A couple of weekends ago, I stayed in Arlington, VA with a friend. That Sunday, I decided to go for a run. My friend suggested I run at the National Mall. I knew this to be a trendy DC/Northern Virginia thing to do and an excellent opportunity for both my Instagram and Snapchat story, so I took her advice. She also gave me her SmarTrip card to pay for the metro.
At the metro stop, the next train wasn't due for 11 minutes, and I needed to move. I began doing lunges in the silence of the platform. Meanwhile, passersby stood near me on their cell phones.
I swear I don't CrossFit, I imagined assuring these witnesses.
Eventually I boarded the train. When my exit stop came, I needed to swipe my friend's SmarTrip card at the turnstile. The turnstile kept blinking red, however. Others exited beside me.
Then it hit me: her card was out of money.
One of the turnstiles was defunct. While the security guard was distracted, I slipped through. But how would I get home? Oh, I know! Pick me! I'll run home.
Google Maps said it was 5.1 miles home, and I needed to turn left in 0.2 miles. That wasn’t too bad. Above ground, I saw the Washington Monument and the sweeping mall. I put in my headphones and leggo!
I turned left in 0.2 miles, then went straight for 0.5, then did some rights and some lefts. At some point I exited DC by way of a bridge. Not sure what bridge, but it had great views. I saw Arlington National Cemetery up ahead (this is where readers tell me the name of the bridge).
You can run in the cemetery. Right? A little weird, but not against the law. Right?
Either way, I planned to keep running. But then a traffic patroller waved me down.
Patroller: "You know you can't run in the cemetery?”
Me: "Is that so? Well, thankfully, I was planning on walking."
It couldn't be that far through the cemetery. I continued following Google Maps' directions. Once out of sight of guards and docents, I contemplated picking back up my tempo, but respect for the dead, y'all.
Fifteen minutes later, I was still walking. The good news was, I was 2.1 miles from home. But when did this cemetery end?
Ah, there! I see the gate ahead! Funny, there is no sidewalk exit, but there's a guardhouse and a road. I'll just walk around.
I continued briskly strolling, headphones in, and passed the guardhouse. Several milliseconds passed before I heard shouting:
I turned and faced a fully armed patrolman at the guardhouse.
Guard: "Sir, do you have a military ID?"
*looks both directions*
Me: "No. No, I do not."
Guard: "Sir, this is a military base. You can't be on it."
Me: "Ohmigawd. I had no idea. Google Maps told me this is the way. I must have made a mistake." Thank you for not shooting me.
I retraced my steps to behind the guardhouse. Google Maps continued to look like I should go straight, but it must mean I should take a left. I walked down the road to the left.
Google Maps: "Make a U-turn."
Google Maps wasn't kidding. I was supposed to go through the military base. Just a slight problem.
I tried zooming out on the map to circumvent the base. Except the military base hugged the cemetery pretty much like a coffin around a body; there were no alternate routes.
This is great. I am at least a mile from the cemetery entrance, and that won't even help me since I don't know where to go from there.
I recalled my friend Justin lived two miles from this cemetery. Maybe if I went there, then I could navigate further.
Issue: I had to walk.
Unless, does Uber pick up in the back of cemeteries?
I texted Justin on my walk over: "Hi, are you home? I'm trying to get to Ballston, but Google Maps will only direct me through a military base, and I don't have that sort of clearance so I'm trying to figure out my life. I'm also hungry."
Even once I made it out of the cemetery - a total of 35 minutes of walking! - Google Maps insisted I go back and through the military base.
I half-ran, 0.499-limped, .0001-walked to Justin's apartment. In the elevator up to his place, I could smell myself. The sun was also beginning to set.
Google Maps said I had 2.0 miles from here to Ballston. Ironic since it had been 2.1 miles at the back of the cemetery, and I had come two miles since then.
In Justin's apartment I found brownies and cupcakes. He sat at his table filling out something for work. I scarfed down a brownie before asking, "How do I get home?"
Justin: "You just go straight down the boulevard. Follow the northern star."
He didn't say that last sentence.
Me: "Okay. I got it. I gotta run. Get it? Bye!"
Outside the sky was pink. I had been gone for two hours. I could do this.
I surged down the boulevard. Each block ticked away. 1.9 miles, 1.8 miles, 1.7 miles. A car cut me off. I persevered.
Outside my friend's apartment, finally at my destination, my friend called me. "Are you okay? You've been gone forever."
Me: "Yeah, I'm coming right up. Do I have a story for you!"
Before I started the story, I handed her the empty SmarTrip card
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