Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Highway I-495's fearsome power is spelled D-I-E

January 5, 2012 - 12:20 PM
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Dread. (Photo: flickr/daquellamanera)

Did you ever notice that Highway I-495 spells out the word "die" if you translate the numbers into letters? The fourth letter of the alphabet is D, the ninth is I ... and so on.

That's creepy, right? I'm not the only one who thinks that? I googled a bit to see if people are talking about this ominous sign and found nothing. In the past, I've written about how people feared the highway in the D.C. region. In D.C., 495 comprises the dreaded Beltway. The 64-mile stretch of highway wraps around the District and has inspired gridlock-filled nightmares since 1958. In 1984, Popular Mechanics named the highway stretch one of the 10 scariest places to drive in America. Today, Urban Dictionary declares that I-495 is "an incoherent series of curves that appears as if the alleged designer simply said 'Screw it.'" As many as 225,000 vehicles ride the Beltway every day.

The fear remains today, and I've noticed that it even creeps into Yelp. The consumer review site does indeed feature an entry for the Beltway: "Interstate I-495 Capital Beltway."

How do people on Yelp rate the D.C. Beltway? 1.5 stars. Good for kids? No.  There are 16 reviews, which include the following testimonies from survivors:

• "In theory, the beltway is a good idea. In practice it fails miserably ... Burn in hell, Beltway, burn in hell."

• "VA drivers are basically stupid; MD drivers are basically stupid and reckless; DC drivers are despicable. Most of them do not know how to use that small stick on the left side of their steering wheel for lane changing indication. No concept of the left lane. Using cell and doing 45 on a 55 zone (I-495) is common."

(More testimonies and time-lapse video of the Beltway after the jump)

• "Oh 495 how much I hate you"

• "Die, Die Die!

"My house was in Woodbridge and my office in Falls Church...22 miles each way.. 2 hour commute each way....."

• "The beltway makes me want to effing go postal. Seriously. Traffic comes to a standstill for nothing, or for a bend. Then there's is the accident that causes another accident because everyone has to look at the first one. Ridonkulous!!!"

• "Is it wrong to weep over the fact that what should be a 25 minute commute to work always takes more than an hour, and sometimes a lot more than that?

"Is it weak to promise yourself as you walk to your car that THIS time you will remain calm and focused, and instead you succumb to an aneurysm of frustrated rage when the fourth person to cut you off without using their turn signal (OMG people, how freakin' hard is it to use that little freakin' wand sticking off the side of your damn steering column!!!! Are you trying to be mysterious???) forces you to slam on your brakes and come within kissing distance of the bumper in front of you, and you get the one-finger salute as thanks for not rear-ending said bumper? ... It eats my soul."

• "And what is with these seemingly mild mannered mini van moms rolling along at 90+ mph in the right lane? In a hurry to shuttle your little snotty nose twerp from violin lessons to soccer or something? And what is with all of the crotch rocket crash test dummies zooming up behind folks and swerving between the lanes? That's just ignorant. Haven't they seen the news stories of the carnage that can happen if a wreck occurs at those high speeds?"

• "I can't stand it but I need it. I hate it but I like it. I try to avoid it but I can't. It's the Beltway people we all know love it hate it. I must commute everyday on this to get to my office and everyday there is always some crap that occurs on it. TRAFFIC and lots of it. Why? I dunno."

Scared yet?

Yelp provides a beautiful window into this horrendous transportation nightmare and all the emotions that surround it. Do the descriptions make the Metro sound more appealing? I would hope so. I-495 provokes powerful emotions and powerful fears. Don't underestimate its mighty force or the hidden message of its numbers. Be careful out there, D.C. drivers. You've got one of the worst commutes in the country.

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