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Stand on the right, pass on the left
January 18, 2009 4:13 PM   Subscribe


 
I'm trying to imagine a way that could be more patronizing, and failing.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:20 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I mean, to be fair, DC is pretty much the coolest metropolitan area of them all. And suckers really oughta stand to the right on Metro escalators. It's not even funny, man.
posted by silby at 4:22 PM on January 18, 2009


Not just the Metro --- any Metro, except in reverse while traveling in the Tube.
posted by DenOfSizer at 4:28 PM on January 18, 2009


I mean, to be fair, DC is pretty much the coolest metropolitan area of them all.

Please. It's where we send Poli Sci majors so they don't bore everybody else to death.
posted by jonmc at 4:28 PM on January 18, 2009 [11 favorites]


Is there anywhere in North America where "walk left, stand right" isn't the rule, as prominently repeated every twenty feet on tasteful plastic-protected signs bolted to the escalator?

Seriously, not knowing that by know is grounds for obnoxiously loud throat clearing in someone's ear.
posted by fatbird at 4:28 PM on January 18, 2009


Most of the time when you think you see a retired principal naked mole rat, it is someone famous. Like this guy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Waxman. He is famous. His name is Henry Waxman.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:32 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is there anywhere in North America where "walk left, stand right" isn't the rule, as prominently repeated every twenty feet on tasteful plastic-protected signs bolted to the escalator?

This is a culture-shock problem for Wyomingite tourists, yes.
posted by cortex at 4:32 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is there anywhere in North America where "walk left, stand right" isn't the rule, as prominently repeated every twenty feet on tasteful plastic-protected signs bolted to the escalator?

I've never heard of this rule on escalators. On sidewalks and everywhere else, sure, it's like common sense, but my experience and observations of escalators have basically been "stand on it" or "walk on it when in a hurry." I think it's a useful tip to visitors from places without a metro system.

Seriously, not knowing that by know is grounds for obnoxiously loud throat clearing in someone's ear.

Ew. What's wrong with "excuse me?" You can even say it all super agitated to let me know how much I'm inconveniencing you if it helps.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 4:35 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


If it's a huge problem that people aren't recognizing you, you are by definition not famous.
posted by DU at 4:35 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Washington is an imposing place, with a wonky and complex culture that is hard to understand.

Well, we can't promise anything, but we will certainly try. Oh, and if you come to my city, please go and fuck yourself- quietly.
posted by mattoxic at 4:37 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is there anywhere in North America where "walk left, stand right" isn't the rule?

Well, it's the rule for the moving walkways in every US airport I've ever been in, and 97.2% of travelers still cannot fucking seem to comply with it.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:42 PM on January 18, 2009 [11 favorites]


Please. It's where we send Poli Sci majors so they don't bore everybody else to death.
posted by jonmc at 9:28 PM on January 18 [+] [!]


And then they promptly leave town when Congress isn't in session. They are not one of 'us'.
posted by matty at 4:43 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh man, I loved living in DC. I even had a summer job as a trolley tour guide. I live somewhere more affordable now, but I still miss going to a different free museum every weekend.

Usually, I tolerated tourists well, but there were a few cases where I wanted to yell at people. I know you're on vacation, but seriously, don't get in anyone's way. Namely:

1. Move to the center of the Metro car if all of the seats are taken.
2. Do not take a picture of your family if it means completely disrupting the flow of traffic because no one wants to end up in your shot. This goes double for the backside of the Whitehouse where there is only one narrow path. Walk around to the Pennsylvania side if you want to take your time.
3. Just because the doors to a school or government building are open doesn't mean that you are welcome to the restrooms. They are for the people working there; the porta-potties five blocks south are for you. (I swear I almost cut someone during the Million Mom March)
4. If an escalator is not working in a metro stop, don't stop and gawk at it or wait for it to turn back on. Just use it like a regular set of stairs.
5. Yes, the Rosslyn escalator is long. If you're going to freak out about it, could you please do it to the side over there and not directly on front of it? Thanks.
posted by Alison at 4:48 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I live in the area. But I'm pretty meh about it. Please feel free to use either side of the escalator.
posted by mullacc at 4:49 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can never think of D.C. without thinking of Tracy Flick getting promoted on some Senator's couch.
posted by plexi at 4:51 PM on January 18, 2009


Hey, you say. These are the most pointless tips I have ever read. I only started it because I thought I was going to learn something useful, like where to get a burger at 2 a.m. (Ben's Chili Bowl) You are dumb.

Please do not judge the tips. The tips are here to help you.


Eh... not really.

Alison's list was far better than just about everything in that article. Especially number 4. That is always one of my biggest public transit annoyances, regardless of the city that I'm in.
posted by sabira at 5:00 PM on January 18, 2009


Outdoor escalators? Now I've seen everything!
posted by furtive at 5:04 PM on January 18, 2009


Recently was in D.C, during the wife's attendance at neuroscience.

Had a political discussion on the bus ride to the hotel with four UK tourists and the driver.

Walked more miles than I normally drive.

Stood to the right (it's not rocket science).

Fell in love with that city. I don;t know what it was....the people, the places, the temperature, the people, the food, the people, or the many things to see. Or the people.

But it was a fantastic trip. Damn fine. I live in Austin. I wish Austin could assimilate outside influence as well.
posted by blixco at 5:05 PM on January 18, 2009


I'm trying to imagine a way that could be more patronizing, and failing.

Then the author has succeeded.

Seriously, lots of people visiting DC simply don't understand the stand-right-walk-left rule. It makes me wonder what it must be like in other parts of the country where people standing on the left is simply a way of life rather than a public annoyance.

All that being said, I myself finally decided that I had had enough of DC and left a couple of months ago. It's good to be able to live like a normal person instead of in a run-down apartment and to not be constantly surrounded by pretentious yet dimwitted and low-paid hill-staffers.
posted by deanc at 5:09 PM on January 18, 2009


Many of us Washingtonians are transplants ourselves.

Yeah and many of you use the term Washingtonian and make lame generalizations about tourists. The tourists are fine man, they don't go anywhere I go usually and I try to help them use the admittedly weird Metrocard machines. Only prissy North Carolinians get annoyed by out-of-towners. You all look like bammas to me. Especially if you think Ben's is a good place to get a burger at 2am. (Get chicken and waffles at Oohs and Ahs or get shwarma at that cafe next to mcdonalds instead, or better yet be in NE and go to Dannys and get fried chicken. Mmmmm Dannys.)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:10 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Does it mention how everyone is a lame-ass dork dressed in height of mall fashions who are all playing pretend at being urban while ignoring the actual city around them?
posted by The Whelk at 5:17 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Last year the Metro started a bunch of really passive-agressive announcements saying things like, "Welcome to metro. You may notice that most people stand on the right and walk on the left when using the escalators."
posted by deanc at 5:18 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I stay in the 'burbs most of the time, but holy frack do I pride myself on being a Metro ninja.
posted by cowbellemoo at 5:18 PM on January 18, 2009


Does it mention how everyone is a lame-ass dork dressed in height of mall fashions who are all playing pretend at being urban while ignoring the actual city around them?

No that's the article about how to blend in with the Connecticutians on the Upper West Side. Or anywhere else in NY.

CITY FIGHT STARTS NOW GO
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:20 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


D.C. seems cool if you grew up in Baltimore. But then, so does just about anywhere.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:22 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I never thought I'd see the word "bamma" on MeFi, so thank you for that, Potomac Avenue. Seriously, seeing that just now made me smile. I don't live in DC anymore, so whenever I slip up and use "bamma" around people who have never heard it before, they ask me if I'm talking about Alabama. Then it usually just gets awkward from there while I try to explain what it means.
posted by sabira at 5:34 PM on January 18, 2009


COOL DISCO DAN!!!
posted by bardic at 5:37 PM on January 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


Hey DC, a little more attitude, we might actually give you fair representation in Congress.
posted by fungible at 5:45 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


When I read articles written in this stream-of-consciousness fashion I wonder if they weren't emailed in from someone's blackberry.
posted by 517 at 5:51 PM on January 18, 2009


How precious, the metropolitan attempting to school the barbarian hordes descending on his beloved adopted home. In my experience, this is something that *only* transplants do, no matter where they're from. Born and bred locals tend to ignore it.
posted by mrmojoflying at 5:51 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


What about the feral ghouls?

Guessing I have more simulated hours in the D.C. Metro than most Washington commuters have in the real thing.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:52 PM on January 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


It's worth pointing out to those not in the know that there are no signs on the Metro specifically informing people to stand to the right and walk on the left, because the WMATA's official opinion is that you shouldn't walk on the escalators at all (IIRC). But everyone does it anyway, and when there are a lot of tourists around and you use the Metro on a regular basis, it gets annoying pretty fast. I just try to not worry about it, and help people learn to use it and get where they're going. Then maybe they'll help the people they find and the problem will be lessened overall.

Slight derail:

I live in Austin. I wish Austin could assimilate outside influence as well.

I'm in sort of the opposite situation - born and raised in the DC area, now living in Austin - and I totally agree. They seem like they'd be more similar. They're both very liberal, capitol cities, with huge non-native populations that shift around a lot. But the thing is Austin seems to transform everyone living there into an Austinite, whereas I feel like DC culture is a conglomerate of all the cultures people have brought with them. Nothing wrong or right with either, it's just a weird difference.
posted by malthas at 5:55 PM on January 18, 2009


This tip is for visitors and locals alike, although the locals are usually the ones most likely to need the reminder:

When you get on the Metro, please keep moving into the car after you get on board. Do not stop as if no one were behind you. Those doors do not automatically reopen should they encounter an obstacle. The doors go squish, in trash-compactor style. As pointed out in another tip, move to the center of the car, even if no seats are available. It will keep you from experiencing the unpleasant bump-forward-move-it-along from the person behind you who would really rather not experience the aforementioned squish.

The only people who can ignore this tip are those with motorized chairs or wheelchairs, and people with guide dogs. But even the people I've seen with wheeled chairs or dogs are thoughtful enough to move into the car, and out of the way because, they do know they take up more-than-average space.
posted by datawrangler at 5:58 PM on January 18, 2009


I lived in the DC area for two years, 15 years ago. And you know what, Kid Charlemagne? When I play Fallout 3? I always walk up and down the escalators on the right...because that ingrained commuter fury apparently never goes away.

One time in the real DC that's only somewhat infested with ghouls? I saw EMTs attending to someone who had apparently fallen down the Tenleytown escalator. That cured me of fast left side sprinting.

On preview: I also saw a guy get his bag lunch squished in the Metro doors once. That was awesome.
posted by gnomeloaf at 6:01 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fell in love with that city. I don;t know what it was....the people, the places, the temperature, the people, the food, the people, or the many things to see. Or the people.

It was the fact you were only here for a few days.
posted by inigo2 at 6:04 PM on January 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


I've decided that since DC is footing most of the bill for all this inauguration stuff, I don't feel bad telling tourists to get out of my way.
posted by inigo2 at 6:05 PM on January 18, 2009


D.C. seems cool if you grew up in Baltimore.

False.

But then, so does just about anywhere.

False. (See Fresno, Stockton, Detroit, Richmond (both), Grand Rapids, Albany, Cleveland, almost all of Ohio and central PA, the list goes on...)

Oh, yeah!!! CITY FIGHT IS ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by el_lupino at 6:06 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Heh. About 8 yers ago on the Monday after SXSW was over, Johnnie Walker started his afternoon shift on KLBJ and said something like:

"Wow, we all had a blast at South By this year -- fantastic time, saw lotsa great bands, the whole thing was wonderful. I just need to make one announcement -- legally, anyone who does not currently live in Austin has until 5 PM to be out of the city limits."

He immediately got a call from an irate New Yorker who found it not funny at all, and put him on the air. Comedy gold.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:07 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Don't chase the squirrels and the pigeons. Yes, they are tamer than elsewhere; no, you will not catch them and what would you do with them if you did?
posted by Morrigan at 6:10 PM on January 18, 2009


furtive: "Outdoor escalators? Now I've seen everything!"

Not so much anymore.

Apparently there's a reason why virtually nobody else puts escalators where they're be totally exposed to the elements, and the Metro gods have put these slightly insectile canopies over most street-level ones to alleviate the constant breakdowns.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:16 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Did someone say Walk Left, Stand Right?
posted by Wolfdog at 6:23 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why does nobody in DC have sex on Sunday mornings?

They're watching McLaughlin Group AMIRITE???
posted by bardic at 6:25 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


YOUR FAVORITE CITY SUCKS
posted by me & my monkey at 6:51 PM on January 18, 2009


Stand on the right, pass on the left is normally the rule. It's a very important rule. But as of tonight, the new rule really is there are no rules. Everyone needs to keep moving.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:53 PM on January 18, 2009


Tips for DC: people are smart but boring. The food is mostly not good. Not bad either, but seriously unspecial. Ethiopian food in dc is good if you like Ethiopian food. El Salvadorian food tend to be good too. DC has in general some of the worst Italian food ever. DC is generally an uptight town. Many jobs depend on getting security clearances and having background checks probably has something to do with the uprightness. The logo for the wizards is the worst logo for any sporting team ever. Chinatown has some Chinese food restaurants but mostly it has stores you would find in a mall with the name in Chinese in little letters. They aren't fooling anyone. People lose their shit over snow. Which doesn't make sense because it seriously snows at least a couple times a year. Do you know how people tell stories about getting scripts handed to them by waiters and valets? That how it is in DC only with people having complicated political theories. The magazine the Economist get's delivered to your door like a newspaper instead of delivered with the mail. There are an awful lot of charter schools. There are republican bars but there aren't really democrat bars. The democrat bars are just called bars.
posted by I Foody at 7:17 PM on January 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


As of 2008 DC has less than 600,000 natives, of which 40% are non-black. One-third of Washington residents are functionally illiterate1 (wish I was kidding). The sourrounding counties have 6 to 7 million people.

Most people live and work in the surrounding counties and go to DC a couple times a year for a cultural event. Even most of the government-related jobs are outside the city proper in the surrounding counties. Most people in the area go by multiple identities - DC in the big picture because its easily identifiable, but what county your from is really more significant - Montgomery, Howard, Prince Georges, Fairfax, Loudoun, Stafford and Prince William - that's the core, then another belt or two of counties beyond that. DC rears huge in the cultural imagination, but the city is a small place. We all know this, those of us who live around here. This WaPo article is very tongue in cheek. But it does convey some helpful info, like hang on to your Metro ticket to get out. They forgot to mention it's going to be cold as hell, 20-26 degrees, a bit windy, a bit cloudy. I admire anyone who is going.
posted by stbalbach at 7:18 PM on January 18, 2009


Escalator rules? Huh. The things you miss when you always take the elevator.

But even the people I've seen with wheeled chairs or dogs are thoughtful enough to move into the car, and out of the way because, they do know they take up more-than-average space.

And if you are bipedal and don't move in to the middle, those of us with chairs will not feel guilty about running over your feet. At all.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 7:19 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


The tips, do not be fooled by the escalator bullshit and such. But for all that is holy, GO TO BEN'S CHILI BOWL. It looks like they just slid that in there as an aside, but that's really all you need to know.
posted by Ella Fynoe at 7:23 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Alright. Let me make the Wyomingite version of this:

1. On the highway, if you cannot leave at least three car lengths between you and the vehicles ahead or behind you when you change lanes, you don't get to change lanes. On the interstate, try to make it six. If the left lane is open and empty for a good distance, make it nine.

2. All animals that are not explicitly pets are wild. If a wild animal is over about 40 lbs, it can kick your ass, and they all can run at least four times as fast as you can. Do not approach wild animals.

In particular, any animal that is known to be hazardous (buffalo, moose, bears, sometimes elk, wolverines. etc.) should be observed from no less than 100 meters away. You can use the following rule to determine if you are too close: If the animal suddenly transformed into a car and the ground into a highway, and the animal started accelerating toward you as fast as a good sports car could, would it hit you before you got back into your own car? If so, then you're too close.

3. Any hot spring should be treated as boiling until you check it. Any ground without a walkway, building, or road on it in Yellowstone should be treated as a pit trap that drops you into boiling acid unless known not to be.

4. Pretending to be a cowboy or rancher is incredibly tacky.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:26 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Leaving room for people to pass on the left is the escalator standard, yes. But DC people are more intense about it because some of those Metro escalators are really super damn long. Get stuck on one and you get stuck for a long time. They would freak out about the single-person-width escalators in the Herald Square station in NYC. Once someone decides they aren't walking on those, nobody's walking.
posted by yarrow at 7:29 PM on January 18, 2009


You can't spell hardcore with DC.
posted by bardic at 7:43 PM on January 18, 2009


Why do people walk on escalators and moving sidewalks anyway? If you want to walk, get a treadmill. I plant myself on escalators and moving sidewalks and don't budge. Someone paid a lot of money to install and maintain that ride, and I'm going to enjoy it. Whee! (I mean, if it were an actual stairway, I'd be taking the steps two or three at a time. But escalators are a little slice of Disneyland, right in the middle of your day.)
posted by Faze at 7:46 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Why do people walk on escalators and moving sidewalks anyway?"

Because you're in my way, asshole.
posted by bardic at 7:55 PM on January 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


Sydney version:
1. If it's between March and September you'll need more to wear than that sarong you brought. The Southern Hemisphere has winter too.
2. Do Not Fuck With The Immigration Authorities.
3. If someone starts talking rubbish about "drop bears", just pretend you haven't heard it before a million times on the internet. It tickles our fancy to believe that our old jokes haven't propagated.
4. Do Not Fuck With The Immigration Authorities.
5. Just because we whinge about our public transport, doesn't mean you can.
6. Do Not Fuck With The Immigration Authorities (etc.)
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:59 PM on January 18, 2009


What an irritating reading experience that was.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:04 PM on January 18, 2009


http://www.gadling.com/2008/12/17/where-to-pee-in-d-c-a-guide-for-inauguration-day

Where to Pee in DC

www.whereinwashingtondc.com
posted by donaldekelly at 8:10 PM on January 18, 2009


I don't live in DC anymore, so whenever I slip up and use "bamma" around people who have never heard it before, they ask me if I'm talking about Alabama.

That's where it came from. As in, "You look and act like you're from Alabama." (i.e., a transplanted hick.)

Anyhoo, The WaPo has a service sending alerts about inaug. day concerns (e.g. which metros are overcrowded) in a variety of formats (SMS, email, etc.) Details are at washingtonpost.com/inaugurationsurvival

Good luck. I'm staying the heck out of the city.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:18 PM on January 18, 2009


I'm going to rebel a bit against the general tenor of the discussion and say that most of the time, locals and visitors alike tend to be pretty good about standing to the right on Metro escalators. And I live in the vicinity of Union Station Metro.

What really Hulks me out is people's behavior immediately after stepping off. It's only common sense that you should leave the escalator at a rate equal to or greater than the velocity of the movement of the escalator itself, for the benefit of those stepping off behind you. I've twice tripped over the wheeled duffels of people who figured the escalator landing was exactly the right spot to stop and get one's bearings or send a text message, and it's never fun to push a stopped body in front out of the way because there's a whole line of people all barreling up the magical moving staircase behind you.

Oh, deanc, I remember someone at the Post asking why Metro doesn't just put up "walk left stand right" notices on the escalators and the Metro spokesman at the time said in truth they'd rather not have anyone walk on escalators at all because the constant tramping of feet on the machinery wears it out faster, causing more breakdowns. It took them years to come up with that compromise announcement about "most people" standing on the right without really saying that walking is meant to be done on the left. I don't know why they don't just follow most of the rest of the civilized escalator-riding rail transit world and just keep the escalators in better maintenance.
posted by brownpau at 8:27 PM on January 18, 2009


I love that none of the guide-writers are natives — though Potomac Avenue gets the key to the city for correct use of bamma.

If you aren't native, and you didn't come to DC during WW2, you're no true Washingtonian.
posted by blasdelf at 8:38 PM on January 18, 2009


The magazine the Economist get's delivered to your door like a newspaper instead of delivered with the mail.

OK, that's pretty cool.
posted by smackfu at 8:44 PM on January 18, 2009


"When you are on a Metro escalator, boarding a Metro train or doing anything remotely affiliated with the transit authority's symbol, then please stand single file on the right and pass on the left." (emphasis mine)

Given that it is not customary to form a single line to board any subway train, I see two possible options here:
  1. The part I underlined is not actually true.
  2. Washingtonians are, generally speaking, too stupid for public transit.
The fact that you can get arrested for eating on the Metro indicates that the latter is more likely to be true.

Yes, the Rosslyn escalator is long.

And perhaps someday all of its parts will move at the same speed.
posted by oaf at 8:45 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


What I find awkward is when you have single-file escalators, and some people clearly want to go faster than others, but it just isn't happening.
posted by smackfu at 9:01 PM on January 18, 2009


"Why do people walk on escalators and moving sidewalks anyway?"

Because you're in my way, asshole.


This. This is fucking revealed truth suitable for being broadcast by burning bush/writ by an angel's fiery hand for the motherfucking ages.
posted by stet at 9:53 PM on January 18, 2009


I have not read the article or even read the comments but I bet you it's going to say to stand on the right and walk on the left on the Metro escalators.
posted by champthom at 10:19 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I knew it!
posted by champthom at 10:19 PM on January 18, 2009


And we ain't got no git-durn graffitti on our subway cars! Suck it New York and Chicago!
posted by bardic at 10:26 PM on January 18, 2009


If you aren't native, and you didn't come to DC during WW2, you're no true Washingtonian.

I have a friend whose family is old-school Washington, and as for some reason I don't like the term "Washingtonian," I instead called him a "districteer."

He wasn't amused.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:41 PM on January 18, 2009


They forgot "Don't Eat or Drink on the Metro!" That's my favorite rule, our metro cars are so clean that you could eat off of their floors if you were allowed to.

I'm just glad I won't be in the area tomorrow.
posted by martinc6 at 10:51 PM on January 18, 2009


Oh, yeah!!! CITY FIGHT IS ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


From many, many, visits to Our Nation's Capitol and Points Beyond, please allow me to humbly present:

What Is Wrong With the District Of Columbia.

For the sake of argument, I am only going to refer to the area of D.C where the average visitor might find themselves and not the larger outer areas. Okay? Lets go.

1: It's not very big. It's perviced size is outweighed by the fact that D.C is a pretty modest city and almost small-town like in it's clannish areas, which feeds into...

2: It's a company town, and that company is the U.S Government. Almost everyone is involved in the Government or has come because of it or hopes to be in it. This leads to a very closed off, nerdish fixation on that Company. As mentioned before, everyone is very upright and uptight and worried about things you can't possibly begin to care about. It's like L.A, but with bureaucracy instead of media, which is made worse because..

3. It's a city of transients. Lobbyists, aides, interns, students, administration staffers, pretty much everyone in the Official D.C Zone is from someplace else. Worst yet, they don't want to stay. D.C is a stepping stone, a way station to something better or the place you go to do business before heading home. Commuterville, U.S.A. Which is bad because ..

4: The city plan SUCKS. The L' Enfant plan is one of the worst kinds of Grand City planning which makes no sense on the ground. Everything is too far apart, the roads are huge and nothing connects to anything. It's like Canberra, this wonderful idea that makes no fucking sense on the ground cause it doesn't connect to how people actually live or move around.

It all adds up to a very detached feeling. People in transition in a city where the entire populations flips every four years. The only things that can stay are things graced with Traditional Historical Weight or popular shclock everyone can agree to like. A Mall City.


For balance, D.C has many good points, namely

1: The Museums really do rock. The National Gallery is worth a visit alone... but Air and Space? Smithsonian? Big fuckoff monuments? and little side galleries? The great Big Boxes of Art and History should be visited at least once. and the National Gallery has the best cafeteria of any museum I've been in, hands down.

2: The Metro, while not going anyplace I really want to go, is so clean! and so fast! and so well run! and works well despite being a public transit system in America. Go D.C Metro.

3: Historical preservation and the need of New People to cement their place within the city's power structure means that the historical buildings and characters of many neighborhoods are intact. Rows and rows of nice 18th century rowhouses are nothing to be laughed at, and they are all very maintained. Or else.

4: I saw a production of Measure For Pleasure there that I will never forget, but that's me.

It's a nice, if overly impressed with it's modest charms kind of town. It's solidly, sternly middlebrow and middle of the road America, which I guess is fitting. It's stodgy and uptight and small. It can drink really hard but the bars close too early. It's very squarely O.K.

And the kind of patronizing article the FPP links to are only written by annoying patronizing twats.
posted by The Whelk at 11:17 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Have to disagree with you, Whelk, on the transience of DC. I've lived in DC for nearly 22 years now (though am temporarily relocated), and have many, many friends who have been in DC for 15+ years. If you sampled the early 20s demographic, I expect that you might find a higher degree of impermanence, but in my demographic (married, 40+, 2 kids), we're here to stay, even if we came from somewhere else.

Part of the reason is that our skills are not readily transferrable. Those who work in policy positions in the government or who work in the private sector on public policy issues would have a difficult time transferring that experience to another market. I worked on Capitol Hill for 2 years, and when I tried to explain what I did to my friends in Illinois it was like I was speaking a foreign language. Did not compute.

Back on topic, the WaPo article sucked, as many of their fluff pieces do. Their writers aren't half as clever as they think (with the exception of Gene Weingarten, who can occasionally put out a masterpiece). My advice for vistors would be to get into a cab a few times and engage your driver in a political discussion. Your driver will likely be foreign, have at least a masters degree, and will give you some very interesting perspectives on the United States. For those of you with bad memories of DC cabs, be advised that DC has (finally) switched to a meter system, so the chances of getting really ripped off are lessened.

For food, check out Tyler Cowens Ethinic Dining Guide, a highly opinionated food blog from a GWU Economics professor. He focuses mainly on the outlying DC suburbs which is where the best and most authentic ethic food is now found.

Finally, if I were in DC this weekend, I'd check out the Korean War Memorial. Our troops fought a fair bit of that war in the freezing cold, and I think it would be a nice gesture to contemplate their sacrifice under comparable conditions.
posted by hawkeye at 12:48 AM on January 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


What I love about DC is that it's basically a small town, but with a big city vibe. It doesn't take very much effort to get to know everybody in town that matters in whatever scene you take an interest in. I started going to nightclubs there on weekends, and not very long after, I knew pretty much every major promoter in town, got into most clubs for free and met pretty much every act that came through for a couple of years, and at one point, I was DJing at the biggest club in the city (and one of the biggest in the country) fairly regularly. In NYC, that would have never happened for me, I don't think. Too big, too easy to get lost. In DC, there was really only 20 or 30 people you needed to know, to know everybody important. It was like that for my scene, at least, I'm sure the other music and arts scenes are the same here.
posted by empath at 1:41 AM on January 19, 2009


The Whelk: It seems like you know a lot of white people, but that's to be expected from someone from Vanillaburg Manhattan. Most people here are not involved in politics at all and we are here to stay and we are multi-ethnic and devoted to the cool and neighborly neighborhoods we live in that are conveniently laid out in a number and letter graph. The culture that you're describing is in Howard County MD and northern VA, which I do not recognize as real places. Your description makes as much sense as someone characterizing Nashville after visiting Opryville and Dollywood, but I guess that's de rigeur for an inhabitant of Giuliani's Disneyland Ranch North.

+half-point for British curse word, but otherwise 10 Points DC, NO POINTS YOU, BOOYAH CITY FIGHT ROUND TWO BEGIN
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:56 AM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I live in downtown Portland, Oregon, and I see tourists here a lot, mostly during the summer. Meh. It's no big deal. Mostly they're polite, well-dressed (compared to west coast, ahem, casual fashion), and they only bother me in order to ask for directions.
posted by wastelands at 2:21 AM on January 19, 2009


Whelk, I saw that production of Measure for Pleasure! Laughed my butt off, too.

I am from DC, born and raised, and now live in London. I get back to DC a fair bit to visit family, though, and I still love my town with a passion. When there, I stay with a friend who's another born-and-bred DCer. There are more of us about than one might think.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:10 AM on January 19, 2009


Sort of a tangent, but it bothers me how people sometimes equate legitimacy/authenticity with having lived in the same place one's entire life. "What, you haven't lived here since the day you were born? Stick to your own kind, outsider!" So my friends who have moved to DC from North Carolina and Wisconsin and Connecticut and West Virginia and wherever because they love this city and want to be part of it should have what, stayed home, and that would have made them more "authentic" people? This seems like an oddly provincial attitude.

/military brat, not "from" anywhere, a little bitter
posted by naoko at 8:14 AM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love DC. I live in Austin.
I am not an Austinite. I never will be. (I ain't a Washingtonian or Districteer, neither.)

BUT
I like these tips. I understand what it is like to have people wander into your town in mass and get in your way, not know how things work, and so on.

Every year at SXSW I have to deal with this crap.
We don't have a Metro, but I once had to verbally remind some LA cowboy that our streets are one of the ways we move people around the town and are not intended for visitors to wander down the center of a lane gawking. On fucking South Congress!
It's enough to drive one batty (and make me advocate vocally for ending of that tainted abomination of a conference).

So when untold millions filter into DC for the Inauguration and the average girl or guy still needs to go to work, this list of tips is a needed relief. Even if no one visiting read it.
DC is friendly to visitors, I can imagine this week might make that hospitality wear a little thin. Understandably so.
posted by Seamus at 9:18 AM on January 19, 2009


It's not that we hate tourists. Not like New Yorkers do, with their Born-Here-Die-Here possessiveness.

We love tourists! We have entire business districts dedicated to ripping them off! C'mon!
posted by sondrialiac at 11:59 AM on January 19, 2009


Is there anywhere in North America where "walk left, stand right" isn't the rule, as prominently repeated every twenty feet on tasteful plastic-protected signs bolted to the escalator?

Yes. The Toronto Transit Commission took the signs down. But official or not, it's still the rule if you don't want to get punched in the kidneys.
posted by heffalump at 12:41 PM on January 19, 2009


DC has in general some of the worst Italian food ever.

True, but some of the best as well. I recently enjoyed pure foodie bliss at Al Crostino on U Street (which is a madhouse right now, by the way; the line for Ben's goes around the block). Also try Obelisk on P, just off Dupont Circle - you'll need to call several weeks ahead of time; reservations become available 30 days out, I believe.
posted by CaptApollo at 2:15 PM on January 19, 2009


Ages ago, when I was just out of college, I lived in Arlington for a year or so, in Takoma Park for a couple years, and in Adams-Morgan for seven years. But I was always from somewhere else. Poor Air Force brat, I never really knew where I was from, except for San Antonio, by default.
posted by Robert Angelo at 2:27 PM on January 19, 2009


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