John Kelly's Washington: D.C. History, 'Kiss and Ride' Tango, More

Stephen Powers visits all 40 of Washington's boundary stones each year, taking photographs and documenting their condition. Video by John Kelly/The Washington Post
John Kelly and Stephen Powers
Washington Post Metro Columnist and Member, Boundary Stones Committee
Friday, May 15, 2009; 12:00 PM

Post Metro columnist John Kelly was online Friday, May 15, at Noon ET to chat about the boundary stones that encircle Washington and will be joined by Stephen Powers, a civil engineer and member of the Nation's Capital Boundary Stones Committee. Kelly will also discuss the "Kiss and Ride" Tango and his other columns.


Boundary Question: I had always thought that the boundaries of the County of Arlington and the City of Alexandria completely described the part of D.C. that was returned to Virginia. But looking at the boundary stones, it appears that at least some part of the City of Alexandria was not part of the original D.C.

Stephen Powers: That is correct. The boundaries that define the modern day limits of the City of Alexandria were split from 1792 to 1849 when part of it was within the 10 miles square making up the Federal City.


Our Fair City: There is a "Nation's Capital Boundary Stones Committee"? Seriously? Well, I guess in a city of many, many, many committees that's to be expected. So please enlighten me about its purpose, structure, and funding.

Stephen Powers: NACABOSTCO, the Nations Capital Boundary Stones Committee is a group of stakeholders whose purpose is the preservation of the Stones/Sites and increased public awareness of the stones/sites. It is comprised of over 20 different groups, societies, and local and federal governmental agencies.


Downtown Silver Spring, Md.Hi John and Stephen,

The Silver Spring Historical Society would REALLY like to locate NE #1 boundary stone that disappeared in 1952 from Eastern Avenue in south Silver Spring. We are sure it is in somebody's garden in neighboring Shepherd Park, D.C.! For photos of the missing stone, see pages 39-40 of our book "Historic Silver Spring."

Stephen Powers: This would be an interesting development. D.A.R. records indicate that the stone disappeared and efforts to find it were unsuccessful. If there is information contrary, it would be wonderful to have and follow up on. Silver Spring Historical Society would be a welcomed addition to NACABOSTCO efforts to support the stones/sites.


Boundary Stones: Thanks for the boundary stone piece. One of them is about 100 yards from where I live and I drive by it everyday. Never knew it was there.

Stephen Powers: That is a common comment on the stones. The actual development of DC began with them yet no one realizes they are still exist.


John Kelly: Happy Friday to one and all and especially to Stephen Powers, the Arlington man I wrote about yesterday. For the past four years Stephen has had the crazy idea to see all of Washington's boundary stones in a single day. Why crazy? Well, there are few reasons:

1. There isn't that much to see really, just a bunch of stones, some pretty worn down.

2. Washington has grown up a bit in the last 200 years, making it difficult to navigate all the traffic.

3. The stones are in odd places, such as in people's back yards and down embankments.

But the stones possess an odd sort of pull for some people. They're not as old and inscrutable as Stonehenge--we know why they're there--but they're timeless little markers. For example, compare

these early 19th-century photo

of the stones known as NE #3 and NE #4, with




The stones appeal to those of us interested in Washington history, since they date to when D.C. starting HAVING a history. Stephen's joining us today so feel free to ask him why he's so interested in these stones. Everybody who lives in or near Washington should visit a stone at least once in their lives. My first question for Stephen is: If you're a stone virgin, which is the best stone to start with?

You don't need to confine your questions or comments to The Stones, however. This week I also wrote about

that annoying little dance

some couples do at the Metro Kiss and Ride, as the female gets out to let the male drive. Do you do that? Why?

Stephen Powers: For Virginia "Stone Virgins" I recommend the West Cornerstone on Arizona Street in Arlington, and for Maryland go see the East Cornerstone at the intersection of Eastern Ave and Southern Ave in Seat Pleasant.


Washington, D.C.: John -- I don't know if you are taking questions on your columns during this chat, but if so -- where's the love? 'I' was the person who first raised the issue of people holding up traffic at kiss-and-rides to have the man drive. I posted it to your chat before you went to Oxford. I wrote that as a pedestrian (I do not have a car), I noticed these occurences because these drivers often blocked crosswalks. Yet you give some other random guy credit for raising this? And why didn't you call Jim Ward of Alexandria on his arrogance for deciding that he gets to decide how long people have to wait at the kiss-and-ride? If he wants to switch drivers, then others just have to wait. Because Jim is more important than everyone else, I guess.

John Kelly: You know, I totally dozed on that. Sorry. In my defense (if it is a defense), I just don't remember. Maybe you planted the seed and Tim Brennan helped it bloom. I hadn't thought about the crosswalk issue. I thought the practice was only annoying to drivers.

I guess Jim Ward was pointing out how seriously we take our priorities here, that the few seconds it takes to switch drivers should be seen as a time-waste. But I agree with you. Why should OTHER people be the ones who decide how valuable our time is? It's just like the Metro escalators. When people say, "Relax. Why are you getting so worked up about walking down the escalator?" I want to punch them in the windpipe.


Columbia, Md.: Your readers have given you some ideas as to why women would get out of the driver's seat to let the man drive, and some are acceptable, (the one about letting him put up with the stress of driving in traffic the best one); however, I feel that any woman who lets a man drive just because he is a man is continuing the idea that women are second- class citizens. Just the same as if they have man-jobs and women-jobs in their houses. Yes women can cut the grass, man can do the dishes, women can take out the garbage, men can clean the toilet. As soon as all women see themselves as equals maybe all men will see them as equals also. I think the duty falls on women to show that we are equal by not acting like we are less then men. And I don't for a minute think you are a better driver then your Lovely Wife.

Women can also stop taking men's names as a matter of course also. Have we not come any further than going from having your father's name to having another man's name? My nephew who was 28 at the time told his new wife that he would not marry her if she did not take his name. WTF! I was shocked by this. She should not have given in if she really wanted to keep her name.

Boy you opened up a lot of thoughts in my head. But women, stop thinking of yourselves as second class citizens and don't let anyone treat you like you are.

John Kelly: Some readers criticized me for saying there was some sort of gender bias at work, as if by raising that as an explanation I was legitimizing it. It was merely an observation and I didn't mean to suggest that I condoned it. I do think that's the dynamic at work in some couples: Husband thinks wife is a bad driver, thus wife ends up thinking she's a bad driver, which is underscored by husband insisting she do all the driving.

My wife goes by several names. To old friends she's her maiden name. To most people she's her hyphenated married name. In other settings she's a Kelly.


Alexandria, Va.: Since the latest news has said that Social Security will be out of funds by 2017, and it's a known fact that the fund has been used for many, many other things than what it was originally for, it's time for someone at the top to stop worrying about companies that have been so greedy that they are now out of money for that reason and we are bailing them out. Why? Yes, jobs are at stake, but the heads of these companies should be held accountable for this. They put their job force at risk, not the older population of this country. Isn't it time that Social Security be paid back what it is due with interest? Maybe for once, the people who worked hard all of their lives and more or less put their hearts and souls into this fund thinking it would be there when they actually retired, wouldn't have to worry about it going broke.

Respectfully submitted.

John Kelly: I confess that I don't know the ins and outs of Social Security. I think I may have Social Security fatigue. We hear so many stories about how it's on the verge of collapse, but then it never collapses. It always seems to still be there, and so I don't know if the earlier stories were exaggerated or now they REALLY mean it.


John Kelly: Stephen, I mentioned that it was an assignment for your daughter Vanessa that first got you interested in the stones. Tell us about your earlier photographic safaris, in search of elephants, donkeys and pandas. What did you do and how did your kids react? Do they think you're weirder than other kids' dads?

Stephen Powers: My love of the city and desire to show it to my children lead me to photograph them at all 200 Donkey and Elephant statues that were the "Party Animals" public art display in 2002. We followed that up with photographs of the 150 Pandas displayed during "Pandamania" in 2004. The kids enjoyed the hunts and learning their ways around the city. To this day, they will point to a street corner and say "That's were that blue donkey was" or something similar. They do think I'm weirder, but say they wouldn't trade me in for anyone else.


Kiss and Ride: We often do the Kiss and Ride switcharoo. After we drop our daughter off at daycare, my husband drops me off the Vienna metro and then drives another 1/2 hour to get to work, and occasionally has to drive somewhere during the day for working. He spends tons of time driving, and I spend almost no time driving. If I'm going to be in the car with him, he likes to have a break. So a lot of times I will do the driving until we get to Metro in the morning, and after he picks me up from Metro in the evening. Also, one of us usually sits in the back with the baby and whoever feels like they didn't enough time with her recently will sometimes ask the other one to drive.

John Kelly: Sounds like you've worked out a reasonable, non-gender-based routine. I hadn't thought much about the "tired of driving" angle but I guess I have encountered that before in my own life. Sometimes when Ruth picks me up at the Metro I'll ask if she wants me to drive and she'll say, "God yes, I've been all over Montgomery County today." But in those cases she almost always is parked in a space and we don't have to hold anyone up behind us while she gets out.

We never sat in the back with car seat when the kids were babies. We figured they had to learn soon enough that mom and dad wouldn't always be there for them and that the best way to prepare them for a cold and unfeeling world was to allow them to spend some time staring at the seat upholstery.

I'm curious what others have done. Do you sit in the back while your spouse sits alone up front?


Babypan, DA?: John, what's the latest on Mei? Is she or isn't she?

John Kelly: I heard she was going to Africa to adopt. "Hey," she said. "It worked for Madonna."


John Kelly: Stephen, tell readers a little bit about yourself. You're a civil engineer. Does that explain your interest in the stones? Does it provide you any special insights?

Stephen Powers: My background in Civil Engineering does explain my appreciation for benchmarks and surveying. Combined with a love of D.C. history and a love for scavenger hunts, the stones seemed to bring together many thinks that spoke to me. After visiting about 10, I became hooked.

_______________________ Arlington Man Watches Over Unsung Monuments to D.C.'s Origins (Post, May 14)


John Kelly: Stephen, what is the future of the stones? You mentioned the committee. Does it have any actual power over the stones? What would various groups like to see happen to them, or are they pretty much fine as they are, since most have survived for more than 200 years?


Barber Story: We lived in Greece in the 1960's, and after our return to Bethesda my father started getting his hair cut by a Greek-American barber named Spero. Dad suffered a stroke in 1972 and died in 1975, and during that interval Spero faithfully came to our house, which was many miles from his shop, to cut his hair.

Not long ago Metro had an article about a Greek-American barber named Spero, who, I was surprised and delighted to learn, is still going strong in his 90's! It was the same one! Not quite the same experience you've had with your barbers -- and I doubt Spero ever drove a Corvette -- but he was a good friend to our family during a difficult time and I wish him continued good health and happiness.

John Kelly: What a lovely story. I may need to start going back to a barber, as opposed to I guess what you would call a hairdresser. (It pains me to think I might go to a "hairdresser.") There's something both titillating and sad about paying a women to touch your head.

I had some bad barber experiences as a child that I will have to overcome. For some reason I often ended up with mean barbers, who seemed to delight in torturing children. I remember one who had dozens of rubber bands looped over the power cord to his electric razor. Ever curious, I asked what they were for. "Every time I nick a kid's ear and draw blood I add another rubber band," he said.

I realize now he was lying, but what a thing to say.


Letting your guy drive: On the rare occasion when my husband and I carpool (we live in the exurbs and work in the suburbs, where Metro is still a pipe dream), he gets dropped off first, but I usually let him drive because he gripes too damn much about my driving if I don't. I'm willing to bet that would be the answer for many of the ladies at the Kiss and Ride, too.

John Kelly: Several readers said that. They said it wasn't worth the hassle of listening to their husbands gripe. I thought we were getting into Hax territory there. What's interesting was when I spoke to a highway safety expert about differences in male/female driving she said often a wife will go most of her life without doing much driving then be forced to drive after her husband dies. At that point, however, she won't be that good because she won't have had much practice for the previous 50 years.


Arlington Gay: The gender bias angle of the Kiss and Ride story really makes me glad I'm gay. I know many wives would be very jealous of how we split the chores 50/50. (I say "I know" because I've had this discussion before in other online forums.) As to the driving, we drive each other to work so Kiss and Ride isn't an issue for us. When we go on trips, he usually drives but only because if we need to switch drivers, he doesn't know how to drive my car, a manual transmission.

John Kelly: Thank you. I think a lot of straight people are curious about these things. (I know Marion Barry is.) Who's the "husband"? Who's the "wife"?

Do you feel any urge to teach your partner to drive manual, or does that way lie doom?


Vienna, Va.: Hi John,

While I understand and respect your point about the value of your time (or anyone's, for that matter), there are situations at Metro stations where one is able to see, while riding up or down certain escalators, whether or not a train is at the station or on its way. When it is apparent that there is no train waiting and that the next arrival is not imminent, what is the point of pushing one's way up or down the escalator?

John Kelly: Yes, but what bothers me is the assumption that one person's time is more valuable than another person's. The person who blocks the escalator is saying: "I don't care that you might want to reach the bottom/top of the escalator quickly. I think you don't NEED to get there before me." That just strikes me as selfish. Maybe a train isn't coming in but maybe I know there's a bomb on the platform that needs defusing. Or maybe the only way I can be on escalator without vomiting is by walking on it.


State of Confusion: John and Stephen, One could say, as you were checking out the D.C. markers, that the 2 of you were out getting "STONED."

GREAT piece, btw.

John Kelly: Ha ha. There's probably a drinking game you could play involving the stones, but 40 beers over 7 hours would probably kill you.


Washington, D.C.: What is the status of the East Capitol stone near East Capitol Street? About two years ago there was an amatuer sign there about real estate lots being for sale there. Also what is the condition of the stone near

Stephen Powers: This is the East Cornerstone.

It is in the best visible condition of all the four cornerstones. There are no plans to develop the land at this time that I am aware of.


Re: Where's the love?: I remember when that poster wrote into you about the changing drivers thing. In fact, as I started reading your article, I was expecting you to give credit to one of your chat participants for the idea. I was disappointed on his behalf. But I still love you.

John Kelly: The difficulty is, it's hard for me to credit "Washington, D.C." or "Springfield, Va." or "Arlington Gay" in my column.


Alexandria, Va.: How fascinating it was to read the article yesterday. Is there a map so one could visit all the stones?

On a personal note, did you develop any of this historical passion at Virginia Tech? Is Graham Parker in your ipod? Arlington Man Watches Over Unsung Monuments to D.C.'s Origins (Post, May 14)

Stephen Powers: The best map available is online at Locations of all the stones are available there.

And yes, my love for Hokie stone contributed to my love of stones. Get started, Start a fire!


Laurel, Md.: We don't usually have to do the "dance" because I work somewhere non-Metro accessible and my wife works downtown. So I drive to the Metro, let her off and go, etc. However, if we needed to reverse the commute, we would do the dance. Why? My wife has an eye disorder that gives her some visual impairment. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, her vision is now back to being legal to drive. However, thanks to Lasik, I am 20-20. The difference between my 20-20 and my wife's 20-70 is big. She only drives where she is familiar, in good lighting or when she absolutely must get somewhere (thank goodness for GPS!) that I can't take her. So, in general, when possible, I drive. Has nothing to do with gender or driving ability (she is a very good driver, particularly since she's very conservative and cautious) but just general safety issue. I know our situation doesn't reflect others, but just like you shouldn't judge the people who use handicap seats on the Metro who might have a non-visible handicap, you shouldn't just all drivers in the Kiss and Ride equally. There may be some inequality that isn't obvious that may justify the dance.

John Kelly: Interesting. And what you're saying is if the circumstances were reversed--you had the eye disorder, she had the perfect vision--then the practice would be reversed: She would do most of the driving. I can see that. It remains true, however, that I heard from more women saying their husbands hate the way I drive then husbands saying their wives have an eye disorder.


Arlington, Va.: As a fellow boundary stones committee member, I can report that Stephen has been working on having the entire group of boundary stones recognized as a National Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineering. Thanks, Stephen. Also, a goal of the boundary stone's committee is to have the stones, as a group, eventually designated as a National Historical Landmark.

Stephen Powers: Thank you for pointing out this very important goal of the group. With National Historical Landmark Status, the stones would receive funding and protection necessary to ensure they last as long as possible.


Atlanta, Ga.: Re: name changes

It took a few minutes, but for my husband, well, he didn't care that I didn't change my name. No one minded at all (well, my mom in law, maybe, but...).

So, we've been married almost 9 years. And I just legally changed it to my husband's name. Why? Well, logically and realistically, my passport and my license were needing to be renewed this year (so that was the 'practical' answer). And I'd been thinking about it for a while -- it's just easier than not. I mean, some places I'm 'maiden name' and others I'm 'married name' and, well, it was just getting difficult to remember which was which. And having two kids, well, it's just easier.

And my husband had to -- again -- be convinced this was the best course of action, since he was so used to it being the other way (he thinks: wow, she thinks that after 9 years and 2 kids, the marriage is going to stick...woo hoo!).

Funny thing, too -- it just seems that everyone just assumes you'll take the husband's name anyway, so legally, it's easy. It WAS funny when the guy from the credit card co. asked why I was changing it and I said: I got married. And he said: CONGRATULATIONS! I didn't tell him it was, um, almost 9 years ago...

John Kelly: Ha! Then there are those couples that create new names: Smith marries Jones and they both become Smones. I'm not sure how I feel about that. Probably makes future genealogy hard.


California, Md.: Our high school memoralized the EAST stone as its Yearbook name is called the Right Angle. The high school, Maryland Park High school was very close to the EAST stone. The 1941 copy had its title page with a drawing of the EAST stone and our class ring insiginia.

1946 graduate.

Stephen Powers: Very Cool! That ring would be something to see!


Griping Husbands: I manage to get myself to work and back every single day without mishap, speeding tickets or road rage. Yet whenever I take my husband to the airport, I'm in the wrong lane, going too fast, etc. We usually get along quite well, except for this. I finally told him to either shut up or take the wheel. He usually drives when we're together, because I don't need the kibitizing.

John Kelly: There you go. I think this happens the other way around too. I heard from a woman who said her husband doesn't like the way she drives and she doesn't like the way her husband drives. But his hectoring bothers her more than her hectoring bothers him so she lets him drive.


Stone Care: So -- if I purchase a house with a boundry stone in the yard, am I bound to preserve it? Not move it, etc?

Stephen Powers: The stones are listed on the National Historic Register. In Virginia as the property owner, you become owner of the stone as well. In Maryland/D.C., the stones are the property of the DDOT as well as the land easements around them. Home owners over the years have preserved the stones and helped with the upkeep.


New Orleans, La.: I can beat your scary barber experience: When I was a wee lass, my mom used to take us to get our hair cut at the local department store. One day, I was apparently fidgeting too much for the stylist on duty: He told me that if I didn't stop moving around, he was going to rip my arm off and beat me with the bloody stump.

John Kelly: It always comes back to blood with barbers, doesn't it? It's like they want to remind us that they started out as dentists and surgeons and the striped barber pole symbol comes from their days as bloodletters.


Sterling, Va.: Stephen, does the DAR still work to help preserve the stones, or has it given that role up long ago?

Stephen Powers: The DAR installed the fences around the stones and local chapters became the caretakers. Their organization is still active with the stones preservation history and with NACABOSTCO. Their role as caretakers dwindled in the 1960's and 1970's as new preservation efforts were undertaken by different societies and governmental agencies.


Washington, D.C.: Another gay here -- from the female perspective. I have to say it's nice to be in a relationship without the gender dynamic I know a lot of straight couples endure. I think it's there even for well-intentioned people who are sensetive to gender stereotyping. As for my relationship, she typically drives, unless she's too tired or feels she been driving around too much already. We're pretty practical about splitting up the chores. Whoever hates it the least gets to do it, generally. She normally does the dishes because I cook and hate to do them; I take care of the bills and getting the car fixed. She's the vacuumer. We trade off on doing the laundry, which we both seem to dislike in equal measure. Seems to work.

John Kelly: I think the key to a healthy relationship is that it not bother the parties involved. If your husband doesn't like your driving and it doesn't bother you that he thinks this way and it doesn't bother him to do most of the driving, then things'll probably work out fine. But if it veers over into simmering, passive-aggressive behavior, it's probably not good.


Stones in Alexandria/Arlington: John -- I was just checking out the map of the stones and guess what -- I ride my bike past the stone on Walter Reed Rd. by King Street every day on my way to work. Thanks to the glory of Google Maps street view I was able to pinpoint exactly where it is. Monday morning I'm stopping to check it out. Thanks!

Stephen Powers: Glad to see that information on the stones is finding its way to the folks that are near them every day.


Boundary stones, drivers, name changes: I hesitate to tell my father or husband about these stones because they will insist on visiting every single one of them. However, far be it from me to deny them their simple pleasures.

As for switching drivers, perhaps the men have a litany of complaints about their wife's driving ("Watch out for that guy there; the light's yellow -- speed up so you can make it through; why did you slow down there?" And so on until the wife, in self-preservation, lets him drive so he'll shut up about her driving.

Name changes: I changed my name because it was important to my husband that I do so and I didn't really care about it. I saw my maiden name as another male's name so what's the difference? However, a group of older women whom I know raked me up one side and down the other for changing it. I think they were all products of the 1970s and had fought hard for the right to keep their names and felt betrayed that women of my generation simply didn't see it as a big deal. As I explained to them, "Some of us change our names, some don't. The point is that we have a choice, not what choice we make."

Stephen Powers: Let them know. The stones are to be enjoyed..........


Whe did this happen?: John, you dumped Dan Tagherlini for Stephen Powers? For shame, John. For shame.

John Kelly: Who me? I didn't know I could have had Dan.

Speaking of our guest, Rocci the chat editor did not post the question from the reader who wanted to know what he thought of working with Robert Wagner on "Hart to Hart," confusing Stephen Powers with Stefanie Powers.


Driver's Seat: Hi John,

I do more of the driving because my husband's driving habits stress me out. Mine might bother him, but he is much better about keeping his thoughts to himself, so this works best for us. Of course, my 80-year-old stepfather thinks that my choosing to drive when my husband is in the car is an "emasculation" of my husband. And he always is careful to loudly express this to us each time it occurs. When I drive my parents, stepdad sits in front and mom always sits in back. If my husband drives, it is boys in the front, girls in the back. I guess it is a generational thing (like his belief that dogs should live outside in dog houses) and I try not to let it bother me. However, I can't help but hope that when the time comes, the driver of his hearse is a woman!

John Kelly: Ha! I can see it now: A woman is about to open the door to drive the hearse, and as the pallbearers walk from behind up a muffled shout comes from inside the casket: "I call shotgun!"


Metro, DC: I resent the implication that because men drive we are putting women in their place as secon class citizens. I drive when my wife and I are in the car for one simple reason, she grew up in NYC and she doesn't like to drive. I, on the other hand, love driving. I think some of your readers need to calm down and not always jump to conclusions. I bet there are a myriad of other reasons why one spouse/partner drives.

By the way, I am an avid Metro commuter so I don't drive much during the week.

John Kelly: Agreed. There probably are myriad reasons, and I like hearing them.


Stephen Powers: NACABOSTCO does have members on the committee who do have ownership roles in regards to the preservation of the stones. DDOT is a major stakeholder and owner of the 26 Maryland/DC Stones. Arlington County, Fairfax County, Falls Church and Alexandria also are members and all have interest in the future of the stones. There is always discussion between all the members on how best to preserve the past into the future.


Alexandria, Va.: I'm amazed by all the driver-switching! My husband and I don't do that at all at Metro stations. As far as other driving, it's whoever has a fuller tank of gas, or knows where we're going, or doesn't have a burnt out headlight or expired registration. It works out pretty evenly. However, I do let him do most of the driving on vacations, but that's because I'm a better navigator.

Another question that has always intrigued me is how couples view their cars in a 2-car household. Is it "my car" and "your car" or is it "our cars" and whoever gets to it first drives it?

John Kelly: Ah yes, navigation. I'd forgotten about that. I actually love driving with my wife, me as driver, she as navigator. Among my greatest joys are long-distance trips we've gone on. I'm a good "intuitive" navigator. I find my way around by gut instinct, and my family has learned not to doubt my gut. But my wife is very good at reading a map, picking a route, communicating directions to me.


Anonymous: What was Robert Wagner like when you worked with him on Hart to Hart?

Stephen Powers: I think your looking for Stephanie Powers........:-)


Petworth, D.C.: Huh, I went the other direction than Atlanta did.

When we were young and getting married, we had a HUGE fight. I would take his name or he wouldn't marry me. I gave in.

15 years later, I said to him, you know, I have never gotten comfortable with your name. I think I've given it a fair shot. Can I go back? His response was that he no longer remembered why it mattered so much.

So I went back. Wow, the drama this caused with people who don't know us. Everyone who knows us was cool with it.

John Kelly: To gather up a couple of strands from this chat: I wonder if names are like the boundary stones of relationships. Married couples place the names like markers. In your case, the border didn't need to be set in stone.


Escalators: Re Vienna: But you couldn't know that I need to get all the way to the other end of the platform before the next train comes, because at my destination stop the escalator is woefully inadequate for the crowd trying to get out, and my only hope to avoid a long wait is to position myself in the car closest to that escalator. And on the way home in the evening, you couldn't know that I'm trying to catch a bus that is leaving 1 minute from now and there won't be another one on that route for another 30 minutes. So, please, don't assume that you know that I have no reason to be in more of a hurry than you. Just stand to the right.

John Kelly: Exactly. I think that is what civility and politeness are all about. And if you consider it an inconvenience to stand to the right--you have to look up or down at the person you're talking to, rather than across at them--then that is also what politeness is often about, putting yourself out a little bit as a way of respecting someone else.


Stephen Powers: The future of the stones:

The stones are sandstone which is very soft and not durable. Many of the stones are worn, cracked, and damaged. They will not hold up to the test of time. A preservation study is needed detailing on a case by case basis how best to deal with each site and each stone.


Re: Columbia, Md. and taking your husband's name: I am a born-and-bred tomboy, I make my living in a field traditionally dominated by men, and I'm the primary breadwinner in my family. So why did I take my husband's name? Because, in the long run, it makes life easier. I have a friend who kept her maiden name for a long time, but there were so many little issues that cropped up in everyday life that were made harder by her having a different last name than her husband and kids -- everything from the title of the house, to bills, to school forms -- that she finally changed it. Neither she nor I feel like we're bending to our man's wishes -- we're just making life easier for 'ourselves' because we have enough to do already!

My husband and I both cook, clean the house, and equally share in the care of our children. I don't mow the lawn, but my husband actually enjoys doing yardwork. He doesn't pay the bills, because I like crunching the numbers. Everyone has a system that works for them, and just because a woman chooses to adhere to an old tradition, it doesn't mean she's throwing decades of fights for gender equality down the drain. Sheesh.

John Kelly: What did Shakespeare say? "What's in a name"? And also: "Speed up honey. Geez, watch that truck making that U turn! You should put your turn signal on now, dear."


Driving: Interesting stuff. I've never understood why my mother has never driven when my dad is with us -- they are both very good drivers, and I know the choice is hers, because he is not one of those guys.

I love driving, and can't imagine completely handing over driving duties to a guy. I will admit to sidestepping the issue at times -- I once dated a guy with an atrocious driving record, so when we went on a road trip together, rather than tell him I was terrified, I said I needed to drive because I got car sick as a passenger on long trips. (Also, I drive stick, which has gotten me out of sharing driving duty on road trips with others.)

John Kelly: I also wonder if the presence of a spouse/partner affects one's driving ability. There may be plenty of women (and men) who are just fine driving alone, but when you put their spouse/partner in the car with them--and subject them to sighs and tsk-tsks and backseat suggestions--they become a worse driver, validating the spouse/partner's opinion.


Stephen Powers: Chairman of NACABOSTCO: Ric Terman is the Chairman of NACABOSTCO. Ric's work with the stones began in the 1970's with his son on an eagle scout project at the West Cornerstone.


Re: name changes: I changed my name when we decided to have a baby because it was very important to my husband.

I did not want to.

Now I kind of feel like I don't have a name -- not really my old one or my new one.

John Kelly: You could try hyphenating. Or like Petworth did, go back totally. Maybe it was more important to your husband that the baby have his last name, which doesn't have to change.


Mother's Day update from last chat: Dear John, Thanks again to you and all your chatters for the Mother's Day advice. I spoke to my DH and he agreed that the mother of his son (namely me) should also be celebrated. So we three celebrated in the AM with a trip to the park and a picnic. Then DH made dinner reservations for everyone (including my MIL, FIL, BIL). Guess what? My MIL did not show up! She said she was too tired.

I'm no mind-reader but I'm fairly confident that she was not happy that the celebration of Mother's Day was not all about her; thus the no-show. Sigh.

John Kelly: Ah. Thanks for the update. Sorry to hear the mother-in-law may not have taken it so well. But maybe she really was tired. It will be interesting to see what happens next year. Perhaps the torch has been passed.


Husband's Na, ME: If you want a peek at institutional sexism, check out how easy it if for a woman to change her maiden name to her married name but how hard it is for a married man to take his wife's last name (there was even a court case about this in California) or a divorced woman to go back to her maiden name (required to complete tons of paperwork). As to taking the husband's name and switching drivers, there are exceptions, of course, but sexism is usually underlying these decisions, even if the participants do not recognize it.

John Kelly: Society can move slowly with stuff like this. We start out not even thinking about things, just doing them automatically. (Husband always drives. Wife always takes husband's name.) Then they start to register. (Wait a minute. Why do you always drive again?) And then things start to change. Eventually they reach the point where we again don't think of them anymore.


Arlington, Va.: Stephen, if only you had gotten your wife to drive you to all the stones, then this discussion would really be turned upside down!

Stephen Powers: While my wife is a great supporter of my stones habbit, asking her to chauffeur my expeditions is more than I would have her bear.


NACABOSTCO?: Is that a branch of COSTCO? What's your current price for two loaves of bread and a gallon of milk?

Stephen Powers: We don't do bake sales, but donations are always appreciated! Especially if they come with lots of zeros at the end!


John Kelly: Stephen: Tell me why you think the stones are so cool. What is it about them that you find so alluring?


Gaithersburg -- Kiss and Ride: Hey you kiss and riding switchers...ever stop to think about the 30-50 cars you holding up while you're playing "switch"? Inconsiderate louts. Switch at the gas station up the street, but QUIT BLOCKING TRAFFIC because of your "preference"!

John Kelly: That might make a good bumpersticker: QUIT BLOCKING TRAFFIC. Of course, it would need to go on the FRONT bumper.


Burke, Va.: "Becoming a worse driver..." That's me! I manage to get myself to and from work daily with no mishap, but when my husband is in the car I make stupid mistakes I wouldn't otherwise. So I make him drive.

John Kelly: Empirical evidence!


Where's the love: HER behalf. But thanks to my fellow poster for the recognition (which, apparently, I am desperate for!)

John Kelly: Your royalty check is on the way! Now, tell me what else I should write about:


Stephen Powers: Currently ASCE - NCS is moving forward with nomination application to have the stones designated an ASCE National Historic Landmark. It is believed this effort will assist the overall goal to have them designated as a National Historic Landmark.


At that point, however, she won't be that good because she won't have had much practice for the previous 50 years. : That is amazing.

John Kelly: Well there are probably men who come close to starving after their wives die.


Alexandria, Va.: For us, driving doesn't depend as much on gender as it does on the car. Most of the time, he drives his car, I drive mine. So when we drive to NY to visit family, if we take his car, then he drives --unless/until he's tired, and then I drive. And then it doesn't matter whether he likes my driving or not, because he's asleep.

On the rare occasions one of us needs to be dropped off somewhere, the other person drives.

John Kelly: Ah, sleeping. That's one way to handle it. Perhaps couples should be issued tranquilizer guns to deal with this.


What's in a name?: So my wife had been married for 14 years the first time. She still had his name. When we were discussing marriage, I mentioned that I really didn't care what name she chose except that I would prefer that she not keep his name. Why? Well, first hubby and I work at the same place and although we get along, I really didn't need to be asked why my wife had this guy's last name (and it's neither a real common or real unusual name, but rare). I like him a lot, but don't really need the constant questions about his name. I said she could go back to her maiden name, pick a new one, and if she wanted, we could both pick a new one for both of us (although it would be odd since I am clearly Asian for me to have a non-Asian name, but hey, I was willing). She ultimately decided to just change to my last name. But I agree with the other poster who said that the key was that woman have the choice not what they choose.

John Kelly: My mother kept her married name after she and my father got divorced, and kept it after she got remarried. I think she thought it would be a nightmare to change it and that most of her friends/acquaintances knew her by that name.


Names: Before we got married, my husband volunteered to take my name rather than having me change or us having different names. His reasoning was that I'd already done it twice, so it was his turn (I took husband #1's name, then went back to my maiden name with the divorce). He asked his parents if they were OK with it -- they were -- so he changed his name to my name. Now, 16 years later, he says he'd do it again in a heartbeat because whenever women find out he took my maiden name, they think he is the coolest, most evolved guy out there.

John Kelly: He sounds like a regular Alan Alda.


Stephen Powers: The 3' x 3' x 5' high iron fences were fabricated and installed by Gichner Iron Works. The original fences in 1916 cost $18 a piece.


Driving: I love to drive, my husband is just as happy being a passenger as a driver. I am a terrible passenger because I get bored sitting there so quickly. My husband also falls asleep easily at night -- his eyes get all achy and sleepy (his words). So I'm the one who drives most of the time. There are some days when I don't feel like driving and he's happy to. I sometimes pick him up from the metro on my Vespa. We have to do some sort of switcheroo so he can hop on and drive (I'm small and light, so if we're both on the bike he's the one driving) but I always pull out of the way for our switching. Also, I kept my maiden name. His was too boring in comparison.

John Kelly: That's a modern women right there: Driving her husband, zipping around on her Vespa. Letting him drive the Vespa. I see sitcom possibilities.


Woman Driv, IN: I make it clear to all my passengers that criticizing my driving makes me nervous, which causes a muscle spasm that makes me jerk the wheel sharply to the right at the next telephone pole.

Seriously, I'm just glad I married a grownup who treats me like one too. Jeez, people.

John Kelly: I find that treating even childish people like grown-ups is a good practice. It infuriates them, which is a bonus.


John Kelly: Thanks for stopping by today. We seemed to have three main strands: The Stones, the Names, the Driving. As always, you guys had lots of great observations. Sorry if I didn't get to yours.

A reminder that if you want to see some of the boundary stones, go to this

boundary stones Web site

. Just click on the map to find one near you.

My thanks to Stephen Powers for answering questions--and for taking me on his stones expedition earlier this month.

Have a great weekend everyone.


Stephen Powers: I've been asked in the past why do I think the stones are so cool and what is it about them that I find alluring.

The fact that these stones were the first monuments purchased by our federal government and that Washington, D.C. is the only country capital city that was planned and built is one aspect. The involvement of people like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Ellicott, and Benjamin Bannaker is another aspect. The ever changing development of the city at each of the stones both in social and economical factors is another aspect.


Discussion Archives/Recent Columns


Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company