O Honda, Where Art Thou?

Lost and stranded in Washington, DC, with no car, no map and no cell phones.

There are few things my fiancé likes better than to squire me around his native Washington, DC. At least once a month, B and I venture into the District, weaving our way through museums and monuments and theater festivals while he proclaims “I love this city!” at random intervals. I had to agree — I loved it too. We hadn’t had a bad date yet, always finding something fun to explore.

That all changed last month on our trip to the National Zoo.

The zoo itself was breezy and peaceful and pleasant and all of the things that a date to the zoo ought to be, but by the time we had seen everything, I was aching from all of the uphill hiking. Then we had to trudge several blocks more from the zoo to the Metro station, and then another several blocks to where B’s car was parked.

“I am sooo ready to go home,” I wheezed as we neared our destination.

B didn’t respond. He had frozen, staring at the street before us. I looked too, not quite figuring out what he was looking at. I couldn’t see anything there.

“What?” I asked.

“Where’s the car?”

And then I realized. I couldn’t see anything there because there wasn’t anything there. The Honda was gone. Upon a closer investigation of the street, B spotted a sign that we hadn’t seen earlier. Any car left on the avenue after 4 p.m. was subject to be towed.

B quickly jotted down the phone number to the towing company and we were off in search of what must be the last remaining pay phone in DC. Because, oh yeah, we had both forgotten to pack our cell phones. Now, we were carless and phoneless and digging for quarters in our pockets.

We found a phone a few blocks away, and after being put on hold for several small eternities, B spoke to someone who informed us that the car had been moved and was now located at 1200 Virginia Avenue Northwest.

We struck out, hailing unsuccessfully for taxi after taxi until we found one in the middle of an intersection who waved us over. We scrambled into traffic and into the backseat, happy to be off of our feet.

“Where to?” the cab driver asked us as he began to drive.

“1200 Virginia Avenue Northwest,” B reported.

And then things got even worse.

The cabbie, who had been driving aimlessly up to this point, freaked out and told us that there was no such address. He ranted and raved about the layout of the city and how Virginia Avenue starts at the 1700 block and how we had been lied to. He got on his car phone to call the towing company and began screaming at the first unlucky soul who answered. Swerving all over the road and being honked at from all sides, he pitched the phone into the backseat. B grabbed it and got an earful from the towing person, who shrieked that we were crazy and to just go to Virginia Avenue like we were told. The cab driver kept making illegal maneuvers and ranting about our apparently nonexistent destination. Even other taxi drivers were honking their horns at him. Terrified and not wanting to upset our manic driver further, I pulled out my notebook.

“Can we get out now?” I scribbled to B.

He glanced at our driver and then out the window.

“PLEASE,” I wrote, underlining it twice.

He nodded and got the guy to pull over, throwing a wad of money at him and hustling the two of us back onto solid ground. I was happy to still be alive, but not happy to find that we had been dropped off somewhere in Southwest. And nasty gray storm clouds were rolling above our heads. We went down into a nearby metro station to look at the map and figure out where we were. We decided to strike out on foot and get ourselves up to Northwest to find the street.

We walked across the city in silence, holding hands tightly and staring straight ahead as we plodded over stretches of concrete. My shins were throbbing with pain and I had blisters forming under my toes, but I was on autopilot. We had to get to Virginia Avenue. We had to get to the car.

Finally, we made it to Virginia Avenue, but we found out that our crazed cabbie had actually been right. There was no 1200. The street began at 1700, and we were utterly lost. We were about to try to make a collect call to my parents to get a ride back to our townhouse when we happened upon our salvation in the form of an old, gray-bearded taxi driver.

After unloading our whole tale on him, the kind gentleman pulled out his cell phone and told us to call the towing company again.

“Yup, 1200 Virginia Avenue,” we were told after being put on hold a few more times.

“Look,” B said, “I am literally standing on Virginia Avenue right now, and the 1200 block doesn’t exist.”

After being put on hold again, we got an answer. All along, they meant that the car was on 1200 Vermont Avenue Northwest. Vermont. A street that was literally one block from where we started three hours earlier. I was too exhausted to even feel angry. B and I piled into the taxi and headed to the correct street.

“There it is!” I cried, pointing frantically to the car as our driver pulled over.

“Thank you thank you thank you,” B gushed, pressing a $20 bill into our cab driver’s hand. “Keep the change.”

I could have hugged that wonderful Honda, if I weren’t in such a hurry to get the heck out of the city. We both leaped inside, heaving ourselves into the seats in relief. We sat for a moment before bursting into exhausted giggles. It was the only thing to do.

“I hate DC,” I said.

“I know,” B chuckled. “You took the words right out of my mouth.”

Article © 2008 by Molly E. Weeks