Stranger in a Strange Land: My First Day in DC

I think I just had the quintessential post-9/11 Washington, DC experience. The Capitol South Metro station escalator exit was blocked by two heavily fortified U.S. Capitol Police officers due to a routine security sweep of the area.

One hundred or so of my fellow subterranean train travelers were directed to use a small elevator near the fare ticket vending machines to leave the station. Problem was the elevator has a capacity of about five or six people – less if somebody’s got body proximity issues. It’s been very interesting to be back in a “big city.” The sights, sounds and smells of urban life are something I just don’t experience in Fort Collins or even Denver – the biggest small town you’ll ever see.

Case in point, I defy anyone to show me an escalator in Colorado where folks run up the moving staircase as they seem to do routinely here. Especially during the mad dash that broke out when the capitol police gave us the all clear to exit the subway station.

Fully charged on a doube shot white mocha, I dutifully ran up the escalator and walked toward the Cannon Office building to visit our congressional delegation.

My first stop was Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s office. The staff were very welcoming and excited about their first few weeks in office. We exchanged some pleasantries and they offered up some suggestions about places to visit in town. Seems like the dorkiest post in the world has gotten some attention.

As I left the office and walked down the hall, I thought I heard the faint strains of “Stars and Stripes Forever” wafting in the air. From the bank of elevators to Rep. Doug Lamborn’s office around the corner, I counted 18 American flags. Whew! Glad we’ve established that we’re definitely not in France.

Rep. Lamborn’s staff could not have been more gracious. They’re still getting their sea legs and working to ensure that the congressman is always notified of floor votes. Seems he missed a vote because the office buzzer didn’t work.

While the political knives may already be out for their boss, Lamborn’s staff appear to be taking the “kill ’em with kindness” approach to manuevering through the complexities of life on the Hill.

A decidedly different vibe emanated from the Longworth Building offices of Rep. John Salazar – polite but focused. In a labryinth of cubicles and desks jammed against one another in an impossibly small space, these folks had their game faces on. Expect to see a renewable energy bill coming from Rep. Salazar soon, said communications director Tara Trujillo who was most recently with the Colorado House Dems press office.

I downed some more coffee and stiffened my resolve. It was time to visit my own Congresswoman.

But I was thwarted. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave’s office door was closed and the threshold was piled high with newspapers and the latest edition of American Spectator. Seems I’m not the only one having trouble reaching her. Since January 1, only three visitors have signed the guest book outside her office.

I doubled back through the maze of underground tunnels and made my way to Rep. Mark Udall’s office. Again, the dorkiest post in the world seemed to be the hot topic of conversation. Sheesh. Am I ever going to live this down?

I got some great tourist tips, an offer for a tour and House gallery pass tomorrow, and a hearty recommendation to visit the Phillips Collection on 21st and Q Street while I’m in town. Thanks, mystery staffer who didn’t want his name used.

I’m off to explore Dupont Circle and Embassy Row. Inspired by the bevy of beautiful French flight attendants who are staying on the same floor of my hotel. C’est ce bon.

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Wendy Norris

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