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Slug, Slugger, Slugging, Slug Line, or “A Cheap Way To Commute”

The first time I heard about slugging was when I moved to the Northern Virginia area. I was talking with a colleague who asked where I was living, and after commenting about my long commute, he suggested that I might look into slugging. There is a convoluted reason for the name “Slug” and how it came about, having something to do with fake coins (slugs) and annoyed bus drivers thinking everyone in line was a passenger, as the original Slug Lines started at existing bus stops. Fake passengers=Slugs.

Slugging seems to be a Metro DC Area (Northern Virginia, Maryland, D.C.) phenomenon. Slugging started in the 1970’s, during the Arab Oil Embargo and skyrocketing gas costs. There are a lot of HOV lanes (High Occupancy Vehicle) in the area which allow vehicles with a required amount of occupants to use a dedicated lane, moving them out of the “regular” traffic. In theory, HOV lanes move less vehicles faster than cars in regular traffic lanes.

In order to get access to the HOV lanes, people cruised past bus stops asking for passengers going to certain locations in order to fill up the car to meet the HOV requirements. As time went on, people started congregating in certain locations out in the suburbs in the morning for trips into the city, and in the evening for trips home.

Basically, all of this sounds strangely intriguing. When I was a kid, my mom drilled into my brain things like “don’t take candy from a stranger”, and “never get into a car with someone you don’t know.” But, that is exactly what Sluggers do! A car pulls up to a Slug Line and says the location where they are going … perhaps to the “Pentagon” and then the first two or three people in line going to the Pentagon step forward, hop in the car, and away they go. There are mothers around the region shaking their heads and wondering what other things that they taught their children are being ignored.

Sluggers even have their own language. Apparently, Body Snatching is very bad (grabbing a Slugger before they get in the Slug Line), the Caller is extremely important (first person in line calling out the destination of the car so others in line hear), and a Will Call (which is a driver’s choice to pick up a Slugger not at the head of the line .. usually a friend .. and the driver will call out for that Slugger to hop in. It all sounds very complicated, but it seems to work very well. I have worked with people that swear by Slugging.

Now, I imagine myself in a Slug Line …. (insert swirly dream graphic here) …. I get to the front of the line, a car pulls up and its going my way. First, I check out the car. Walk around it and kick the tires to make sure they are road worthy. Then I look over the driver. Does he or she have beady eyes? look shifty? I then ask to see the car’s registration and the driver’s license and insurance card. I take a good whiff to make sure the driver is not a smoker or wearing a sneeze-inducing cologne. I ask to check out the music selection for the next 30 minutes, and make sure that the interior of the vehicle is nice and clean. At some point in my inspection, the driver has loaded other passengers into the car and they’ve left me behind to aimlessly wander the giant parking lot at Ikea asking for change for the bus.

Just think of the savings if Sluggers are also Hypermilers! I am glad there are no organized Slug Lines out my way. That way I can’t feel guilty about not participating. Its just too darn weird for me.


5 thoughts on “Slug, Slugger, Slugging, Slug Line, or “A Cheap Way To Commute”

  1. It’s called “casual Carpool” here in the Bay area. It works better as the HOV lanes not only enjoy the privilige of less congestion, they also are toll free on the bridges during commute hours. Here the etiquette is the driver selects NPR and passengers listen to iPods if they don’t dig NPR. All lanes lead to the City though. There is a loop off the freeway that quickly gets to the middle of the Financial district.

    The fact that it’s all IT Geeks commuting into the financial district with financial executives in BMW’s and Audi’s cuts down on the girls getting hauled down by the river in a van.

    It’s a good system. It will work for now.


  2. Well…I learn something new every day. I’m thinkin’ this is not something I would be comfortable doing! I’m too suspiscious!!



  3. I never heard of slugging! I’m not sure it would work out here in California, everything is so spread out. Anyway, if a bunch of people were hanging around by the road out here, passersby would think they were day laborers and try to hire them to do yard work …


  4. It would prolly not work in So Calif, no one is ever going in the same direction! I would be a little concerned about unlocking my door for some one who looked like a slug! LOL.


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