Monday, January 12, 2009

Escalefters and Souvenirs (Aaron McKinney)

I vividly remember the first time I came to DC and some rude guy in a business suit obnoxiously cleared his throat behind me and said, "On the left" as I stood on the escalator leaving the METRO. Mind you, I am from po-dunk NC where cops used to pull me over on Friday night to chat about the football game I just got done playing. Also previous to my first visit to DC the biggest city I had visited was Charlotte, NC and by visit I mean pick my grandmother up from the airport. I was completely unaware that it was humanly possible to pass someone on the escalator but sure enough in this city, it happens. A lot. 
What I have come to learn is that in this city, the social norm is to stand all the way to the right side of the escalator to allow those who wish to walk up it the room to do so. Failure to comply to this unwritten rule will get you nasty looks and an unfriendly, "excuse me". Well maybe not the "excuse me" part, but definitely nasty looks followed by some type of comment telling you to amscray. I noticed that on the METRO train there was an advertisement defining those of us that are unaware of this rule. It labels us as escalefters, and is defined as those who stand on the left in the way of those who are in a rush. 
Since educating myself about my misdeeds I have been sure to stay to the right but was positive that I would never be one of these people who walked up or down the escalator. That is until I rode the escalator at Rosslyn station about half a dozen times. To help you grasp the size of this monstrous escalator I have included a picture. Well sure enough I have become one of these escalator runners, not because I am late or in a rush, but after a riding escalators ten times a day it gets a bit tedious. 
Now I will step down from my soapbox and tell you what I really did today. It started with an excruciatingly cold shower, which did not help the fact that I wanted to go back to sleep. Once again we went to the UDC conference center, took solace in our front row seats, and started listening. First up was Dr. Genovese who lectured about the evolving role of the presidency, and who once again entertained us with presidential trivia. He spoke very briefly, only fifteen minutes or so, and then gave the microphone to special agent David J. O'Connor of the United States Secret Service. I would love to tell you what he told us, but if I do they will have to kill me. Overall it was very interesting to listen to him talk about his job and the role the secret service plays in protecting the life of our elected officials and that is really all I can say about his presentation because we have all been sworn to secrecy. 
Next came a riveting presentation from the Director Emeritus from the Smithsonian national portrait gallery, Mr. Marc Pachter. His presentation highlighted how the image of the presidents have been captured over the centuries and the lessons to be learned from these depictions. I am sad to say though that after fifteen minutes of dimmed the lights, and a monotone voice, I found myself nodding in and out of consciousness. (I attribute this to my cold shower and bad start of my day.) Once the lights were raised and Mr. Pachter had taken a few questions I found a second wind that would carry me well through the next presentation. 
Enter Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel, columnists for USA Today, who do a piece called, "Common Ground". Cal Thomas is a right-wing uber conservative, while Mr. Beckel is quite the Liberal. The message behind their comedic rhetoric carried strong political messages and called to action the young people of America to stop polarizing themselves on the tough issues and work to find common ground. This was by far my favorite segment of the seminar thus far and wish their slot would have been longer. I easily could have listened to them for an hour more because what they had to say was so interesting that was even inspired to try and ask a question during the Q&A session. Unfortunately I was unable to and for now my question will remain unanswered. 
After the Q&A session we headed for Union Station for lunch which which was a little bit pricey. We recharged with some quick food and then made off for the capitol to blitz the offices of our representatives and senators to try and score some inaugural tickets. This ended to no avail because all of them were out of the office. With no tickets and saddened hearts we headed to the capitol building to talk a walking tour. The remnants of my $12 gyro had to be thrown away before I entered, along with some of the neat souvenirs other people had collected from their representatives. The tour of the capitol was interesting because I had never been before but fell way short of what I was expecting. We ended our evening with a trip to Chinatown to grab dinner at an authentic Chinese restaurant and after gorging myself on Kung Pao chicken and shrimp the desire to do anything else that evening soon faded. 
We hit the METRO for our ride home and sure enough I found myself walking on the escalators, passing people on the left and saying, "excuse me". Dang it, I have been assimilated.  

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