Memo to Reagan Appointees
Subject: Behavior in Washington
You have just been assigned to Washington, D.C. Your behavior in this foreign capital will reflect not only on your president but also on your political party and is an awesome responsibility. It is essential that you understand the native customs and culture in order to make a good impression and win the hearts and minds of the people who live here.
The natives may seem strange at first, but once you get to know and understand them, you will find Washingtonians friendly and accommodating, though somewhat slow on the uptake. This is not because they are dumb, but over the years they have become wary about committing themselves on any subject until they are certain the person they are talking to is not in a position to do them any harm.
First, the language. The official language of Washington is "Acronym," which looks and sounds like Hungarian. Washingtonians combine the first letter of each word of an agency or department. Example: "OSHA needs S.P. 134 report before OMB can authorize EIS (environmental Impact Study) for DOF (disbursement of funds)." Fortunately, there are many people in Washington who also speak English and will translate for you. Most of them are lawyers. So, if you have a problem making yourself understood, stop into any building in Washington and ask a lawyer to translate for you. He will be happy to oblige for $200 an hour.
Your first impression of Washington is that the people who live here are lazy and don't do anything. This is not true. They are hard-working and conscientious and will do anything you ask of them. The trouble is that nobody knows what to ask them to do.
The official currency is the "taxpayer dollar." One million dollars is equal to an F-4 airplane. One hundred million dollars is equal to a small aircraft carrier. Ten billion dollars will buy you an MX missile system. The natives don't mind haggling with customers and rather enjoy it. For example, if someone asks for $50 million for a new dam, tell him you won't give him a cent more than $45 million, and he'll be happy to take it.
Washingtonians love to let their hair down and have a good time. The most popular form of entertaining is known as "the cocktail party." If you are lucky enough to be invited to one, it's an experience you'll never forget. The natives all gather in small circles and hold glasses in their hands and scream and laugh at the top of their voices. It is safe to drink the liquor, and you will offend your host and hostess if you don't eat the gaucamole dip, as this is Washington's national dish.
Washingtonians also hold dinner parties, which are prepared by people known as "caterers." They are interesting meals and if you are asked to one, it is an honor. If you don't know how to eat the food that is served, just watch your neighbor and follow whatever he or she does.
Tipping is the most confusing thing for a foreigner in Washington. If you go to a $1,000-a-plate fund-raising dinner, the tip is included in the bills. But if an indicted congressman gets a private law through the House of Representatives for you, it is not. Add 15 percent to the bill.
As for clothes, Washington has a temperate climate. Women should bring five or six simple Adolfo suits for the daytime and a dozen Halston evening gowns for the evening. Men should pack seven or eight morning suits with gray-striped pants and tail coats.
That's about all you need to know about coming to Washington. While it may not be like any place you've been before, if you don't try to fight it you can have a marvelous time. But if you come with a chip on your shoulder, you will immediately be dubbed by the natives as another "Ugly Republican."