Tips for Visitors From a D.C. Resident

Follow the rules: At the Dupont Circle Metro, people stand right, pass left.
Follow the rules: At the Dupont Circle Metro, people stand right, pass left. (By Sarah L. Voisin -- The Washington Post)
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By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 16, 2009

Dear Visiting Tourist:

Please stand on the right.

It is hard to properly convey how important that will be for your time here for the inauguration, so please just comply. When you are on a Metro escalator, boarding a Metro train or doing anything remotely affiliated with the transit authority's symbol, then please stand single file on the right and pass on the left.

Please do not say you are visiting "The Smithsonian." There are 14 Smithsonian museums on or around the Mall. Each is a totally different experience. Saying you are visiting "The Smithsonian" is like saying you are visiting "The Sweater" at JCPenney.

Please do not purchase or wear a shirt reading "FBI" or "You Don't Know Me! (Property of Federal Witness Protection Program)." If you must, purchase said shirt from a street vendor instead of spending $24 --

Sorry -- you knew that one already, didn't you? You never ever would have done that anyway. Sorry, sorry.

We're just a little on edge. It's not that we hate tourists. Not like New Yorkers do, with their Born-Here-Die-Here possessiveness. No, far from that. We actually have affection for you.

Many of us Washingtonians are transplants ourselves. We, too, come from Iowa or North Carolina. We, too, were once excited to learn that D.C. has a Hard Rock Cafe. (We went! We liked it! Once.) We see you in your non-ironic Keds, struggling to find your white paper farecard because you didn't know you would need it to exit the station, and our hearts involuntarily beat, My people! My people!

We want you to do well here. We want you to represent.

Please do not stroll. Please do not mutter, "Whoa, where's the fire, Buddy?" when someone is walking faster than you. You do not want to be that guy.

Please do not think you saw Will Smith. Most of the time when you think you see someone movie-star famous in D.C., you are wrong. Most of the time when you think you see a retired principal, it is someone famous. Like this guy: He is famous. His name is Henry Waxman.

(Note: For the inauguration, you may actually see someone movie-star famous. Just be careful.)

Hey, you say. These are the most pointless tips I have ever read. I only started it because I thought I was going to learn something useful, like where to get a burger at 2 a.m. (Ben's Chili Bowl) You are dumb.

Please do not judge the tips. The tips are here to help you.

Please do not take pictures of the Supreme Court. It will remind us of the time we took a picture of the Department of the Treasury, and also make us feel guilty for never going inside the Supreme Court like we'd planned. (Note: You used to be able to tell the difference between the two because people prayed the rosary outside the Supreme Court, but they might start doing that any day now outside Treasury, too.)

The tips are here to help us, too. Washington is an imposing place, with a wonky and complex culture that is hard to understand. We worked hard to assimilate, and have only recently adjusted. At chaotic times like this, with administration changes and party changes and an influx of a whole bunch of new guys, we are all a little off-kilter. We all feel a little like tourists.

Seriously, guys, on the right. Single file.

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