Category Archives: Backstory blog

My journalist’s blog hosted by Times Community Media.

Five rules of the road in Northern Virginia

I have this theory that only rush hour drivers know how to drive in Virginia.
This statement was backed up by my dad and several other friends who drive
nearly 60 miles a day during the week and also hit the roads on the weekends.
Drivers who come out during drag hours (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) are not keen to the
rules of the road, I’ve decided. Since I drive to interview sources quite
frequently, I am privy to rush hour and drag hour drivers.

Drag hour drivers are usually in non-fuel efficient cars. They also tend to
be carrying more than themselves in the driver’s seat. They don’t have coffee
mugs glued to their hands, but cell phones tacked to their ears. They drive
slowly, scared-like, and dependent on their GPS. They need my help.

Rush hour drivers want you to help you. Here is what it takes to make it on
our highways:

1. Drive slightly above the speed limit. No, I don’t want you to get
pulled over for speeding – this is why I say slightly. In the mornings and
evenings when traffic is actually moving, its an unwritten law that all drivers
go 65 mph in a 55 mph zone. Why is this? Because it’s dangerous to not be going
the same speed as the hundreds of cars enveloping you. I’ve seen people be
rear-ended for going 45 mph in a 55 mph zone. It’s actually really dangerous. If
you fear the 5-0, then go 55, but please, never under it.

2. Don’t use your blinker for longer than 10 flashes. Rush hour
drivers seldom use their turn signals because they know if they do, the person
in the lane that you wish to enter into, the one that’s given the space between
themselves and the car in front of them, will immediately close the gap if you
put your blinker on for an infinite amount of time. Here’s what you do instead:
Put on your turn signal and immediately make your move.

3. Don’t rely on your GPS. Your GPS is a big help, I know. I have one.
But, you need to know where you are going or you will never learn how to get
back there. If your GPS is anything like mine, it sometimes is confusing and
tells me to turn at the last minute. It helps to look at the list of directions
beforehand so you have some idea of where you are going so you don’t have to cut
across three lanes of traffic and almost get plowed.

4. Always stop at red lights. It’s dangerous to run yellow lights,
just slow down and stop at the dang thing. If you’re in rush hour, it won’t make
a difference whether you get through this light because you’ll just be stopped
at the next one.

5. Let merging traffic in. Again, another unspoken law – when one lane
of traffic is entering into a highway you must let the cars in. It’s not they’re
fault that they’re coming from a different direction. The rule is, one car from
the original lane, one car from the entering lane and so forth.

Go forth and drive.

A Potts in the paper

Five years ago, before I even started writing for the Loudoun Times-Mirror, my mom was photographed at the Purcellville Farmer’s Market by staff photographer AJ Maclean. She was likely picking up vine tomatoes and red velvet dog cupcakes for our now-deceased black lab, Mollie.

I know this because every year since then, that same picture has printed in our Taste of Loudoun special section – five years now. In January, when we were planning this year’s Taste of Loudoun, I told my editors specifically, “Do not run that picture of my mom. It has run every year since it was taken and I’m sick of looking at it.”

Well here it is:

Mama Thumb
My mom rummages through the wares at the local fruit stand.

Managing Editor John Geddie said, “I don’t remember you saying that.”

My word is taken seriously around here.

All the key elements that describe my mom are prevalent: Pink scrubs, pink clogs, loose-fitting nursing pants, a cutline (caption) describing her, Linda James, as carrying “bags full of goods.”

Poor Andrew Sharbel, our new education reporter, who penned the accompanying article – he had no idea that his story would be illustrated by a picture that his been printed at nauseum.

The truth of the matter is that no one seems to notice or care about the picture but me, and now that I’ve seen it for the umpteenth time, it’s grown on me.

When I was a rookie reporter, the then-education reporter, Shannon Sollinger told me that it was her goal to get a Potts in the paper each week. The Potts’ are my maternal grandmother’s family.

When Loudoun was a much smaller county and there were more cows than people, my family dominated the coverage. It wasn’t hard to get a Potts in the Times-Mirror every Wednesday because back then we reported on the dairy industry and school sports at length.

As the county expanded, the Potts domination shrunk, she said, until I started my weekly bylines.

“Now there will be a Potts in the paper each week,” she said.

I’d like to think that even after I’m gone from here, my mom’s picture will prevail. In 25 years, I want to return to the Times-Mirror in April to see Linda James’ photo in Taste of Loudoun.

I want to gaze upon her perusing the wares in Purcellville 30 years earlier, and forever encapsulated in her element. If there can’t be a Potts in the paper every week, at least I can be assured there will be one every year – at this rate, at least.