Ah, summertime in our nation’s capital. There are so many things to love about this season. The fireworks going off after a game at Nats Stadium (which, incidentally, sounds like a shootout at the OK Corral is happening outside my house), gelato at Dolcezza, kayaking on the Potomac, fresh produce at Eastern Market on the weekends; these are things that make me happy.
There are also things to loathe about D.C. during the hottest months of the year. For one, our Founding Fathers- in their infinite wisdom- decided to build our nation’s capital on a swamp between the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. While I applaud many decisions of our nation’s forefathers (separation of powers, freedom of speech, etc.), I can only wonder why they didn’t ask their wives opinions in this matter. Ask any woman who has lived in D.C. for longer than three months: you can work so hard in the morning to tame your hair into something that’s presentable at the office, but as soon as you step outside your front door, it immediately morphs into the coif of Dolly Parton circa Steel Magnolias in 1989.
And then during the summertime, two groups descend on Washington D.C. like locusts on Egypt during the time of Moses.
Interns and tourists.
Now, before the you en-masse rally at me (I’m looking at you, Mama) about how yours truly used to be an intern, let me explain to you The Ways of the Beltway. Nearly every single professional in this city used to be an intern. It’s considered a rite of passage; you do your time wearing the Scarlet Letter (also known as the red Hill intern’s badge) and then once you’ve moved on to greener (literally; most interns are unpaid) pastures, you have every right to make fun of interns for as long as you please.
However, I would only like to address the second group mentioned. While there are many, many things that can be said to make fun of the interns, the good people over at Spotted: DC [Summer] Interns do a much better job at it than I ever could.
A warning to any future interns who might stumble upon my blog: read and heed the stories at Spotted. You know how they say “don’t be that girl” at the bar? Trust me, you don’t want to be that intern.
Anyway. Moving ever forward, I would like to address a few issues I have with tourists. For the most part, I don’t mind them (this statement is revoked, however, during inaugurations, the 4th of July, and the Cherry Blossom Festival). They generally want to see the majesty of D.C.’s monuments and absorb all the history this fair city has to offer. They’re also great for the local economy, so bonus points there.
I also do realize that at one point in time, I myself was a tourist in this great city. So, as a courtesy to tourists everywhere, I’d like to offer a little bit of guidance. I know that Washington is a big city and that navigating the Metro- especially at rush hour- can be rather daunting. But trust me, some of my tips will help you move about our fair city with ease and confidence.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but these are some rules you need to follow (and yes, a few of them are fashion rules. Trust me on these).
D.C. is a lovely city. It’s no longer the Murder Capital of the United States (please calm down, that was in the early 1990s), and there are many historic and cultural sites to see. The Capitol building, the Lincoln Memorial, Ben’s Chili Bowl (yes, that was sarcasm. I hate chili.); all of these places are just waiting for you to come and bask in the rich history that paves our fair cities roads (and occasionally makes really big potholes).
So come, visit, but take a few tips of advice before you start packing (and definitely before you arrive!)
First, let’s talk fashion.
Exhibit A: The fanny pack
I know that you want carry as many things with you on your trip through D.C. as possible. Map of the Mall, a map of the Metro, your camera, your cell phone, your keys, your wallet, chapstick, pepper spray, etc. But do you want my advice? (Yes, I know you do. Mom, be quiet). Leave the fanny pack at home. Better yet, burn it. Its popularity died circa 1993, and this is one fashion trend that should NOT be resurrected. Use a large shoulder bag if you have to, but leave the fanny pack behind with your mood rings and leg warmers.
Plus, they give everyone- no matter what body type- a visible belly. No bueno, y’all. No bueno.
Exhibit B: Leash children
I can practically hear my mother rolling her eyes five hundred miles away, so I’ll just out and say it: I am a former leash child. Yes, yours truly was once strapped to a leash (and mine wasn’t even cleverly disguised as a monkey backpack or anything; it was a straight out leash), as was my brother (hey Pookie, remember Disney World?). And you know what? There was good reason for physically attaching me to a grown-up.
However, if a child is still young (or wild) enough to warrant a leash, you probably shouldn’t be taking them on a tour of the U.S. Capitol building. There’s so much history inside those walls, and children that young really can’t appreciate it. So, the point of this little issue is not to leave the leash at home (I really don’t want you to lose your child). Rather, save the more mature activities (such as art museums and Capitol tours) until your youngin can truly appreciate what they’re seeing. There are a myriad of places much more suitable for the under-10 crowd, I can assure you.
Exhibit C: Socks with sandals
I wish this was a self-explanatory point, I really do. Unfortunately, if the high-level of the socks/sandals combination seen around this city is anything to go by, it’s not. Gentlemen (and sometimes, ladies), if you really, really want to wear socks, just stick with tennis shoes. I know that they scream, “TOURIST!” even louder than your wardrobe already does, but the sight of tennis shoes is much less cringe-worthy than seeing your tube socks with leather sandals.
Besides, with all the walking you’ll be doing, you’ll want your shoes to be comfortable. I loathe tennis shoes except for going to the gym, so I suggest you invest in a cute pair of flats (ladies), and maybe some Sperrys for the gents.
And finally, a rule of etiquette for moving about our fair city…
Exhibit D: The Metro escalator
Stand to the right, walk to the left.
Say it with me, everyone. Stand to the right, walk to the left. This is your mantra, one you should never forget in D.C.
I know the Metro sucks. It’s prone to long delays, the Red Line never works properly, and at rush hour, it’s a nightmare that can make even the most hardened of urbanists weep out of sheer misery. But I promise that not all city dwellers are rude people. We’re actually quite friendly (well, I am, and I speak for me). However, moving about on the Metro is our commute. So when you ride the escalator, please stand to the right. Underpaid government employees (re: me) are going to be walking on the left. Just stay to the right, and everything will be okay.
Oh, and if you have a stroller, please please PLEASE use the elevator (if it’s in service; since this is WMATA we’re talking about, you’ve got about a 45% chance that it won’t be working). I’ve seen enough families struggle to get their stroller up or down the escalator that I just want to save you the headache.
I love D.C. (I mean, I live here. I wouldn’t live here if I didn’t love it), and I know you will, too. Just keep these tips in mind when you pack for your next vacation to our nation’s capital, and all will be well.
Though if I see you on a Segway tour, prepare to be mercilessly mocked.