I work on 17th and L street in DC. The White House is on 16th and Pennsylvania. I’ve worked in the city for three weeks now, and because my commute is entirely underground on the train I had never realized (until today) that my office was a mere three blocks behind the White House. This makes me feel kind of silly, mostly because the White House is one of those locations that you should just always know where it is. It’s like being able to point North without using a compass. For all you Portlanders out there, it’s kind of like how you can instinctively point in the direction of the Willamette River, regardless of the weather, your location, or if you can actually even see it.
It made me start thinking about how I need to be more observant. Back in Portland I used to walk EVERYWHERE, so I knew where everything was (not to mention the fact that I got a lot more exercise). Now, because we live outside of the city in Virginia, and because I take the train to and from work every day, the extent of my walking is from my apartment to the grocery store, or from the Metro station to the office. So, not only am I finding myself directionally challenged, as I have no points of reference while in a train underground, but I also never know where the heck anything is. Plus, I really miss walking!
So, today, after having discovered the silliness of my ways, I decided to forgo the hoards of liberated nine-t0-fiver’s amassed in the Farragut West Metro station, and chose to take a leisurely stroll past the big white house to the Smithsonian station. I figured that by the time I got there I would have missed the initial 5 o’clock rush, and *gasp* may actually stand a chance of getting a seat on the train.
Along the way, I slowed to observe the tourists who (even though it was gray, dreary and a little drizzly today) were grouped, as they always are, outside of the White House fence. You can always tell a tourist from someone who, well…isn’t one. It really isn’t the camera in hand, or the oversized day bags toting overpriced and half empty bottles of vitamin water, or the fact that they travel in small packs that gives them away. It’s the big grin on their faces when they’re getting closer and closer to the White House, and the angle of their necks as they strain to see through the trees in Lafayette Park that blocks their views up until almost the last moment. And the not-tourists? Well, they look a lot like me; sneakers with slacks (because their heels are in their purse), i-Pod ear buds snugly in place, and most likely cell phone in hand (rather then camera) probably texting so-and-so for happy hour plans (instead of gazing awestruck at the big man’s house). Now that’s not to say that I don’t appreciate my location anymore. I really do get why people love this city so much, but it’s my city now too, and I can see this stuff whenever I want. It’s pretty neat, and it also means that I can text Tim wile walking by the Washington Monument and not even look up to see it, and also not have to feel bad about it.
I think I’m going to try to take the long rout every day (now that I know where I’m at). The walk is nice, and I get to chill out before being herded onto the Metro. Plus, I don’t think I’m ever going to get tired of the fact that within a twenty minute stroll I go by the White house, Washington Monument, and the Smithsonian museums, even if I do occasionally choose not to actually look up. 🙂