Earlier this summer, I offered advice to tourists visiting Washington. I confess that it was rather pointed advice. It could be boiled down to one simple rule: Stay out of our way.
On the Metro escalator, in the subway car, on the sidewalk -- please just try not to take up more than your allotted space. It's keeping us from our appointed rounds.
Many readers criticized me for being hostile to these vital cogs in Washington's economic machine, and for that I apologize. Others weighed in with their own touristical pet peeves.
What I was most interested in were the comments of tourists themselves, as well as transplants to Washington. What is it about Washington that bugs you, I asked them. Here's what they said.
Our Sartorial Snobbishness
In my column, I chided tourists for wearing inappropriate clothing while taking in the District's sights.
"We like our clothes," wrote Sandy Snyder from California. "We wear colorful and wonderful things. We do not wear bland and plain colors. The most successful and sought-after animals usually have the most colorful plumage. If you do not like our shirts, do not sell them at the many tourist stores that can be found in Washington, D.C."
Our Signs, or Lack Thereof
Carolee Eubanks lived in Derwood and now lives in San Marcos, Calif. "The reason one stops in the middle of the street to look at a map is because that's the only way to figure out where on earth one might possibly be after attempting the laughably impossible: trying to get onto the GW Parkway from Northern Virginia, for example."
That's exactly right, wrote David Jackino, who moved to Sterling from Raleigh, N.C., in 2003. "One wrong turn, and you're headed toward Virginia over a bridge with no easy way back," David said.
I have noticed that some of the signs in the I-395 tunnel are visible only after you've passed your exit.
But it isn't only the road signs. The other day in downtown Silver Spring, I watched a family of tourists (a gaggle of tourists? a pride?) try to find the Metro station. There were no signs, and the station was obscured by trees and various hanging garden-type plantings.
I watched as the tourists walked timidly toward the only train station they saw: the MARC station. I hope they didn't end up in Harpers Ferry.
Several people wrote in to say that if we want people to stand to the right on Metro escalators, why don't we have signs that say "stand right"? (The answer: Metro doesn't want to appear that it condones walking on the escalators, believing that we are incapable of such a complicated maneuver. [Oh, by the way, don't touch the electrified third rail if you have to evacuate from a rail car.])
And anyway, wrote California's Sandy Snyder, our Metro escalators "leave you feeling like you are arriving into the bowels of Hell. If we do not move quickly enough for you, recognize that we are holding on for dear life. And at the bottom we are congratulating ourselves that we made it down."
Lars Bromley said that when his mother was visiting from Kalamazoo, Mich., a few years back, she remarked on all the hustlers, bums, drug addicts and derelicts who made downtown Washington their home -- and an eyesore. She wondered how tight security could really be if homeless people were able to push fully loaded shopping carts across the city.
The Way We Drive
Heather Lisy moved to Alexandria nine years ago from her home town of Chicago. In Washington, she said, "Heaven forbid if you don't move your car exactly when the light turns green."
Ryan Madden moved to Alexandria from Detroit a year ago. He says drivers here are awful.
"And let me tell you, I have never seen so many people turn left from a straight only lane, in front of the people patiently waiting in the left turn lane." (The worst drivers, he said, are those possessing what he calls the "big three": a Toyota with an "OBX" sticker and a "Jesus fish.")
I'm afraid others think we are snobs.
Washingtonians think they are "somehow superior to the rest of the world because they have the privilege of living and working in one of the greatest cities in the world," wrote Rose O'Donnell. "No matter that they may be a barrista at Starbucks or even a lowly columnist at The Washington Post, they seem to think that they own the sidewalks as they push past you."
Marilyn Anderson grew up in the Washington area but moved to Chapin, S.C. She recently visited Washington. "What was most annoying to me as I returned as a tourist with my granddaughter is how seriously you all take yourselves. Now, I know it is the capital of the free world and a lot of people there have major important jobs but most don't!"
It wasn't just tourists who weighed in. Jennifer Hino of Falls Church has lived in the Washington area her whole life. "In response to the grumblings of folks who complain about the tourists' lack of knowledge regarding Metro and sidewalks, I say, get over yourself. If you are [so] gosh important that you cannot relax for 20 seconds going up an escalator then take a cab. . . . I have been on crowded trains where the rudest folks are the ones with the suits and briefcases."
But wait a minute. Aren't we "the most important city in the world"? Maybe we would do well to remember that the bank that used that advertising slogan was gobbled up by a company from . . . Pittsburgh.
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