I must preface this, I understand why tourists from around the world flock to DC. They come to see the world’s most powerful capital, take in the grandeur of the monuments, the majesty of the architecture, and, in my personal opinion, to make those of us who live here miserable. Tourists must feel like they are wearing an invisibility cloak, immune from the glaring stares of locals. Not me, I love to stare, gawk and shoot daggers with my eyes to all those who are obvious vacationers. So if you decide to venture to DC as a tourist, please take these tips to heart to avoid being the topic of conversation at water coolers inside the Beltway.
In the city:
Before you come, for goodness sake, brush up on your US history and civics – you are in the Nation’s capital. If I had a dime every time I was asked basic questions seen on the 4th grade TAKS test, I would not be working. Here is a cliff notes version of what you should know, but (from my experience) probably don’t:
- Members of the House of Representatives are elected every 2 years and Senators are elected every 6 years
- The Declaration of Independence declares our independence from England in 1776 (yes, a common question)
- Remember School House Rock, and the process of a bill becoming a law, they weren’t lying, that is actually how it happens
No, I don’t know directions to the little restaurant on the corner by a Metro with really good pizza. If it is so good, write down the name.
Use your map (that you normally have glued to your hand) to find the Smithsonian. If you ask me where it is one more time I deserve to have an exhibit named after me!
That is great that your second Uncle twice removed worked here in 1991, but no I don’t know him - I was 4.
When visiting a foreign city, try to fit in with the population. Therefore, all those families and school groups out there wearing matching lime green shirts, a word of advice: You are not helping your case.
Walking everywhere is the norm. Traffic is horrible and parking is worse. Don’t try to drive in the heart of the city because locals are horn happy and not afraid to run you off the road.
On the metro:
Those shiny moving staircases - in the big city we call them escalators - are meant to be stood on and ridden, or more preferably walked up or down. I am sorry if you are tired from Le Tour de DC, but sitting on them makes you look lazy and causes me to get angry. You also need to pick up on the not so subtle cues of stand on the right, walk on the left. If you and your brood clog the escalator, I will stand awkwardly close to you until you move, then make a not so quiet comment as I walk by.
Rush hour is the same throughout the country. So don’t look shocked at 6pm to not get a seat for you, little Johnny, the life-size Constitution you bought, your map, backpack and stroller. We all want to sit and you taking up the whole aisle is not helping.
Speaking of little Johnny, don’t lather him up with sunscreen on the metro. Each car already has its distinct smells, but adding coconut to the lingering odors only worsens the situations, and grosses me out!