John Kelly's Washington: Dog-Walkers, Obama Puppy, Voice of D.C. Weather, More

John Kelly
Washington Post Metro Columnist
Friday, April 17, 2009; 12:00 PM

Post Metro columnist John Kelly was online Friday, April 17, at Noon ET to chat about the community of dog-walkers, Obama's puppy, the voice of D.C. weather and anything else on your mind.


John Kelly: This time on Monday I'll be in College Station, Texas, home of Texas A and M. I expect to have tamed an armadillo.

Now, I lived in Texas for 5th through 8th grade so it shouldn't be a total culture shock. Back then, "Aggie" was a bad word. Now it seems the A and M community has adopted it for themselves, made it part of their quite considerable tradition.

I'll report back on exactly what those traditions entail. All I know is that these Aggies are a rabid bunch.

Speaking of rabies, I got a lot of reaction from Monday's column about the odd little communities that emerge among dog walkers. I "know" all sorts of people from walking our black Lab. And yet I don't really know any of them. We're strangers, brought together by our pets' bowels.

And speaking of which, do the Obama's know what they're in for? I assume they'll have to scoop Bo's poop. Of course, the plastic bag that contains the morning's Washington Post is perfect for this. I hope they have a subscription.

Over on the blog today I muse about suburbanites' opinions of Washington, and whether they're enough to keep them from venturing downtown. Thoughts?

Let's go...


Arlington, Val.: Hey John,

Exurbanites like those from Loudoun County or Clarksburg aren't simply afraid of D.C. I work in Rockville and just last week a woman from Damascus asked me for directions around Rockville Town Square. I told her where to go, and she apologized for not knowing her way around. She said she avoids Rockville Town Square because of the crime and traffic (neither of which I see as a problem). I can't imagine what she thinks of Adams Morgan!

John Kelly: I know some people feel that way about Wheaton Plaza, er, I mean Ye Olde Westfield Shoppingtowne at Wheaton. That perception probably wasn't helped by the shooting there a while back. (Or was it an accidental gun discharge? Doncha hate that?) Ditto downtown Silver Spring, which wasn't helped by the violence that broke out at the, um, anti-violence rally.

But, really, all those places--Rockville, Wheaton, Silver Spring--are pretty darn safe. I guess the grass is always deader on the other side. Or something.


Lanham, Md.: I moved up here back in 1989. I sought this area because of the public transportation and many cultural activities that are free (Smithsonian, etc.) However, the price for rent moved me out of the city and into the suburbs. Many times I have thought about going to the zoo and have changed my mind. Why? Well let's see....$14.10 for three people round trip on Metro; at least $25 at the zoo and an additional $15-18 dollars outside of the zoo for food or anything else. Let's not even talk about going to the can be the same price or even more if you eat at one of the museums. Yikes! In tough economic times, its hard justifying $50...

I think I will stay home and play Playstation!

John Kelly: Surely there are ways to economize? You could bring your own food, resist the urge to splurge on souvenirs, take Metro at off-peak times. And even if it costs $50, isn't that the same as a PlayStation game? Why not check out the game from Blockbuster or the library and spend the savings on a trip to the zoo or a museum?

_______________________ City Limits: The No-Go District (Kelly's Commons, April 17)

_______________________ Readers Reflect on Dog-Walking Days Past and the Allure of Neal Pizzano's Recorded Forecasts (Post, April 15)


Rockville to D.C.: Friends and family from other parts of the country always assume I spend all of my time downtown and frequent the museums, shops, landmarks, etc. I don't. I went downtown for the Japanese festival a couple weeks ago and before that in December for a dinner at Fogo de Chao. Some family members just assumed I would be attending the inauguration. I really only know 2 or 3 people from this area who were brave/crazy enough to go downtown that day.

Maybe it's because they assume living here is a luxury and that we take advantage of everything that D.C. has to offer. I know I've thought of other parts of the country this way: I assumed a friend from Miami spent lots of time at the beach when the reality is she really only went once in a while.

I think the D.C. area is just like any other place. There's pros and cons and it is what you make of it.

John Kelly: True enough. But there's a difference between not spending ALL your time downtown and not spending ANY time downtown. I think it's a measure of a person to be familiar with the area they live in and want to experience its various offerings. Now, if you dislike art it doesn't make sense to drag yourself to an art museum every weekend, just as it would be for sports-haters to shell out on every Nationals game.

I guess I feel like those things are here--Smithsonian, National Gallery, the zoo--and the only thing that should stop me from going to them is my own lack of time or interest, not fears over my safety or the supposed "expense" of visiting them.


Washington, D.C.: WRONG!!!! Today the Post says:

"We reach "S" in our alphabetical waltz through memorable places that no longer exist."

Scheele's Grocery Store -- is still open at the corner of 29th and Dumbarton Streets, N.W.. On Sunday, April 19, at 5:30 a meeting at the church across 29th Street is the second scheduled in an effort to save the market, organized by Malcolm Peabody.

John Kelly: Whoops. Thanks for the info. I'll pass it along.


Rockville, Md.: Dear John, This week at a Montgomery County school, an apparently-unstable parent of a young child tried to kidnap (though with no real chance of doing so successfully, I think, since her husband was not going to go along) another child from the same school. The predictable response from many local parents and, of course, school authorities has been to talk about "breaches of security" and "insufficient security." Alas, in this instance, it seems to be a case of a mentally unwell person who DID HAVE a legitimate reason for being on the school grounds (her own daughter attends the school and was sick)acting in a scary and inappropriate way.

Montgomery County schools have pretty stringent rules about EVERYTHING (as a parent of 2 children in the system, I am well aware of this). Turning them into fortresses where even parents and caregivers are treated as suspicious persons will not solve a problem that emerged from one individual's instability.

Do you think that the schools will respond with draconian measures or might we reasonably expect some common sense recognition that all threats cannot be eliminated?


John Kelly: That was a weird incident, wasn't it? Basically, the woman was upset that she'd been called by the school to take her daughter home. The daughter had a rash and the parents thought the school was over-reacting. So to show them a 'lesson' or something, she grabbed a kid walking down the hallway.

It did sound like this would have been hard to prevent, since as you say, the woman wouldn't have been stopped. The one suggestion I think I agree with is that younger kids shouldn't be allowed to be in the hallways by themselves. They pair off for everything else, shouldn't they do for that as well?


Silver Spring, Md.: I'm eight months pregnant and wondering what your thoughts are on whether people should offer their seats on the Metro for visibly pregnant women. I had always done so in the past, but am noticing now that it isn't that common. On the one hand, I chose to get pregnant but on the other, there are days when it is hard to stand and keep my balance. The worst days are when you're standing for a 20 plus minute ride while those sitting around you discuss how rude it is that people don't get up for you (and yet don't get up themselves) -- that has happened to me twice in the last couple weeks!

John Kelly: Yes, people should offer you their seat. We live in a civilized society and as members of it we should show a little civility.

I wrote about this topic a few years ago and found that some conflicting data. One mother-to-be told me the worst offenders when it came to not offering a seat were young women. Another said it was middle-aged businessmen. Some of it may come down to people being in their closed-off, commuting-bubble zone, but often they're looking right at that distended belly and just ignoring you. In those circumstances I think it's perfectly acceptable to speak up and ask for a seat. I wouldn't shame them into it, but a little information might help: "I'm so sorry, I'm due in three weeks and I'm really having a tough time standing. Could I trade places with you?"

Other pregnant observations?


Washington, D.C.: So if the crew of the Alabama is at the Gaylord resort in Maryland and the captain is flying home from Kenya, who is driving the boat? Presumably it needs to get to its original destination...

John Kelly: My Lovely Wife was wondering the same thing this morning. Perhaps the company is flying a new crew in? A ragtag band of adventurers, pulled together for one final mission?

_______________________ Time for the Rebirth of Chivalry (Post, May 16)


Dallas, Tex.: Hi John,

Do you have any idea why NWA is charging $150. Each way for a carry on pet? My Yorkie is 5 lbs and will be under the seat in a pet crate. His "ticket" is more than mine. I fly May 13th Dallas to Flint, Mich.

This is crazy as there is no cost to the airline. Thanks.

John Kelly: They charge it because they can. It's extortion. When we took our dog to England it was phenomenally expensive. Actually, what was expensive was the flight back. I'm embarrassed to mention it. A ticket TO England for Charlie was $1,500. The flight back was 1,500 too, but it was 1,500 pounds. At the time that was $3,000. For a dog. Now British Air did treat him very well. We had to arrive early. They had to check his crate. (Too small it turned out. They let us swap it for one they had.) They had to go through the paperwork. And on the other end there was a somewhat complicated pick-up procedure.

But that's for "checking" a dog. I don't know why it's so expensive for an animal that stows under the seat. In fact, I didn't even know you COULD carry on an animal.


Warrenton, Va.: John, I love your columns and chats. Since there seems to be a lot of dog-related content for this chat, I wanted to put in a shameless plug for an off-leash dog park project we're getting underway here in the outer suburbs, near the Prince William/Fauquier border. Our group is called Piedmont Dogs, and we're working on building our first park in the next few months. More info is available at Piedmont Dogs. Thanks!

John Kelly: Plug away. I wish I had access to a big open forested area to tromp through with our dog. There's a dog park in Wheaton but it's a little sad. Not much to explore. I think Charlie would like to run around the woods. He's never really done that before, though in England we took him on the moors and in various meadows where dogs are allowed off-leash. (He quickly ate cow poop. Filthy animal.)

Of course, the woods have drawbacks. I tromped around some last week, near Blue Plains of all places, while working on a future column. That night My Lovely Wife pulled two ticks off of me.


Gaithersburg, Md.: I took an urban economics class in college, and the professor said that cities are the home of "the very rich, the very poor, and the childless (young singles, never-married women and gays)."

Washington's problem is that it's city proper is very small, lacking anything like New York's outer boroughs. I'm pretty sure D.C. has the lowest ratio of land within the city limits to population of its metro area of any major city except San Francisco, which is another city families can't afford.

John Kelly: Right. As I mentioned in my blog, Phil Mendelson seemed disappointed when he learned I didn't live in D.C. I gave him the old explanation: When we were about to have kids we moved to the suburbs where we thought the schools were better and we could have a yard. He asked if we'd move back once they were grown. We might, actually.


Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C.: Unrelated to anything, but I thought maybe you could help a fellow non-mechanically inclined old car enthusiast out. Do you know of any local mechanics who wouldn't be afraid of my sweet, simple, currently non-driveable Corvair? Its current maladies are beyond my limited skills. So do you have someone you trust with your MG?

Don't try and tell me it never needs work...

John Kelly: Why don't you find out where Ralph Nader takes his?

Actually, I don't know where you might go. Places that specialize in foreign cars tend not to do domestic iron like the Chevrolet Corvair. When I had an MG I took it to Mountjoy's in Hyattsville. Now that I have a Datsun I take it to London Auto in Falls Church. You might try hunting around

this list of Corvair clubs

, although a lot of the links seem broken. Good luck.


Greenbelt, Md.: BTW, I went downtown to cherry blossom land last Sunday at noon, when it was raining heavily. But the sun came and stayed out around 4:00.

Contrary to what people say, weather forecasts are very often accurate.

John Kelly: Speaking of weather forecasts, several readers wrote in to say they loved Neal Pizzano, the Verizon weather guy I wrote about this week. But I also received a few e-mails from Pizzano-phobes, real haters. One woman called to leave a message that said, in part, "Nobody's voice irritates me more than that man's. When I hear it I hang up. He really ticks me off."

Which I find kind of amusing, given that nobody forced her to make the call, it's free, and she can find weather information lots of other places.


Re offering pregnant women a seat: I always offer my seat to someone who is obviously pregnant (or elderly) but the thing is sometimes you can't be sure. I wouldn't want to offend someone by assuming they are pregnant/need a seat. Not saying this was the case for the 8-month pregnant woman but it may be the case in many situations.

John Kelly: Right, although most of the pregnant women I've spoken with said that's kind of a red herring. It's obvious, they said, when someone is pregnant. Maybe pregnant women should have a sign, or always carry "What to Expect When You're Expecting" or something. And even if you're not pregnant but just overweight, wouldn't you appreciate the offer of a seat?


Freedomville, USA: Greetings, John. Wasn't able to respond sooner to your question from last week. I would love to visit Ireland, of course England, Scandanavia countries, Italy is a must, and lately I am increasingly drawn to exploring parts of Africa. How about you?

Obama's puppy is adorable. My favorite picture was the one of the two of them running down the halls of the White House.

Coincidentally my son's first puppy was a Portuguese Water Dog/English Springer Spaniel cross....both water dogs. I understand that the Portuguese used these dogs on their fishing boats to retrieve lines, nets, and other equipment that would temporarily be lost over board.

Who knew.............cute and useful :)

John Kelly: And I think I read somewhere that they could herd fish. Seriously. My dog can barely find his tail.

Where would I like to go? I've never been to Asia. Or, rather, I lived in Japan--when I was 5 weeks old to 3 years old. So I'd like to visit Tokyo. And China's supposed to be THE place to go these days, right?

I've never been to South America. Peru and Argentina are on my list. But there are also lots of places I'd like to return to: Italy, for example.


Herndon, Va.: Mr. K: Taking advantage of the D.C. area is always what you make of it. Reading the "chat" today reminded me -- even though I work only a few blocks away, I haven't been to the Lincoln Memorial for at least a year, and worse -- I haven't been to the Vietnam Memorial to say hello to some of my friends who are on the wall for several months. You HAVE to make use of the opportunities available.

John Kelly: True enough. I lived in Oxford for close to a year and had never been in the Radcliffe Camera, this incredibly beautiful building that's part of the Bodleian Library. So on literally the second-to-last day before moving home I went there, showed my student ID, climbed the stairs, pulled a book from the shelves and sat at a wooden table reading. As much as I saw and did while we lived there, there was plenty I didn't do and wish I had.


Chinatown: I ride thee Metro every day and give up my seat almost every day to someone. But I have noticed that I am the only one that seems to do so -- I almost feel obligated to grab a seat now in order to "save" it for someone later who needs a seat. Folks I will give up seats for: disabilities I can see like blind, cane etc., anyone with a stroller and/or a little kid, pregnant ladies. I have even given up a seat for someone who just looked pooped that day. I have NEVER had anyone offended that I offered a seat, whether they took it or not. Look up from your papers at each stop people -- there are people that need it more than you!

For the record I am female and in my 30s.

Rant over. Thank you.

John Kelly: You're welcome.

I hadn't thought about the notion of "saving" seats for people who need them, but it makes sense. I do think we get in our little zones, even on purpose. I'll stand for a while if I think an entire bench will come free, allowing me to sit against the window. I don't mind if someone sits next to me, but by sitting against the window I'm like the end unit of a townhouse: I have a little bit of my own space. Plus, if a pooped pregnant lady is looking for a seat, I'm way down on the list of likely prospects.


Old Town, Va.: Hi John. Can I go home early? Thanks.

John Kelly: Sure, I am.


Rockville, Md.: The Corvair may be the most technically complicated car GM ever made. The air-cooled engine requires air flow from sheet metal guides that is precise. If any of the metal is gone, very few can fix it. Best to get a lower cost new car. At least they will know how to work on it. Or if that is too much get a used Honda.

John Kelly: But I think this person likes the idea of having it as a fun car, as opposed to daily transportation. And as reliable as Hondas are, they don't look as cool as convertible Corvair. Unless you get a cute little Honda S800.


Flying with dogs: "This is crazy as there is no cost to the airline."

I don't know, there are probably insurance costs involved. What if your dog bites someone (of course YOUR dog wouldn't -- it's tiny, well-behaved, etc.) or what if someone has an allergic reaction? And maybe clean-up costs in some cases (of course not in the case of YOUR dog).

$150 is probably way high and John's right that they charge it because they can. But I don't think it's accurate to say there is no cost to the airline.

John Kelly: And there is the cost of fuel, no matter how slight compared to lifting a human off the ground. The airlines shave all over the place to keep fuel costs down.


Eye Street: As a reluctant suburbanite, I am certainly happy that I at least work in the District so that I can enjoy its many amenities daily. While it is difficult after a week of commuting to muster the enthusiasm to take my family for a Saturday downtown, I still try to do it at least once each month. Otherwise, what is the point of living in the Metro area? I simply do not understand why those who never venture into the city don't simply move to Iowa or someplace where the cost of living is so very much lower, and there is less traffic. Why would you live in Westchester if you avoided NYC? Or Buckhead if you feared Atlanta? Please, someone, explain.

John Kelly: Anyone? Or have I stacked the deck against Ashburn stay-at-homes?


Downtown: Frankly, John, we shouldn't want people like the ones from Ashburn visiting the city. First off, I doubt they spent $100 for what they described, unless they got like seven pizzas. Second off, anyone who equates the zoo with the entire city is an idiot, and D.C. already has enough idiots within its borders.

John Kelly: Now, now. You might get married, have kids and become an idiot yourself. It happens to a lot of us.


McLean, Va.: The McLean Automotive Service Center (or is it Car Care Center?), on Chain Bridge about a block from Rocco's and next to the bank, has been around since the 50s. If any place can cope with a Corvair they can.

John Kelly: Thanks for the tip.


Logan Circle, D.C.: Is the D.C. government having issues paying tax refunds? I filed in Feb. and the tax office website says my taxes were received and my refund is being processed and please check back. It's said this for at least six weeks.

Am I going to get an IOU or my refund paid to me in Red Lobster gift cards or something?

John Kelly: How about some magic beans? Or tickets to the Mayor's skybox at Nationals Park?

I haven't heard anything about glitches at the tax office. Maybe they just want to ride the float as long as possible.


Washington, D.C.: Not to be so flip, but the poster writing about the parent trying to kidnap a kid at a MoCo school had me laughing. I work for a school district in D.C. with schools in the "scary" areas and that is probably the least we've seen. Try having parents fighting elementary school students because the kid looked at their kid wrong, first graders attacking staff and principals, kids setting things on fire, hiding weapons around school property, etc. The families at the MoCo school may be shocked and even shaken to their core, but that just doesn't compare to what I've seen. And on top of what happens at schools, these kids go home to gang-infested neighborhoods, with family in jail, parents working multiple jobs or abusing drugs, etc. These kids would kill to go home to a MoCo family. The reality is that you can't prevent everything. We have kids pass through metal detectors and don't allow strangers to wander around, but that doesn't stop it all. You have to be vigilant and plan what ifs ahead of time for every conceivable situation that might arise.

John Kelly: Thanks for providing some perspective.


Boyds, Md.: Yo, JK, my Good Man! Ain't it a beautiful day?

That's all I got.

John Kelly: Is it? I'm inside a windowless office, listening to the buzz of the fluorescent lights.


Dupont Circle, D.C.: I don't know how in the world a person manages to spend $25 at the zoo if it doesn't include food. There are all of 2 or 3 very sad gift shops, none of which you are required to enter, and if you do, to purchase anything. What a strange way to think about a trip: I will HAVE TO buy souvenirs. Must be a suburban thing...

John Kelly: Well, it's also a parental thing. It's sometimes very hard to tell a kid no. But that's part of what being a parent is about. That's why I always hated those candy-free checkout aisles in Giant. They had signs that said something like "Parents: In response to many requests, we have removed candy from this aisle." They did it so kids wouldn't have to listen to their spawn whine "I want Snickers! I want Snickers!" But you know what? Grow a pair, Mom. Tell your kid no, whether it's the check out aisle at Giant or the Panda Plush Zone at the zoo.


Rockville "kidnapping": The best part of this story was that the random kid the mom was trying to abduct was VERY smart and started yelling "Who are you? Why are you taking me? I don't know who you are" which caught someone's attention. Kudos to that kid!

John Kelly: Yeah. He did just what he should have.


Leesburg, Va.: "It's obvious, they said, when someone is pregnant."


It's obvious when Skinny women are pregnant. As a woman's base size at time of conception increases, the ability to tell if she is pregnant or not decreases.

John Kelly: But they develop this desperate look about the eyes. And their belly button sticks out like an upside-down shot glass on a beach ball.


Loudoun County, Va.: I go to D.C. occasionally -- my wife works in the city, so I meet her for dinner and such sometimes. I go to the 9:30 Club. I have part-season tickets to the Nats this year (and have been less regularly in other years). I would go more often (certainly for the better restaurant choices!) except it's a huge pain to get there; either there's the traffic, or there's the Metro which is inconvenient at best (may change with the Silver Line, we'll see).

No, it's Maryland that I avoid. Other than for American League (i.e. "real") baseball, I pretty much never set foot in Maryland.

John Kelly: Entirely understandable. Hey, wait a minute....


Seats on Metro: The most awkward thing is to have some person harangue you on the metro because you had the temerity to offer a seat. "I'm not THAT old, young lady!" That has happened to me more than a couple times. And don't get me started on the is-she-or-isn't-she question when it comes to a lady with a protruding belly.

John Kelly: Really? I just can't imagine someone getting outwardly shirty about being offered a seat. I can see perhaps inwardly feeling miffed someone thought you were old or weak, but a polite, "No thanks, I don't mind standing" seems the correct response.


Offering a seat on Metro: Just this week, I offered my seat to a woman with stroller (I'm a woman), thinking it would be easier for all of us if she could control it and that would be easier if she were seated. The young man next to me looked at her, looked at me, and finally got up when I did. He stood the rest of the commute with me (someone else took the other seat) but I was really tempted to say "if your head were out of your, um, Blackberry, you could have spoken up."

John Kelly: Ah the joys of publicly shaming someone else.


Arlington, Va.: Last month I was on Metro. I prefer to stand because if I sit I sometimes get motion sickness. I'm in my mid-40s, I color over the gray in my hair, and I'm too thin to look pregnant. A woman who was about to take a seat near me hesitated and then asked if I wanted to sit down.

Does this mean I look old?

John Kelly: It means you missed a spot at the back with your Clairol Nice n' Easy.


Burke, Va.: Speaking of suburban "bubbles" . . . I work in Herndon and mentioned that I was going to the zoo downtown this weekend. A co-worker said "There is a zoo in Herndon??"

Hahaha -- such a dope

John Kelly: There's a downtown in Herndon?


Washington, D.C. : Another wee correction to the Metropolist: It was nice to see an old employer of mine remembered, but the name of what was once D.C.'s best book dealer was the Savile (one l) Book Shop (two words, not Bookstore). A small thing, perhaps, but my memories of the place, where I worked as night and Sunday manager for a couple years in the mid-70s, are so vivid that I would like to correct the record.

We had a delivery service and in-house charge accounts. I remember once having to turn away a child of about 10 who wanted to buy a book. "But my dad has a charge account here," he said, mentioning the name of a fairly prominent D.C. journalist. My reply: "You can have the book when your dad pays his overdue bill."

I didn't enjoy it, but what other choice did I have?

John Kelly: I'm hoping we can post all of the Metropolist stuff on the Web alphabetically. Readers could then comment about the various places. Be cool if we could add photos, too.

I like your snappy rejoinder to the youth. I would have said, "Scram, kid."

(I wonder when the last time anyone said "Scram, kid" was.)


John Kelly: Really? : yah, no one ever asked YOU when the baby was due (when you were just packing an extra 20-30 pounds). It does not feel good.

John Kelly: I'm sure, but there's a difference between being asked, "When are you due" and being asked "Do you want to sit down?" I can see maybe--maybe--getting upset if the person on the Metro said, "Boy, you must be getting close to full term. Do you want my seat?" But a simple offer shouldn't be enough to jump to conclusions.


D.C. tax refunds: I filed online and got my refund the next day. Maybe their check printing machine is broken? (

John Kelly: That suggests the other chattster may want to check on the refund. Perhaps it's caught in the system.


Washington, D.C.: I'm a young woman.. frankly I can rarely tell who is pregnant and who isn't -- and the risk of offending isn't worth it. If you're pregnant, say something. Then I'll know -- and get up.

John Kelly: I can see now why people drive.


Abducting the kid:: Years ago, reporter Chris Gordon did a story on kids who will go away with strangers when the stranger is attractive, non-threatening, has a puppy, candy, etc. He used a young intern at the station and with parents' permission at a playground, had the intern approach the child. To a one, the child went with her to see her puppy. To a one, the parents were shocked.

Then, Gordon had the intern approach his own 5-year-old, knowing his son had been told about not going away with "strangers."

Sure enough, the boy went with her. In tears on camera, he told his dad (Chris Gordon) "but she was pretty and she looked nice and said she had a puppy." The lesson is that children need to be taught like that boy in MoCo, that a stranger is ANYONE you don't know, not just scary looking people.

John Kelly: Good advice.


Get married, have kids, become idiot...: need to lay off the idea that raising kids and having a District residence are incompatible...Just because someone gets married and has kids doesn't mean they'll turn into a suburban idiot...some people think that there is a lot to be gained from growing up within the confines of the District of Columbia

John Kelly: Of course. And I know plenty of people who feel the same way. It just didn't work for our needs--the house we could afford, the schools we wanted.


D.C. : Hey John, I have the flip side of the issue. I live in D.C. (right by the zoo, by the way, maybe I should open a pizzeria?) as do almost all of my friends. (we're in our thirties, mostly) and we had to found a club to get us to go out of the District. We call it 'outside the perimeter' and try to do something once a month or so. We started because we realized the only places we saw outside D.C. were 95, National, the Dulles Toll Road and BWI Parkway. I once went two years not leaving the District except to fly or train somewhere else. so it goes both ways.

And no, I have no idea where Ashburn is.

John Kelly: I love it. Hey, send me an e-mail: That would make a good column.

Anyone care to elucidate where Ashburn is?


Come ON: The very idea that someone would get UPSET at someone else's simple courtesy is pretty darn sad. I am a 38-year-old, married woman who kept her name and who is a pretty ardent "equalist" (feminist sounds too narrow) and I am NOT insulted when someone holds the door for me or pulls my chair out. I mean, really, people, are there not bigger battles to fight? If people are offended at an offer of kindness, they seriously need to experience some real crises in their life to get a little bleeping perspective.

John Kelly: Yeah. I think some people's problems extend beyond just not wanting to accept a seat. They may be seething balls of angst just looking for an excuse.


Mid-aged lady who will not accept a seat on the bus!: I take the bus into Bethesda every morning and evening and there is a mid-aged lady who will not sit at a seat offered to her -- she would rather stand! And she will argue with the person who stood up for her and insist that is is unnecessary. On time a person got up and the woman refused to take the seat and someone else not knowing the seat's previous owner had just stood up, sat down depriving the original owner of the seat and the mid-aged lady stood all the way.

John Kelly: See, I don't get why there would be an argument.

PASSENGER 1: Would you like my seat?

PASSENGER 2: No, thanks. I'm fine.

End of story. It shouldn't be:

PASSENGER 1: Would you like my seat?

PASSENGER 2: No, thanks. I'm fine.

PASSENGER 1: I insist.

PASSENGER 2: I said I don't want it.

PASSENGER 1: But you look old. Old and pregnant. Old and pregnant and fat.

PASSENGER 2: Prepare to feel the wrath of my cane.


Silver Spring, Md: "Grow a pair, Mom."

You rock, John.

John Kelly: Thanks, dear.


Falls Church, Va.: Wait, the mom is supposed to grow a pair of Snickers?

John, I think you must have slept through a couple of important classes way back when....

John Kelly: No, I guess it's Almond Joy. Almond Joy has nuts, right? Mounds don't.


re: Spending time downtown: I spend just about every other Saturday on the Mall with my three-year-old daughter. We ride our bike there on quiet residential roads that have bike lanes. It takes about 10 minutes to get there, then we lock the bike up outside the Museum of Natural History.

I suppose we could sit around watching Spongebob all day long, but it seems like such a waste. Oh, well...

John Kelly: Not all day, certainly. But most pediatricians recommend a little SpongeBob as part of a child's daily cultural intake.


Re: Giving up your seat on Metro to someone who obviously needs it: I couldn't agree more that seats should be offered to those who obviously need them. No quibble with that. But I have to say that I have been offered a seat many times when I'm not pregnant, walk with a cane, carry a baby or lots of packages, etc. I have been surprised sometimes with the kindness of strangers on the Metro. I'm a 50-year-old female and all the seat offers have been from younger males, even a teenager or two.

John Kelly: That's nice to hear.


Anonymous: For several years when we lived in the D.C. area I walked dogs caged at the Georgia Avenue shelter of the Washington Humane Society (their larger shelter on New York Avenue has its own large, grassy area). Virtually never saw other people walking their dogs in that area. Still had great fun walking a huge variety of dogs who were appreciative of any time at all outside their cages (many arrived still housebroken, so really, REALLY needed to get out).

John Kelly: Awww, little pooches. As one of the readers who wrote in this week put it: Cherish those walks with your dog, since you never know how many you're going to have.


re: Answer: "Anyone care to elucidate where Ashburn is?"

It's in that area somewhere between Fletcher's Boat House and Los Angeles...

John Kelly: Thank you. The New Yorker will be in touch soon to have you draw a cover for them.


City people avoiding the suburbs...: it's a point of pride -- I can't tell you how many times I've been witness to "it's been six months since I last set foot outside of the District" and "oh yeah, I haven't left in a year."

John Kelly: What you're saying is, it's a two-way street. The suburbanites have to get over their reluctance to come into the District. And the DCers have to get over their feelings of smug superiority.


Metro seats: I've been on crutches a few weeks, and have a whole new appreciation for tourists on the Metro. On giving up a seat or even just giving me a little extra room to maneuver on and off the train, locals are hit and miss. Tourists always try to help.

John Kelly: I just wish their kids wouldn't use the grab bars as a jungle gym.


Iowa: Hey, I am jealous of you folks who live in Washington, D.C. It's such a great place to visit. I tried unsuccessfully to get my sons to locate there, but they all moved to the Pacific NW which seems to be damp and overcast much of them, lacks any pandas, soaring memorials, incredible museums, Politics and Prose bookstore, or heart-rending sense of history and majesty. I hope you will cherish and enjoy the many wonderful things about your city.

John Kelly: Hear that folks? You may pine for the fresh-scrubbed, milk-fed, All-American land of the Midwest, but here's one Iowan who envies us our attractions.


Southpaw?: I noticed that the picture at the top of the chat shows you wearing your watch on your right wrist. Are you left-handed?

John Kelly: No, I'm just weird.

I note that both Clive Owens and Julia Roberts wear their wristwatches on their right wrists in "Duplicity."


Demon Denim: So John, what did you think of George's column damning dungarees? And what are you wearing right now? Demon Denim (Post, April 15)

John Kelly: A lime green unitard.

I think George was having a bit of fun. When jeans are outlawed, only outlaws will wear jeans.


Exurbanite: My father-in-law from western Nebraska owns an old (65?) Corvair convertible. My wife is named as the recipient in his will. As much fun as the car is to drive through small towns and across the rural high plains, I dread ever having the car out here in Washington. It just doesn't seem like it'd be much fun. Plus, I'm no Pat Goss. Just thinking about maintenance, repairs, etc., on the Corvair-mobile keeps me awake at night.

By the way, I'm from the far D.C. suburbs. But I do try to get down to the city with some relative frequency. The kids love taking the Metro in.

John Kelly: Keep it for a year, take lots of weekend trips, snap lots of photos, then sell it and spend the money on something your wife would like.


Really Your Wife: Re: "You rock, John!" That wasn't me, I swear! Although you do. And you know how mean I am to our kids.

John Kelly: That's why I love you.


College Station, Tex.: "Back then, "Aggie" was a bad word. Now it seems the A and M community has adopted it for themselves, made it part of their quite considerable tradition."

John, "Aggie" was never a bad word unless you were from a rival school. We were briefly the "Farmers" in the late 1800s, but we've been "Aggies" (and proudly so) for well over a century. For example: I edit "Texas Aggie" magazine, the alumni magazine. We've been around, under that name, since about 1918.

John Kelly: And what about Aggie jokes? Is it the sort of thing where YOU can tell them, but no one else can?


Giving up a seat: I don't actually offer to give up my seat if I see someone who looks like they need it more than I do (elderly, preggers, wounded or just having a really bad day) I just get up and let them take it. Why make a big deal out of it? Wait till someone is right next to you and get up. They'll take it, and you don't need to take off your headphones. Works on the bus, at least.

John Kelly: So simple, so elegant. So crazy it might just work.

Speaking of work, I suppose we all should get back to it. Thanks for stopping by today. No columns next week since I'll be down among the Aggies. I will be blogging, though, at

John Kelly's Commons

. And I'm hoping to chat from the wilds of Central Texas next Friday. Stay tuned.

Enjoy the weekend. Good luck with the baby if you're pregnant. And if you're not, well, give up your seat to the lady who is.


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