my card in. The screen says $7.15. Huh? But it’s worth it to be here, paying my way out of that heart-racing horror. But now I can’t get my credit card out! Where did it go? It is too dark for me to see the place where my card should be spit out.

My helper reaches out of her window, grabs the credit card from the place where I put it in. I collect the receipt, gush “thank you!”, and get out of there as fast as I can. Breathing a prayer for safekeeping, for a human helper, for the man in the pickup truck.

And then I laugh. Did I really just cross three lanes of traffic with mere feet to go before the last metal-looking (but probably bendable) traffic separators blocked my escape? Somehow, yes. Somehow, good Lord, thank you.

(Later I learn that if you pass through most toll plazas without paying, they will either send you a notice, or you can go online and often pay without penalty if you pay on time. Had I known these options, I might have just zoomed through and then paid. Much safer!)


See the toll plaza online here:

What is your hair-raising traffic/travel story? I think I’d love to hear! Perhaps I’ll use your story here. Send to or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

Photo by By DrTorstenHenning – Own work, CC0,

Toll plaza of the Dulles Greenway, westbound, photographed from LH flight 418 approaching Dulles Airport



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  1. Dear Brave Lady, of course I can relate. At least you didn’t smash any traffic cones! 🙂

    • Believe it or not, I did think of you and your escapade in my moments of panic. 🙂 And I checked a traffic lane post near our office to learn it was indeed bendable at the bottom.

  2. Oh yikes! That’s why I don’t drive into Dallas. I’ve gotten too used to our almost rural traffic out here midway between Dallas and Fort Worth. I’ve turned into a big chicken.
    Glad you made it safely – and with an amazing lack of irate horn honking!

    • I’m determined to keep driving in city traffic to see my kids/grandkids as often as they’ll have me! But it is definitely less daunting when there are two of us together: one driving, the other one keeping track of the voices and turns and advice on GPS AND Google Maps AND a city map when in doubt. 🙂

  3. OH my !!! I totally understand the dilemma about toll roads. We lived in that area for years and know about the EZ pass, etc. I am thankful you are safe. 🙂

    • You are sweet to applaud my safety in those moments. I’ve learned a thing or two: now if I don’t forget! Thanks for checking in here!

  4. Beverly Silver permalink

    I don’t like I-81 and almost never use it and I sure would’nt try to use the interstates to DC. I used to drive from Hburg to Syracuse in one day on the interstates – but some how I think the traffic was not as heavy then! Good for you to keep on doing it!

    • Beverly, I certainly don’t blame you for staying off 1-81–and yes the traffic has gotten so much heavier in the last 10-15 years. Glad you could read this: talking to my mother last night, she reads this in her paper, and she said she laughed and laughed and laughed some more–not at my predicament I don’t think, but the writing/way I told the story. As a writer, you can take almost any unwanted experience and turn it into a piece of writing–or a sermon if I was a pastor!

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