So I know I’ve been pretty lax on writing this blog over the last month. No excuse, really…can I help it if they made Temple Run a free app for Kindle Fire? But I was all set to restart today, given that today was the office team-building trip to the Antietam battlefield, with an acclaimed history writer along. I was actually eager to learn a bit more about the Civil War…as, basically, a Yankee, the extent of my Civil War knowledge can be summed up as such: South rose/North got its act together, stopped them at Gettysburg/South surrendered. At the very least, it was a day out of the office. I even had the title for the blog picked out: “Antietam, the Gettysburg-That-Wasn’t.”
Alas, it was not to be. You see, I fell afoul of the thrice-damned shuttles that are supposed to run between the train station at L’Enfant Plaza and the building where I work. In the mornings, they run two buses back and forth to shuttle workers from the train and the major Metro (DC’s subway) station. Even in traffic, a bus can manage a 45-minute round trip, since it visits parking lots as well. You’d think that a bus should come every twenty minutes or so. And, given that the Metro station serves four separate lines, each running six minutes apart during morning rush hour, you’d think that they would base the schedule off of the train, which arrives about every half-hour.
Of course, if you think that, you have probably never been in the military, or worked for the government. For some reason, they’ve rigged the schedule so that a shuttle is scheduled to depart one or two minutes BEFORE a train arrives…no less than THREE times each morning. That’s right, they scheduled a shuttle to avoid picking up passengers.
Another SNAFU: Instead of running the shuttles evenly apart (that 20-25 minute gap I mentioned above), one shuttle follows another, 10 minutes behind. This leaves a minimum of 30 minutes befoe the shuttle comes back. At one point, right in the middle of rush hour, these factors combine so that no less than THREE trains (two lines) arrive between shuttle runs. Most mornings, that shuttle fills up so that several people are left behind (but at least they’ve only got a 10 minute wait!).
This particular morning, I got off the train and started down the stairs, only to see the shuttle pulling away. “Oh great,” I thought, consulting the schedule in my head. “Guess I’ll wait a half-hour for the next one…it’ll mean getting there 5 minutes later than the meet time for the bus to Antietam, but I’m sure they (the forty or so passengers) would still be getting aboard.” Best laid plans of mice and men.
Well, another train arrived and more passengers added to the line. Then another train and more passengers…and another train. And another! It took FORTY-FIVE minutes for the shuttle to arrive. That’s right…15 minutes late. In fact, it could’ve been the shuttle I saw pulling away before…that’s about the time for a round trip, after all. Guess the other bus called in sick. There were so many expectant passengers that the shuttle filled up and we had to leave several people behind (guess they got to work an hour later, oh well…it’s not like the government should encourage productivity. Or commuting ).
The worst part? As my shuttle pulled into base at about 8:20AM, I saw a bus–the right size for, oh, forty passengers on their way to a Civil War battlefield–leaving the base. I’m pretty sure that was THE bus…so I only missed it by that much. AAAAARGH!
And I had already recognized this shuttle problem. I’d looked at the schedules, figured out the problem (back off man…I’m a trained analyst!), and then figured out a solution. Turns out that if the two shuttles run on an evenly-divided fifty-minute cycle (wait 5 minutes at the building, extra driver break time), it hits all the train times almost perfectly! I’d even e-mailed said solution to the shuttle POC as well as the “suggestion box” for the whole services division. Military training…don’t just complain, offer a solution (after all, I am a consultant). Maybe it’ll all be for naught…but if you don’t tilt at a windmill now and again, they’ll NEVER fall down.