Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Clash of cultures – Washington DC and the rest of us

My attendance at the “Restoring Honor” event in Washington, DC was informative on several levels.  I traveled by bus.  The trip to DC was with Tea Party participants, mostly retired folks - a mono-cultural experience.  My return trip was by regular Greyhound, a 24-hour multi-cultural excursion through seven east coast bus terminals.  The passengers on this return trip were young and old, Hispanic, black, middle eastern, with a smattering of Caucasians.  I spoke with several.  They shared their challenges, hardships and successes.  The bad economy caused the greatest unease.

“The worst recession since 1929” doesn’t appear to affect the folks in the Washington, DC metro area.  This explains why the Washington left doesn’t really believe the recession is all that bad.  They really ought to get out more.  The housing market is stable, the unemployment rate is low, the parties are plentiful and the alcohol is flowing.  What’s not to love about that lifestyle, except the commutes, the traffic, and the subway system.

The subway system.  Not designed for crowds, and its maintenance is lacking.  The cause of the one-hour ordeal between getting off the subway and breathing fresh air outside was broken elevators and broken escalators.  ADA folks were instructed by PA system to get back onto the train and travel to another terminal where there was a working elevator.  One of the informational signs listed the non-operational elevators throughout the Metro system – it appeared there were more than a dozen. 

The other several thousand of us who remained in the cavernous holding pen inched our way forward toward the constricted exit and the ill-maintained escalators.  Of the three escalators, two were operational.  The one in the middle was not; it was blocked by a stern subway officer.  One of the two remaining operational escalators abruptly stopped while I was in mid ascent.  The crowd continued its march to the surface. 

Did I ever mention that I don’t like public transportation systems?  Those who are accustomed to them are like frogs who have been in the boiling pot for awhile – they take their loss of freedom for granted.  I, being the new frog, felt uncomfortable, controlled, and vulnerable.  And it was indeed hot in there.

The big takeaway from my experience is this:  Washington, DC is a unique subculture, detached and insulated from most of America.  Those who live and work in DC cannot understand, much less appreciate, what is going on in the rest of America except via the statistics they review and the liberal media in which they are immersed.  No wonder our government is so often out of touch.

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