Thursday, January 24, 2008

Looking forward to more fun in DC

Two weeks ago I had a business meeting in DC. I was to meet a lobbyist for the frozen foods industry (yes, I know, exciting, isn't it?). Luckily for me, this lobbyist had good taste and invited me to meet him at the Occidental for lunch. For those of you who are not familiar with DC, the Occidental is one of the nation's oldest restaurants, conveniently located next to the Capital. Congress was out, so we had most of the restaurant to ourselves, allowing us ample time to discuss the implications of the recent outbreaks of salmonella in microwave foods (yes, again, please contain your excitement).

A few minutes into our meeting, a gentleman walked into the restaurant with a shadow (bodygaurd) and waived at my friendly lobbyist. A few minutes later, introductions were made and the Secretary of Agriculture (who I called Mr. Secretary and who in turn told me to call him Chuck) joined us for lunch. Fancy schmancy. Of course I had nothing of interest to say, but he humored me by asking a few icebreakers before discussing the current issues facing agriculture with the lobbyist.

As I left the meeting, the maitre d' asked if I'd enjoyed my lunch (which was a small piece of salmon placed on pineapple and surrounded by clover... yum), and I replied I had. He then said he thought I'd made quite the impression on the Secretary, and that he hoped I would be back to visit often on business. He clearly had NO clue who I was.

I walked out of the restaurant into a 75 degree day in January. A homeless man smiled and waived (again, for those not familiar with DC, that is NOT normal). The valet whistled as he went to get my vehicle. The sun shone. And I wondered for a fleeting second what my life would have been like if I'd followed any number of different routes in my professional career.

As soon as I got into my vehicle, I got on the phone and headed toward 14th street. I was eager to tell of my newfound love of DC and famous encounter. I managed to get onto Constitutional Avenue before reality checked in. Reality this time came in the form of a friendly DC officer blaring his siren at me and flashing his lights. There was no where to turn off, and it was a two lane road, so I turned on my blinkers to acknowledge I saw him, slowed and moved to the right. His bullhorn blared that I should get off the road, so I drove some more, looking for a spot to pull off. His bullhorn blared again to stop immediately, I saw a spot on the side of the road, so I stopped and pulled onto cobblestone. Which just happened to be a national landmark. I received a ticket for talking on a cell phone (a $100 offense in DC), a written warning for not having an insurance card with me (I had only a card with my insurance ID that did not have a expiration date, which apparently is normally another $100 in DC) and a verbal warning about desecrating national monument property.

I had driven well past the road I would normally turn on, so kindly asked the officer (a little stump of a man with obviously low IQ and equally pitiful self esteem who thus needed to overreact to the situation) to point me toward the 14th street bridge. To which he replied, "I'm not from DC." Hellooooo... you're a traffic cop in DC!! Give me a break. So I wandered, luckily found my way to Arlington Cemetery and finally got onto 395. Ah, DC. You ARE what I remembered. For a moment you had me fooled, you wily district, you!

Tonight I'm back in NoVa (that's Northern Virginia, for you nonlocals), awaiting another trip into DC tomorrow for a conference on more microwave food safety issues. Needless to say I'm taking the Metro in this time. I can't wait for a homeless person to accost me, demanding that I purchase a used newspaper for $2. I will gladly oblige and bask in the dysfunctional city that is our nations capital.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Didn't know about the cell phone fine - good tip! Sorry you found out the hard way!!

    Jeff and I drove into D.C. to pick his brother up from Union Station back in December. Neither of us have driven anywhere in DC except to the Zoo area (me three times, I'm getting that down) so getting to Union Station was totally an adventure.
    I love the dysfunction of our nation's capital. Not sure why, but some days I actually think that I might want to live there! Guess it is good I have my hubby to keep me grounded with an emphatic NO!

    Have fun at your microwave safety conference. Really - is that interesting? I like learning new things.