The Washington Post

Inauguration Week: Be nice to the tourists

With President Obama set to be sworn in for his second term, the District will be swarming with people for the festivities, which could lead to some awkward situations between those of us who live here and the hundreds of thousands of tourists here to enjoy the weekend. Washingtonians: I implore you not to use this time to get chesty in exercising your right to “act like a local.”

Officials and stand-ins attend dress rehearsal Saturday for the upcoming inauguration of President Obama. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Inconveniences will be obvious and plentiful. You’re likely to encounter all the usual trappings of summer tourist season, except in the winter. How about we take this time to actually be decent to out-of-towners?

Sure, they can disrupt your precious routine: Tourists walk slowly down the sidewalk, take a long time ordering their Starbucks, snap pictures of everything and gasp, talk to you on the Metro. That’s after they’ve taken the time to figure out where they’re going.

And there’s nothing wrong with any of that.So there's no need for passive aggressive disdain or vociferous discord via your car horn or your mouth. They’ve got as much right to be here as you do.

Personally, I love tourists. Never mind the fact that large, temporary infusions of people provide a mini-boon for local businesses, lending a helping hand every once and a while is lot more fulfilling that scoffing at someone who isn’t otherwise familiar with local customs. Sure, some things get annoying, but that comes with the territory.

But inauguration is slightly different. Visitors tend to view themselves as more educated, motivated and celebrated than the usual crowd. But if you’re the kind of person that’s wont to disliking that, I suggest you find a way out of town, soon.

Four years ago, the situation was unique. With the country’s first president of color taking the oath, those who descended on the city were particularly amped to be a part of history. I remember seeing more people wearing fur coats on Metro than I’d ever imagined possible.

The whole city’s dynamic was unlike anything I’d ever seen. Understandably.

The upcoming days give us all a chance to represent this area well. Don’t be the too-cool local who can’t bother with anyone else because you just don’t have the time. That reflects poorly on everyone, which, in turn, ultimately affects everyone’s bottom line.

And while our city’s elected officials may not be able to do anything other than embarrass themselves around Inauguration Day, we do not need to follow suit. I like to look at this time every four years as an opportunity to people-watch and help solve a few problems.

Though I’m not going so far as to rent my place out to the highest bidder, I plan to be as hospitable as possible. At this point, it really has nothing to do with who’s going to be in the White House.

As they say, politics make for strange bedfellows. And this week is the pinnacle of that relationship. There’s no point in ruining it for someone full of promise about the direction of the country looking for a party.

Besides, it’s only a few days or so. Pretty soon we’ll be able to go back to life as we know it, complete with busy schedules and other, replaceable, nameless faces in the crowd.

But maybe, with a few more friends and a renewed feeling of hope.

Yates is a columnist for The RootDC.

Clinton Yates is a D.C. native and an online columnist. When he's not covering the city, pop culture or listening to music, he watches sports. A lot of them.



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