D.C.: Rude, busy or both?
By Petula Dvorak,
What? Huh? Are you talking to me?
Can’t you see that I’m in the middle of a very important e-mail on my BlackBerry?
If you stand to the RIGHT side of the escalator, I might pull my earbuds out and roll my eyes while you ask me where the Hope Diamond is. But, sorry, I don’t have time to show you how to use your Metro Farecard.
Busy, busy. The nation’s capital is just too important to be nice, apparently.
This is how they see us, the travelers sojourning here to marvel at our nation’s monuments and museums.
We are rude, they conclude. In fact, according to Travel + Leisure magazine’s annual online survey of readers, we are the third-rudest city in America. The survey’s methodology is suspect — only 44,000 responded — but the outcome rings true.
New York is tops when it comes to nastiness, followed by Miami, which is far too intent on being fabulous to bother being nice.
Maybe our showing means we’re finally catching up to New York in something! We’ve got a Shake Shack: Now all we need is meaner cabbies and our own Soup Nazi.
I was thinking about this survey on the way out of a medical building on Capitol Hill the other day. There was an elderly lady coming toward the door, slowly pushing her walker across the sidewalk. I held the door open. And open. And open. It took her a while. I checked my BlackBerry.
Two ladies resting nearby on a bench with their canes and walkers complimented me for being so nice.
“Really?” I asked them.
“Uh-huh. Most people would’ve just let that door slam shut in her face,” one of them said.
Maybe we’re ruder than I thought.
I asked a mom on the playground whether she thinks we’re a rude city. “I’m from the Midwest,” she explained, “so I’m probably too nice to say that people are rude here.”
So I headed to the Mall to look for tourists.
Outside the National Museum of Natural History, I interrupted family vacations to ask folks how rude we were.
“Sorry, we don’t have time to talk,” a mom said as her family marched past.
“We have to catch our bus. We can’t talk to you,” another snapped.
“No thanks, we’re not interested,” a dad in an authoritative topcoat told me, holding up his hand like a dog trainer, preempting my question and protecting his family from my assault.
Huh. Did all the New Yorkers come to visit this week?
Inside the museum, a group of women in matching white-fleece headbands squealed at the T. rex.
“Are we rude here in D.C.?” I interrupted them.
“You know, we were just talking about that!” said Melody Ardoin, who was chaperoning a school field trip.
“We were just saying how rude some people are here. But then again, we’re from Louisiana. We’re used to friendly,” Ardoin said.
They are from Opelousas. That’s the kind of place where you end up exchanging recipes with the cashier clerk at the grocery store.
“At one point, on the Metro, we offered a seat to someone standing,” said Tina Trieu, a student who was part of Ardoin’s group. “And she rolled her eyes at us. And she barely even said anything.”
At that point, my BlackBerry was ringing. I didn’t want to be rude, but I had to cut the Cajuns off and answer the call.
“I want to see the Hope Diamond,” Ardoin said. I pointed her in the vague direction of the Paleolithic sea fossils and ran off.
“We are the victim of being a very busy urban city,” acknowledged Elliott Ferguson, president and chief executive of Destination D.C., the city’s tourism advocates. So maybe we dispense with niceties sometimes.
But the city also ranks high on museums and monuments, affordability, and walkability, he reminded me. We even ranked No. 1 in the nation for consumption of literature. We may be rude, but we’re also erudite!
Then again, think about it. Who are the culprits when it comes to bad manners? Aren’t many of them bringing their nasty behavior to Washington from some place else: New York, Florida, New Jersey or California? Don’t they make D.C. a big, steamy gumbo of rudeness?
“I think a lot of the problem in D.C. is that it’s such a transient area, and so many people don’t want to be here except for work and just want to go back home to whatever their home town is,” said one commenter, 6DCgal, on The Post’s Web site after the rude rankings were released Wednesday. “When you never emotionally unpack your bags, you don’t make any personal investment in the place you’re living in, and when you don’t care about the area or the people in it, rudeness is often the result.”
Okay, hometown Washington, tell me, are we rude? I put in a call to Mayor Vincent Gray, born and raised in D.C., to ask.
Doxie McCoy, the mayor’s spokeswoman, wasn’t buying it. “We don’t think we, in general, are rude,” she said. “Are we busy? Yes! Are we focused? Yes.”
“There is official Washington, the executives and Congress,” she said. “And then there’s the hometown folks — great, loving people.”
But I would like to talk to the mayor about this, I told her.
“His day is full. That’s going to be tough,” McCoy said.
Read Petula Dvorak’s previous columns at postlocal.com.
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