Thursday, March 16, 2006

Springtime In Washington

You can tell that winter is nearly over. The ultra frigid days are few and far between, the trees are getting tell tale buds, and I could have sworn I'd even seen an early bee. The main reason it's clear that spring is approaching, however, is that the city is becoming infested with a common spring and summer pest:

Tourists.

I know, I know. We're not the only city in the world that has to deal with tourists. We may not even get as many as others. But our tourists are unique. People go to Paris to be romantic; theater snobs go to New York. Celebrity stalker wanna bees land in Los Angeles and we've all had a drink or two of the stuff which attracts you to Las Vegas. But the people who come to Washington are by far worse than any other kind of tourist because they truly believe they are smart.

Washington, DC tourists believe themselves to be cerebral. They are coming to learn, to lay witness to things already learned, to gaze at the Constitution and tell their eight year old in a louder than necessary voice the exact year it was written. They walk around the city in shorts with really pale legs and serious faces, carrying maps and cameras and a little bit of a disdainful look once they've visited the first no fee museum and realized that all this time, it's been their tax dollars financing all of our rainy Saturday afternoons.

I especially love the ones who buy an FBI sweatshirt from a street vendor, put it on, and spend the rest of the day looking at people as if no one knows if they really just might BE in the FBI. Because in the rest of the country, being in the FBI is special. In Washington, being in the FBI means you were turned down by the Secret Service but were too snooty for the Capital Police.

I adore how they seem to take a very long time getting used to the red light system. Here, most lights in the city give you a numerical countdown so you know exactly how much time you have before the light is going to change. Tourists seem to think this clock is for their own special needs, so they can stand on the street corner consulting maps and Grandma and then try to bolt across the road with two seconds left, because they really do believe I won't plow my Lexus into them. Sometimes I think that along with all the literature pointing out the location of the Hope Diamond and Archie Bunker's living room chair, they should include a leaflet on pedestrian death statistics, just for good measure.

Of course, there really is nothing cuter than watching the third grade class from Tiddlywinks Primary in Western Pennsylvania hold hands and slowly, as slowly as possible, actually, cross the street. They always have the same expression on their faces, conveying two thoughts: "I would rather be in Disney World" and "I wonder if I was bad".

Similar expressions can be found on the faces of teenagers whose parents decided to take their children on a cultural vacation, and it's not even the Grand Canyon, where they can at least sneak away to neighboring campsites and get drunk. You can almost see them picking out the nursing facilities they will send their parents to in retaliation at the first chance.

Don't get me wrong - Washington is a wonderful city; my favorite in the world. There's a lot to do and see here, and I can understand people wanting to come and see for themselves the most powerful city in the world.

I just wish they would find a way to do it without wearing plaid, blocking traffic, and increasing my wait time at Starbucks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OMG! I love it. DC tourists are smart, but they can also be incredibly dumb. A couple of my other favorite tourist "pet peeves".
- There are a bijillion people on the metro platform. And yet, once the doors open, you get in the door and stop. What do you think the other bijillion people on the platform were planning to do? Have coffee and hang out?
- Don't even get me started on the escalators...
- DC has many great, great restaurants. Why do tourists love the chains so much?