Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Why I love DC
There’s a lot of negativity out there about DC. People love to hate DC: the politics, the egos, the police, the city services, the dating scene, the crime. The hate comes from people who live here (there are plenty of local DC-hating bloggers) and from people who don’t, as this Post article illustrates. I could go on for some time about this article, but why bother? For the most part, the writers are striking poses: down-homey-straight-talker, exasperated tax payer, etc. None of them, of course, know the first thing about the DC we live in. And they mostly complain about the politics, not realizing that real people live in DC, too.
Usually, when I tell people from somewhere else that I live in DC, they invariably ask “where?” I’ll repeat, calmly, “Washington”, having heard it all before. And they respond “no, I mean, where exactly? In Arlington? In Alexandria? I have a niece in Bethesda. Do you live in Bethesda?” When I explain that no, I actually live in the city of Washington, they say, sympathetically, “oh, I’m sure that’s nice, too.” I even had someone say “really? I didn’t know anyone actually lived in Washington. Well, except for, you know…” I didn’t ask for further clarification.
There’s a lot of hate out there. I try not to let it bother me. People are generally ignorant, and that’s not their fault. I love DC because I know it, the great architecture, the food, the bars, the monuments, the museums, the book stores, Springtime. I have friends here. I met my wife here. We even ate at Ben’s the day we got married.
But I’m also a realist: I’ve gotten crazy tickets for things I didn’t even know you could get a ticket for (a public space violation? What the hell is that?) I’ve torn my hair out dealing with the building permit office and the zoning office: they do Kafka proud. There’s the terrible customer service at CVS, the lines at the DMV and at the one car inspection station, the complete randomness of what the garbage collectors will and won’t take, the motorcades that disrupt everything.
However, even with all this, DC retains a humanness: if you talk to them nicely enough, the cops at your local police station just might give you a temporary parking permit for a month, instead of a week; the woman behind the register at The Market Lunch once took change out of her own pocket to pay for my crab cake when I was 50 cents short; the adjudicator of my “public space violation” ticket waived it on a technicality, basically because I was clueless as to why I even got it. We’re all in this together, these people seem to believe, in this big, senseless, crazy city, and we gotta help each other out.
I guess loving DC is like loving a big, dysfunctional family. I can complain all I want, but I’ll close ranks with my fellow Washingtonians (even city workers) when someone from outside insults DC.