By Dennis Minich
Last week I shared with you some observations while covering local heroes flying to Washington, D.C., as part of the Honor Flight program.
Those observations were pretty somber and focused on the trip. But I got to spend four days in Washington and had a variety of things catch my attention.
First, I had never in my life Ubered. To me, the entire thought of using a cell phone app to summon a car, driven by a stranger, just seemed rather odd. But, to remake an old phrase, “Try it, you’ll like it.” I ended up Ubering all over the district.
Some of the rides were challenging as placing my large physique in small vehicles is not always easy, but I managed to survive. I also rode in my first electric car. No comment, just a fact.
If ride sharing isn’t interesting enough, there are three other trends in Washington which seem mighty strange to this Midwest boy. One, there are bicycle racks on virtually every corner. You can walk up, insert your credit card and take a bike to your destination where you just lock it up in a similar rack. It is a good alternative as on one jaunt, my GPS said my location was seven minutes by car, 14 by walking or four by bicycle.
If a bike isn’t your thing, you can also rent motorized scooters. You don’t even have to lock them up. When you get where you are going you simply leave it on the sidewalk wherever you are. And finally, there are cars, yes cars, that you simply pick up at a curb, drive to your location and leave parked. Who pays the insurance, keeps them gassed or maintained I don’t know, but it could certainly simplify transportation needs.
Of course the main way to get around in Washington is to walk. Even if you are taking the subway or some other transportation mode, chances are you can only get so close to where you want to go and then you walk.
I think the reason there are so many thin people in Washington is they have to walk so much and you can’t afford food. In four days, I believe my cheapest meal was about $12 and it consisted of two eggs, a slice of ham we would refer to as deli sliced, and two pieces of toast. I was very happy to get back home where I could eat a meal and realize I had actually eaten.
Living in D.C. gives folks a much different perspective. One evening while I was walking the presidential motorcade came by. It was quite impressive with a lead of about 30 motorcycle cops, followed by the limousine, followed by the security van, an ambulance, a SWAT vehicle of some type and a couple more cars. I tried to get my phone to grab a quick video but they literally came and went within seconds.
Later that night I shared my excitement with an Uber driver. She was not as thrilled, saying it happens all the time and the locals usually are cussing, wanting the things to hurry up and get out of the way.
I got to tour the Capitol, White House, the National Archives and a couple Smithsonian museums.
While in the Capitol, I did have the chance to meet with representatives of Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (more on that in the near future), and Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt.
One of the interesting things I learned in Sen. Blunt’s office is he has the same office that was occupied by President Harry Truman while he was in the Senate. Many of the furnishings and décor in the Truman Room have been maintained in their historical state.
I also got the chance to actually walk on the floor of the House of Representatives. In the past, I have been in the visitor’s gallery, but the perspective from the floor is much more mind-bending. Maybe the main observation would be it is actually much smaller than it appears on TV.
Some of you may remember in the past I pushed the bounds of photography in the National Archives by “accidentally” shooting a flash picture of the Declaration of Independence.
I wondered if the rules had changed in the 11 years since my last visit. Indeed, they had. Now all photography is absolutely prohibited. It is a rule I am not sure I totally understand, but one I wasn’t going to test.
Conversely, 11 years ago pictures were absolutely prohibited in the White House. Also, you then walked up a hallway and you got to simply peer in at rooms in the East Wing. Now, for the most part, pictures are allowed.
You also can go through rooms, including the dining room, which once again is much smaller than it appears on television.
My tour of the White House was on Friday morning. After standing in line for about 90 minutes, I got to go in and between pictures and questions, I made the most of my time. No matter who is in office, being in or near the White House is incredibly memorable.
I was still marveling at the grandeur of the building and the grounds and everything about them when I walked through the gates off of the grounds on to Pennsylvania Avenue.
As I turned to walk up the street I saw a man standing near the gate holding a sign that simply said “F*** Trump.” In that moment, the majesty of Washington, D.C. and the magic of history was replaced with a sickening disgust with what politics today has become.
After that encounter, I was ready to come home. I had plans to be in Adrian at 9 a.m. the next day and all things considered, I was more excited about being there than I was about my remaining time in D.C.