It happened again. It always happens. Maybe this is the problem with Washington. Or me. I can’t understand what people do here. The first thing people do in DC when they meet someone is ask what they do for a living. I’m not sure why. Whenever I try it, I can never understand the answer.

They will say something like “Deputy Assistant Coordinator at the Liaison Policy Center.” “Oh”. I will say. And try again. “What do you do there, as that?” “Outreach and analysis of inter-agency research programs.” “Oh!, Cool!” A pause as I desperately try to decode what was just said into something I can visualize. Maybe we should try another gambit: “So.......what are you working on right now?” “We’re doing a team project on development goals, including an important longitudinal study.” Longer pause. I sip my drink. I look over their shoulder, as they look over mine. I look over my own shoulder. I look at my shoes, and theirs. Take another sip.

“What did you do on that TODAY?” A last, desperate plea to get something concrete that can be the springboard to a stimulating conversation.