|A typical crowd of tourists, and mounted police|
For the most part, the school groups were reasonably well-behaved, though they exhibited all the faults of junior high and high school children in large groups: boisterous, high energy, clueless, and inclined to have at least one clown for every three or four students. They talked loudly, they giggled, and they often didn't realize - as the very young so often don't - that they blocked the sidewalk, hogged the path, or disturbed their fellow travellers.
|Viet Nam Nurses Memorial|
They were children who hadn't yet learned they were not the center of the universe, small bodies packed with enough energy to power a small city, at an age where hormone floods make everyday life intense. And they were on a grand adventure, a trip away from home, in a strange city. Their behavior was to be expected.
What was unexpected, and delightful, was the Washingtonians themselves. We were strangers, tourists who sometimes had no clue where we were supposed to be going. With a single exception, people were friendly, helpful, and polite. I'll tell you about the exception first, because bad behavior makes a good story.
|We got good at spotting the signs|
The underground train system in DC is excellent, but accessing it (Remember that scary escalator picture on the first DC post?) can be difficult for an older woman who occasionally has trouble with escalators. After the first trip down the Scariest Escalator I Have Ever Seen, we discovered the stations had elevators, if you just seek them out.
Mom, though she doesn't consider herself handicapped, does admit to being elderly at 81, and on the longer stretches she much preferred the elevators. Coming back to our hotel one night, we got in line for the elevator back to street level. We waited as one car filled, and the elevator made its slow round-trip to the street and back. In front of us was a couple, middle-aged, well-dressed, top-dollar haircuts. She wore good jewelry, and he spent the entire time in our presence with his attention riveted on his iPad. They did not appear to have any handicap, they weren't toting heavy luggage, or small children, and they were likely younger than I am. In short, then didn't appear to need the elevator, but they chose to take it, which was their right.
|I wouldn't want to drag this up the escalator, either!|
When we reached the street level, the woman and her silent companion rushed off, while the rest of us made our way out of the car, smiling apologetically at each other. When the three of us (Mom, my sister, and me) were finally alone, Mom turned to us and said, "Well, I didn't know there were elevator police, but apparently there are." We cracked up, and had several laughs over the rest of our stay, at her expense.
The other side of this, though, were the people who volunteered directions, offered Mom a seat when we got on the train, and helped us out whenever we asked. Not living in big cities, we had forgotten about the traffic congestion that comes with quitting time, and the first night we found ourselves trying to catch a train at rush hour. People were hurrying, and we were out of place. No one was actively rude or inconsiderate, they were just in their normal routine and they wanted to get home.
|Metro at rush hour. Busy place!|
Not only did they agree, the four of them formed a semi-circle behind Mom, and protected her from the crowd as she stepped onto the train. It was a little thing, and it delayed them only a few seconds, but it made all the difference for us.
Another day, feeling like we finally had the trains figured out, we waited for an incoming train on the platform at another station. A tall man approached and told us we needed to move down the platform because the next arrival was a "short train." He explained that meant there were fewer cars and thus the end of the train would be ahead of where we were waiting. As we moved to the point he indicated, he also explained how to read the arrival board to know the next time we were waiting for a "short train."
|Mom in the Congressional cafe|
|Jeri finally got her lunch!|
Incidents like these happened every day, sometimes several times in a day.
They lead me to believe that the people of Washington are among the friendliest, most gracious hosts I have ever met, proud to share their beautiful city with a flood of visitors every day.
Washington is full of really great people. That one nasty woman? I figure she just doesn't belong. Even if her address is Washington, she doesn't have the real Washingtonian spirit in her heart.