Nov 12, 2008

S is for...


No, not the icky, slimy, kind that come out after the rain only to be salted by my sister and I some evil people. I'm takling about the 2 leggged variety of slug that looks a whole lot like me.

I expect that most people reading this have no idea what I'm talking about and that's to be expected because it's a form of commute that's only practiced in a few places. I'm fortunate enough to live in one of them.

Slugging is best described as organized hitchhiking. People like myself are referred to as riders and we line up in the morning and afternoon at specified locations where drivers go to pick people up. As cars arrive, the person at the head of the line will ask the driver their destination and then broadcast it to the rest of the line. It helps a lot if the caller has a loud, clear, voice. If the destination sounds good to a rider and they are next in line then they go hop in the car and they're on their way.

Slug MediaThe benefit to the riders is clear - you get a free ride to and from work and, as an added bonus, you don't have to deal with crowded Metro busses and trains. It helps the drivers out too because they get to drive in the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes that move way faster than the regular lanes. It's a win-win for everyone.

I've spoken to people who have been slugging for about 30 years and, according to them, nothing really bad has ever happened. Oh, occasionally a driver will have a fender bender or a car will break down although I've never personally experienced it. The worst thing that I've experienced is a bad or aggressive driver or, more often, a nasty or small car.

Minis are cute but not really meant to have adults riding in the back seat. Ditto for most 2 door vehicles - especially convertibles. Not fun at all. Work vans and family cars with equipment, toys, and mess are not fun either but as long as I don't have to clean it up I can deal with it because it's really pretty rare. Most drivers have smallish SUVs and family sedans.

Occasionally we get really nice rides. BMWs and Mercedes are not unusual and I've ridden to work in Jaguars and even a Rolls. Talk about riding in style!

Slug InterviewsThere are rules for slugging and you can find them and much more information on websites dedicated to slugging like In a nutshell, a good slug is a quiet, undemanding slug. Don't speak unless spoken to. Don't make requests regarding the radio or climate of the car unless absolutely necessary.

Of course there are drivers who love to talk. I've ridden in with one guy who was on his way to appear on TV and comment on the election. He used the slugs in his car as a focus group. Political discussion is not uncommon but there was one day that I got stuck in traffic on the way home with a driver who really wanted to discuss her boyfriend issues. So not fun but what's a slug to do?

Lately, the media has been very interested in slugging. In this post you see pictures of a media truck and an interviewer speaking with people on line at the commuter lot in the morning. The recent spike in gas prices has drawn attention to slugging but I wish they'd stop focusing atention on us. It only increases the number of folks looking for rides and the whole supply and demand thing goes out of whack. Waiting longer for rides sucks.


Sarah said...

When I first moved here, I was living with my sister down in Fredericksburg and we used to pick up slugs at Potomac Mills Mall. I remember trying to explain it to people at home, and "organized hitchiking" really freaked everyone out. I think they thought I was going to end up dead in a ditch. It's such a smart and simple solution to a problem, though -- so I am amazed that no one has tried to ban it!

Carole Knits said...

I have been waiting for this post! I still think it's fascinating.

Elspeth said...

That happens here usually when the subway is closed. There are particular places people get on and off to go from the East Bay across to San Francisco. I'm not sure I'd want to do it, but it's a great idea.

Sarah said...

This is so interesting!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I've never heard of slugging; that's pretty cool.