Hello! If you are reading this column, it's because you're a tourist visiting Washington.
Your hotel concierge might have handed this to you. Or your cabdriver. Or perhaps it was a resident of Washington, who encountered you on our acclaimed Metro system and, concerned for your well-being, thrust it into your hands.
So, what's this all about? Let's just consider it some friendly advice designed to make your stay in Washington more enjoyable. Or, more accurately, designed to make your stay in Washington more enjoyable for us, the people who actually live here. It's a little something I call "Rules for a Tourist in Washington, D.C."
1. Stand to the right. Even though Washington voted overwhelmingly for John Kerry in the last election, it is still part of the United States of America. (At least last time I checked!) And in the United States, we drive on the right and pass on the left.
That's an easy way to remember what to do on the escalators of our acclaimed Metro system. Do not clog the escalator like a blood clot in an artery. Do not stand in a big, impenetrable clump. Stand to the right so we may carefully climb past you. Hey, we have a train to catch!
2. Get out of the way. The rules of physics apply as inexorably in Washington as they do where you come from. That means two objects may not occupy the same space simultaneously. When the escalator deposits you on the platform, you must get out of the way. If you stand there, congratulating each other for having successfully ridden your first escalator, we're going to run into you.
Please move aside smartly so that others may complete their escalator ride.
3. Let people off the train before boarding, then move to the center of the car. When the train arrives and the doors open, there will probably be people on it who want to get off. Let them. You may then board. But don't tarry just inside the door. Keep moving. This makes room for others.
4. The train is not a piece of gymnastics apparatus. Yes, those silver poles inside a Metro train look like something from the Summer Olympics, but they are not to play with. They are to hold onto. Resist the temptation to entertain your buddies by seeing how many chin-ups you can do. Do not allow your child to spin on them, no matter how cute you might think it looks.
5. Single file please! Our sidewalks might seem wide, but, frankly, we've noticed that you're kind of on the wide side, too. And when five or six of you line up side by side you resemble a phalanx, the impenetrable Macedonian battle formation. We can't get past you on the way to our meeting with the president or, more likely, to the Starbucks.
Please don't hog the sidewalk.
6. Keep it moving. Perhaps you come from a part of our great nation that moves at a slower pace. It might be common for you to stop on the sidewalk, take off your hat, scratch your head, hike up your pants, then ask an old friend how his silage is getting on.
We don't do that here. The wheels of commerce and government turn constantly. We have places to go and people to see. Bills don't turn into laws by themselves, ya know! We don't expect you to be so hyperactive -- after all, you're on vacation. We only ask that you not stop dead in the middle of the sidewalk (see No. 5, above). If you must caucus with your fellow touristi, please move to the side so we can get past you.
7. Drive carefully. There might come a day when we all laugh about how you can't negotiate a traffic circle. Or how one-way streets flummox you. Or how you stop in the middle of the street to look at your map or snap a photo of the Lincoln Memorial.
But that day isn't here yet. If you think you might be a hazard to others, consider parking your car and walking.
8. Dress appropriately. We know it's hot here in the summer. (Although, arguably, it's not the heat; it's the humidity.) We understand why the ladies among you might be tempted to wear a belly-revealing halter with spaghetti straps and cotton shorts that say "CHEER" across the butt, and the men a mesh tank top, cutoffs and flip-flops. But, please, that is inappropriate attire for many of Washington's attractions: Arlington National Cemetery, the Senate and House, our war memorials. . . . Show some respect.
9. Enjoy your stay. Really. We mean it. You could have chosen to go anywhere and you came here, to our town. Thank you.
Go On. Defend Yourself
Oh sure, it's easy for me to make fun of the aggravating things tourists do. But there must be another side. What does D.C. do to aggravate tourists? If you've ever visited Washington and been annoyed by something you encountered, drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Time's Running Out
Now, more than ever, we need readers to help support Moss Hollow, the summer camp for at-risk kids from the Washington area. Our goal by July 27 is $650,000. So far we've raised $283,515. Here's how you can make a tax-deductible contribution:
Make a check or money order payable to "Send a Kid to Camp" and mail it to FCS, P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237.
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