Monday, April 6, 2015

The terrorist list

Last week I took a vacation to Washington, D.C. to visit a friend.

It was a fantastic trip, although the actual traveling part is never that fun. First you have to give them your luggage, which when you've had one suitcase broken and another end up in the wrong city is never comforting. Then you have to go through the security line and pass the test of taking off just the right amount of clothing and accessories (shoes and belt yes, shirt and pants no) to successfully convince the TSA you're neither crazy nor a terrorist.

I passed the test well enough not to get an extra pat-down, but when I got to D.C. I did discover that they had searched my luggage in Portland. They say it was "random" but I'm pretty sure it's because two years ago when I went to pick up my brother's best man at the airport I drove through the wrong exit and ended up in a restricted area. Giant metal tire-shredding spikes came up behind me so I couldn't just sneak back out, I had to wait for someone to come escort me. So I'm definitely on some sort of terrorist watch list at PDX now.

Once we got on the plane we sat on the tarmac for an extra half hour. The captain came out and apologized for the delay, but when they were running the pre-flight tests something hadn't worked right so they had to run some more tests to see if the plane was still safe to fly. Considering my Twitter feed on my phone was full of articles about the Germanwings crash, this wasn't very comforting. Especially after we took off and hit some serious turbulence. But we ended up not dying after all.

When I arrived at D.C. on the other end of the trip, I set my watch ahead three hours. I didn't realize how much of a problem this would be until Bethany, who had to be up for work very early the next morning, tried to go to bed at 9 p.m. Considering that's 6 p.m. on the west coast, which is when I normally get off work, I wasn't at all tired -- until I got up at the equivalent of 4:30 a.m. Pacific time the next morning and seriously regretted the amount of Netflix I had watched the night before. The time difference also messed with my eating habits, because I would eat at all the normal times -- lunch at noon, for example -- and then be hungry three hours later when it was lunchtime on the west coast. So I basically ate six meals a day, which is fine if you're a hobbit or a pregnant woman but not so good if you're just a normal human being who still wants to fit in all of your pants by the end of the week.

The next morning I dragged myself out of bed and headed out to explore the city. I had downloaded a D.C. Metro app in preparation for trip but it turns out riding the subway is like riding a bike and I managed to ride the metro all week without using the app once. Like a boss. If only I were so good at navigating aboveground, I wouldn't be on that terrorist watchlist.

In addition to my subway-riding skills, I also recalled a host of other skills from my days as an intern in New York City. Skills like having no idea where you're going while still looking like you are Definitely Not Lost. And using a single finger on the pole to keep your balance on a moving train while looking like you are Totally Not Going to Fall Over. And keeping careful track of your phone and wallet while looking like you are Really Unconcerned About Pickpockets. And then looking at the people who haven't mastered those skills and giving your neighbor the "Tourists, amiright?" eye roll.

It turns out that the metro in D.C. is a lot safer and cleaner than in New York, however, so I didn't get to use an array of other looks, including the Seriously Not Freaked Out By That Rat, the Literally Didn't Hear That Catcall, and the Honestly Don't Have Any Spare Change.

I did make one critical mistake in blending in, however. The first morning I was there it rained, and I had forgotten that people outside of Oregon use these weird contraptions called umbrellas.

 Once I got into D.C. proper every day, however, it was O.K. to look like a tourist because not many natives end up in the Smithsonian or the Lincoln Memorial on a regular basis. All of that stuff was fantastic and reminded me that even though much of what goes on in our nation's capital is absolutely ridiculous, I still wouldn't trade our Constitution and Bill of Rights for anything. Even a more intelligent Congress.

On the final day I was so sore I could barely move, and so tired I could barely stay awake. But since you don't need to do either during a cross-country flight I made it home alright.

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