Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fun With Tourists

I come across as friendly and approachable. This means that I spend a lot of time dealing with people who approach me and want to be my friend.

Last night's case was especially fun.

The Scene: E and 13th Northwest, near Pennsylvania Avenue
The Characters: Dressed up fancyish young tourist couple, and me

Wife: So 15th Street is this way? (Pointing towards...uh, most assuredly not 15th Street)
Me: No, ma'am, you're headed the wrong direction.
Husband: How do we get to 950 15th Street?
Me: What's the ninth letter of the alphabet?
Husband: I Street (I was sort of impressed he answered so quickly)
Me: So the restaurant is at 15th and I.
Wife: (showing me a list of recommended restaurants from their hotel) How about this place, at 701 Pennsylvania?
Me: That's six blocks down Pennsylvania. About a ten to fifteen minute walk.
Wife: That's too far. We've already walked from the White House! (Looks at me as if I'm supposed to be impressed. They've walked three blocks! Amazing!)
Me: That's only three blocks from here.
Wife (apologetically): We drive everywhere.
Husband: Anywhere around here we can get a good steak? It seems like all the places around here are sandwich shops.
Me: (starting to lose patience) I don't really eat steak. Locals can't afford steak. It's mostly sandwich shops here because this is an office area.
Husband: But the place on Pennsylvania is too far.
Me: I'll carry you both on my back. It's not that far. Really.
Husband: How about this place at 15th and I? (Georgia Brown's, incidentally) It's closer.
Me: Over that way two blocks, then up four blocks. (The reality of what I just said hits me at this precise moment.)
Couple: Thank you!

OK, let's for a moment ignore that the two restaurants were equidistant. We were six blocks from each. And let's ignore the fact that these are probably two very lovely people who pay their taxes, remember birthdays, and treat each other with love and respect.

It bugs me when visitors are so mulish about walking. DC is not a suburb, it is not a place where you can just get in your car, pull right up, and walk in. The point of travelling is to experience something new and different. Is it too much to ask that tourists stop wingeing about having to take an easy six-block stroll? I have not once given directions to tourists without hearing somebody complain about how they've had to put one foot in front of the other for a few blocks.

I guess I don't get it, because one of my favorite things to do when travelling is to just walk around. I pull on some comfortable shoes, grab a bottled water and a map, and head out. It's fun, it's healthy, and it's a way cheaper form of exercise than a gym membership.

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