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Commuter Crush: Love is a Battlefield

Introducing Mike O’Neill, a Washington, DC-based communications consultant and 10-year area resident. He provides the ‘ying’ male perspective to fellow contributor Kat Haselkorn’s ‘yang’ on dating and commuting in the DMV. Mike’s first column explains how he tries to defy the immutable nature of DC traffic to greet his date at the right place and on time.

I’m pretty proud of myself. Actually, I’m really damn proud of myself.

Mike O’Neill

Mike O'Neill

Earlier this week I matched with a lovely lady on Hinge, and she agreed to meet for drinks at Convivial on 8:00. I will leave work by 5:00, arrive home at 5:30, finish my run at 6:30, and be ready to leave at 7:00. The Oracle at Google informed me that it should take just under 30 minutes to Uber from Arlington to Shaw, so I’ll have a half-hour buffer to deal with any unexpected contingencies.

In fact, I plan on arriving early so I can order my date’s favorite glass of wine and have it waiting on the table before she arrives: enchanting her with my charm and thoughtfulness. Clearly, this will be the most brilliant operation since General Patton’s lighting advance into Germany. With victory assured, I began entertaining visions of glory that always concluded with some form of passionate embrace. Unfortunately, I failed to take into account the crucial constant of DC traffic; a blunder so obvious that it rivals the disastrous Schlieffen Plan.

You need a PhD in applied mathematics before you could even attempt to predict the chaos of the traffic around here. And I definitely don’t have a PhD in any kind of math since I had to repeat calculus after I stared at the blackboard all year with glazed-over-eyes as the teacher droned on like Ben Stein about derivatives and parabolas.

That’s why at 7:52 I’m counting the number of windows on the side of the Pentagon while cursing my hubris, and not enjoying an evening of amorous affection. That insipidly romantic dream had been crushed by the cruelly dispassionate force known as reality that regularly manifests itself in the form of DC traffic.

The military strategist Helmuth von Moltke the Elder developed a theory of war that can be distilled into one maxim: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” If I had paid more attention to my Marine Corps instructors I would have remembered to apply this principle during my date preparations.

So learn from my painful experience and let this be a teachable moment as you continue on your quest for love: Be prepared to battle against implacable traffic, and never underestimate your foe’s intensity. Don’t doom yourself from the outset by failing to mitigate known risks. One good rule of thumb is to give yourself twice the amount of time you think it will take to travel somewhere. Even less than stellar students can remember that.

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