Quick tourist tips for a pleasant inaugural stay in D.C.


President Obama's limo sports a new D.C. “Taxation Without Representation” license plate at the White House on Jan. 19. Washington, D.C. does not have a vote in Congress. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)
John Kelly
Columnist January 20, 2013

Dear Visitor:

We’re so glad you could join us in Washington for President Obama’s inaugural, or as we like to call it, the 57th Inaugurad. Whether this is your first visit to the nation’s capital or just the latest of many, we hope your stay will be an enjoyable one.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

To help you get the most out of your time here, please allow me to offer some useful tips:

1. Stand to the right on Metro escalators. We’re a city on the move! By blocking the subway escalator, you’re keeping us from getting to our train, getting to work and carrying out our important duties, which may include tracking down al-Qaeda leadership, finding a cure for cancer or raising your taxes.

2. Step away from the Metro doors. That will allow people to board more easily. Also, the doors don’t always close. And sometimes they open on the wrong side. It’s safer in the middle of the car. Trust me on this one.

3. In fact, maybe it’s better just to drive. Yeah, now that I think of it, forget the Metro.

4. But watch out for red-light cameras and speed cameras. We have lots of them. Big Brother is watching, his unblinking, panoptic eye making us all safer!

5. Also, bring lots of quarters. Parking is expensive.

6. Actually, you know what? Leave the car at home. Washington is a walkable city. Why not see it the way our Founding Fathers did: on foot.

7. But watch out for bicycles. Most don’t stop for red lights and many ride on the sidewalk.

8. There’s always cabs, if that’s your thing.

9. But bring cash, since most D.C. cabs can’t take credit cards. And sometimes you can see the pavement going by through a rusted-out hole in the taxi floor. It’s like riding in a glass-bottom boat.

10. Uber is an alternative. Just punch an app on your smartphone and an Uber driver will materialize to take to you to your destination in a clean, classy Uber vehicle. The transaction is Uber painless.

11. And Uber expensive. Uber will probably have “surge” pricing during the inauguration, meaning your bill will be nearly as expensive as the surge in Iraq.

12. Why not take Metro? But, please, stand to the right on Metro escalators. We’re a city on the move!

But, seriously . . .

All kidding aside, welcome to Washington. We hope you have a good time here. But there are a few things you should know about us.

The District of Columbia’s license plates say “Taxation Without Representation.” Why? Because Washington, D.C., has no representatives in the Senate or the House. There’s a single House delegate who is allowed to vote in committee but not in the passage of actual legislation. Residents of Washington weren’t even allowed to vote in a presidential election until 1964. In other words, many of the democratic rights that Americans prize greatly do not apply to the District’s 600,000 residents.

Furthermore, politicians love to meddle in the lives of Washingtonians. The city’s budget, its gun-control laws, Washingtonians’ access to abortions — all get messed around with by men from places like Arizona and Texas.

You might say, “But didn’t you have a crack-smoking mayor? Haven’t a bunch of your city council members had to resign in disgrace?” Yeah, so what? Your politicians are no great shakes, either. I know that saying “We are no more corrupt than any other U.S. city or state” is not exactly something to be proud of, but it’s true. And the residents of those other cities and states get to be responsible for their own political destinies in a way we aren’t.

That bothers us, and it should bother you.

Another thing: We’re sick of “Washington” being used as shorthand for all that’s wrong with this country. We like our city. Sure, its long history is inextricably tied up with the federal government — Washington wouldn’t exist without it — but the families that have lived here for generations don’t think of D.C. as some suites hotel you move in and out of every four years. We don’t think of it as a model United Nations that former student government types from Texas and Arizona can have fun with once they get elected.

We think of it as our home. As we all celebrate this inauguration, please know that we enjoy sharing our home with you, our supposedly fellow Americans. And when you go back to your home, please do what we can’t do: Urge your representatives to do the right thing and give District residents equal rights.

For previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

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