19 April 2005


So, I'm going to go visit a client in Alexandria. Alexandria is a part of this place up around DC which everyone in the rest of Virginia refers to as NoVa (variously translated as "not Virginia," "non-Virginians," or Northern Virginia). The rest of the Commonwealth pictures this section as the place where endless amounts of money is poured down the drain in unending highway projects that benefit no one important (only NoVans). Anyway, it's a place most sane Virginians avoid but I grew up in Kentucky so I don't know any better - and I don't seem able to learn.

I leave home before 4 p.m. I have all the directions and the jail is actually on the way to RFK stadium. If I hit the jail a little before 6 I can make the stadium at 7 and watch the Nationals. In no time at all I am burning rubber, heading North.

[note: At this point I want to thank those Yankees who travel I95 for guaranteeing that if I keep my vehicle under 80 mph no trooper is ever going to notice my slow-poking vehicle. In particular I want to thank those of ya'll from New York and New Jersey who seem to think that "Speed Limit 65" means that speeds are limited to those above 65 and that a healthy margin of error should be left so that you cannot accidentally get within 10 mph of the speed limit. And the shifting back and forth between the three lanes until there is 2" of clearance through which you can squeeze your car and zip off is simply amazingly adept driving (worthy of NASCAR even).]

Anyway, after driving for about 2 hours I hit NoVa. I start looking for my turn off onto 495E. I spot it. I try to get over. I fail. So, the next turn off I get off so I can go back. But noooo, that doesn't work. I end up going miles in the wrong direction until I try the same thing with this secondary highway (and get the same result). I find myself driving through Fairfax on a road I'm pretty sure is taking me the right direction. Then I find myself in Arlington (no, not the cemetery). I stop at a couple gas stations to try and buy a map. At the first the Indian clerk doesn't understand a word I say; at the second the Indian clerk points me right to his $40 map books (which I buy).

For the next little while I sit with that book and figure out how to get to the stadium (yes, I am male and refuse to ask directions). It's too late for the jail so I'm going straight to the stadium. It turns out I am going the right direction and all I have to do is go a little further, catch a secondary highway, cross some bridge in memorial to someone, and follow Independence in a straight line through the city to RFK. And it works until I get half way through the city, look up, and realize that without making any turns at all I'm on Pennsylvania. So I backtrack and find out that the road which is straight as an arrow in my brand new $40 map book actually makes a left turn at some point after the government buildings. Silly me, I didn't make the left turn on the straight road. Anyway, once I find Independence again it's a straight shot to the stadium.

I get parked and head up to the stadium. The lady runs the scanner over my printout (ticket by internet) and says, "Honey, your ticket is for tomorrow." What? Aw crud. She's right. I must have clicked on something wrong when I bought the ticket. However, it's too late now so I go over to the trailer where tickets are being sold. I got directions to the correct area and was looking for actual ticket booths but quickly started to think that that trailer over there with people in the windows was probably ticket sales (nobody was in line but why else would it be there). At first I think about seeing if I can exchange my ticket but after starting to talk with the lady selling tickets I decided it was not going to be worth it. The lady didn't understand what I meant when I walked up to her window and asked "Tickets?" I actually have to put some effort into getting her to understand and sell me a $15 ticket.

I get in and go up to the 500 level, shoo a guy out of my seat, and then go down and buy the obligatory hotdog and Nationals t-shirt before returning to my seat. The game is pretty good. The Nats go nuts in the 7th and win 9-3. The seats in the upper level are tiered steeply enough that you can see everything and they're close enough to enjoy the game. Of course, next time I will bring ear protection because up there you're just a little too close to the speakers. Of course, as is always true in the cheap seats half the fun is in watching the crowd. Most of the entertainment was in watching three guys running around with no shirts painted red, white, and blue (each his own color) trying to get us all to do the wave. I think it took them about 1 1/2 hours but sometime in the 8th they got it to go around the stadium 3 times. After that we just ignored them.

So the game ends and I spend the next hour trying to get a hotel room. Two hotels are right near the jail but they're both full. The only good thing about stopping at them is that I see the road the jail's on; I look down the road and, sure enough, I see institutional architecture. Finally I find a hotel further down the way and the next morning I sleep in because I know where I'm going.

But, of course, when I get there I find out that the institutional building I saw at the dead end of Mill Road is a post office and there ain't nothing else there. Over the next 45 minutes of driving I find out that there are no less than 3 (possibly 4) Mill Roads within a 2 mile radius - none of which connect. However, I finally find the "Public Safety Center" hidden behind a swank apartment complex and a fancy glass office building. At first I'm confused by the name but seeing fences everywhere and a building with very thin windows I realize that this has got to be the jail. However, when I go to check in it's 11:05 and visitation doesn't start again until later in the day. Darn. Looks like I'll have to find something to do and I just happen to have a ticket to the Nationals game. Don't throw me in that briar patch . . .

So off I go. I get a little lost again but find the stadium in plenty of time. I find one of the elusive DC caps that everybody is trying to buy; everybody in line both Saturday and Sunday was trying to buy stuff with the DC logo and settling for that silly cursive W if they couldn't. This time I'm in the 200 section down low. Unfortunately these seats aren't tiered very steeply and the guy and gal sitting in front of me are both 9' tall. I spend the game peering around them. Still, it's fun and the people down here aren't acting too silly. I guess more expensive tickets get you a certain amount of decorum. Not that this meant the people sitting around me were the greatest baseball fans. The lady in front of me was in her cups by the 5th and I heard another guy ask if the Nationals would get to bat in the 9th if they were behind. But he didn't have to worry, the Nats went nuts in the 7th and won 7-3.

The game is over by 4 p.m. so I have three hours to kill. I go to the monsterplex-mega movie theater just up the street from the jail, buy my ticket from the computer, ride the escalator up high enough to start worrying about nose bleeds, and watch Miss Congeniality 2 (a decent matinee time killer). It gets out at five 'til seven.

At 7 p.m. I arrive at the Public Safety Center just as visitation hours start. I walk around the perimeter to the gate and get buzzed through. Then I'm standing outside a small brick building. The door buzzes and I go in where there's one deputy standing there to check me in. For the life of me I can't shake the feeling I'm in an old spy movie trying to get through Checkpoint Charley. After she checks me through, she buzzes me through a door on the other side and tells me to follow the side walk. As if I had a choice. Both sides of the sidewalk have a wrought iron fence next to them and I'm funneled into the building at the end. No one is there. I turn right like I was told to and walk through a museum and reach a door with a buzzer and get buzzed in. Then I'm in a lobby with a guy in civilian clothes who's locked in a glass box. He checks my papers again and then sends me up an elevator to meet with my client. After I spend a hour or so visiting my client I go back down and the guy in the glass box buzzed me out of his area and I walked back out and down the sidewalk. This time I don't go through the little brick guardhouse because the way out is through a one way rotating iron gate and then the outer chain link fence gate. Then I drove the 2 hours back home.

Just thought I'd let you know what kind of sacrifices I go through to visit my clients . . .


ambimb said...

Your dedication to the pursuit of justice here is truly fantastic. ;-) But I'm a little unclear about why you have clients housed all the way up in Alexandria. Is this a federal case?

Anonymous said...

Ouch, as a fellow Kentuckian native I feel for you. Makes me wish for the days of Riverfront Stadium in Cinicnnati, cross the bridge turn right and you're there. Course we called Riverfront, the ashtray by the Ohio River, but it was easy to find.

Gus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gus said...

Ahh good old NoVa. Having spent a decade and a half growing up there -- including leaning how to drive on 495 -- it brings back memories. I just wish that we'd had a ball team of our own back then.

If it makes you feel better about the driving, the first time I ever went in to DC I got ``lost." It took me 3 hours to make what's normally a 15 minute drive back to my high school. The problem was that there was a detour to get onto 395 headed out of the city. All of the signs were there, except for the last one (that told you to where the on ramp was!). After following the signs in a big 45 minute loop twice, one of my passenges saw the sign sitting there on the side of the road; we managed to get onto 395 on the third pass. Then we managed to get onto the wrong Braddock Rd -- yep, there were two -- which fact we didn't realise until we reached the end of it.

But, as with your story, all was not for naught. I got to see my first drug deal go down. But that's a story for another day.


Zerin Hood said...

Such dedication. Two baseball games and a movie. You sure suffer. Now if you could get those activities and the hotel paid for by the state, that would be the ultimate sacrifice.

Ken Lammers said...

No way I can charge the hotel room. However, I think about 80% of the gas is because of my trip up to see my client. And make no mistake, the reason for the trip was to see my client but I planned on going to see a ball game after the client visit. If I'm going to spend 2 hours driving up and 2 driving back and at least a hour visiting my client all for the kingly sum of $395 (for this and all else done in prep for a case) I thought I might as well find something fun to do up there.

ambib - Nope, it's a State case. Alexandria just charged my client first so they've got him under lock and key.

Anonymous said...

You don't even drive close on those roads - come and actually drive IN NY or NJ sometime < grin >

The reason they are driving that fast is there is so much ROOM