All Those Modes of Transportation

On May 19, 2011 · 2 Comments

I brought my elementary-aged son to "bring your child to work day" back in April. I wasn’t sure he was going to enjoy the event but he had a fine time. I learned too. It was wonderful to see my very familiar office space through the eyes of someone who had never spent a moment a similar environment before. Some things seemed downright strange to him. This child, who has grown up in a completely digital age, was transfixed by the archaic technology of a speaker phone in our conference room. All those different voices chiming-in from around the nation into a common box fascinated him for some odd reason.

He enjoyed that, but it wasn’t his favorite part of the day. Neither was being kidnapped by the ladies in the office for a trip to the ice cream parlor downstairs, where he feasted on cotton candy ice cream garnished with crushed kit-kat bars and gummy bears (all his choice). He got spoiled endlessly and now he wants to come back again as soon as he can. Someday in the distant future his preconceived notions will be dashed when he realizes he didn’t experience a typical office day, assuming physical offices even exist.

No, the most memorable part of the day was my office window. He sat there and watched for the longest time in complete silence and total content. I’ll admit it’s a pretty nice view but how long can it hold one’s attention? Finally we asked him what fascinated him so much and he said it was all of the different types of transportation. None of us had really considered that before. We spend so much time in this building that we hardly even notice the windows anymore. We realized he was right though, and now it’s something we show our new visitors. It’s become a part of office lore.

He counted eight distinct modes of transportation from this one single perspective. Can you find more?

Eight Modes of Transportation

(A) Helicopter

In the distance just to the left of label A, notice the faint image of a building with a nob. That’s a control tower for a helicopter pad at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (formerly Bolling Air Force Base and Naval Support Facility Anacostia) in the District of Columbia. We often see high-level military officers taking off or landing from that point.

(B) Boat

This ribbon is the Potomac River. Pleasure craft and daily river cruises pass along this stretch throughout the day. I mentioned one of those in a recent article, Tourist options during a government shutdown.

(C) Fixed-Wing Aircraft

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is the first visible point on the Virginia side of the river. We can see only a short segment of the runway from this vantage point. Nonetheless passenger airlines come into view, either taking off or landing, once every few minutes.

(D) Subway

I’m not sure "subway" is completely accurate because the Metro system actually exits the tunnel just as it approaches the airport. That’s fine with us because it brings the trains into view as they stop at the airport station.

(E) Motor/Road Vehicles

There are two examples visible from this window. The first one is a limited access highway, the George Washington Memorial Parkway. It’s partially obscured by trees at this time of year but it’s completely visible in April when the leaves are still forming. The second instance, in the foreground, is a typical surface street providing access to a canyon of office building.

(F) Train

Features become more visible as we move closer. There is a clearly discernible railroad track located here, owned by CSX Corporation’s RF&P Subdivision, formerly the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad. CSX runs freight trains through this corridor. They also lease access to Amtrak for intercity passenger trains and the Virginia Rail Express for local commuter rail.

(G) Bicycle

Bicycles are a big deal in Arlington County. Notice the dedicated bicycle lane (the arrow points to a bicycle logo stenciled onto the asphalt).

(H) Foot

Finally, this area has significant pedestrian traffic. I suppose this is a cheap one since pretty much any location would be considered accessible by foot. However, this location goes a step further. It’s genuinely pedestrian-friendly with a specific traffic signal and a wide brick crosswalk.

I’m impressed with all the different transportation options visible from a single spot, but I’m more impressed that my budding geo-geek son figured it all out.

On May 19, 2011 · 2 Comments

2 Responses to “All Those Modes of Transportation”

  1. Alger says:

    You have an excellent child.

    And how do you rate an ice cream parlor downstairs? All we have is an Au Bon Pain that serves average coffee.

  2. Steve says:

    Seconding Alger’s comment.

    What wonderful discoveries children come up with right under our noses all the time. My son loves matching disparate things that we’d never think of. That, and finding patterns he recognizes in things like office carpeting. He’s especially adept at seeing negative space shapes, which I almost never see.

    It’s pretty cool.

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