Wednesday, June 25, 2008

This Just In: The Land of Lincoln Moved 558 Miles East


One of the best things about tourist season is being asked for directions 10,000 billion times each and every day. And the best of the best is being asked directions to tourist landmarks that do not, in fact, exist. Moreover, the best of the best of the best is when the tourist blames me personally for the fact they are seeking a landmark which does not, in fact, exist.


Saturday evening, on my way to dinner, I was asked for directions twice within a two block stroll. First I was asked which way to the Mall, which was easy, “Turn around, go exactly the opposite direction from which you are currently travelling, and you’ll be there in 10.”


The second was a little trickier. A lovely English-impaired couple waved me over to their car, and asked for directions to the Lincoln Museum. The WHAT? Exactly.


Were they looking for the Lincoln Memorial? No, they’d already been there.


Ford’s Theatre? No.


I knew they weren’t really going to the Lincoln Museum…because that’s in Fort Wayne, Indiana. And, having spent a lovely night in the Fort Wayne International Airport (so-called because there’s one flight a week to Canada), I know that’s not a city where anyone would voluntarily go. The highlights of my Fort Wayne excursion included sharing a plate of nachos with a toothless man named Shiloh, and hearing all about the local murder scene from a cabbie.


At this point they became belligerent and cranky, because, really, it’s all my fault that the landmark they requested is (according to Google Maps) 558 miles and 9.5 hours of drive time from their current location. Plus, the trip includes three toll roads and a long slog across Pennsylvania.


Eventually, after feeling my evening, my sanity, and my soul slipping away, I sent them back to the Lincoln Memorial with the instruction, “It’s a big marble dude in a chair, and you’ll hear a bunch of tourists yelling, ‘Jenn-AY!’ and ‘FORR-est!’ to each other.” Then I ran away.


Is it September yet?

33 comments:

Justin said...

I like it when people ask me for directions. I feel special and helpful.

Sadly, I'm serious.

Shannon said...

Justin, I enjoy giving directions, too, and actually approach people if they look lost. I get cranky when the tourists act like it's MY fault they're lost. Like, is my name Pierre L'Enfant?

Capitol Hill 20210 said...

Try being in a patrol car - most common question "How do you get to NYC?" I don't miss patrol life anymore - I hated giving driving directions.

Now however I love when people ask me for coolest museums to go to other than the same ole stuff - I direct them to the new Crime and Punishment Museum and of course the Spy Museum.

Hey Pretty said...

My favorite is the tourists who wander around Woodley Park in search of the zoo, often deciding that because the Metro elevator there says "Woodley Park/Zoo/Adams Morgan" that in fact, the elevator must take them to the zoo. Then they approach me and stare at me with their big, bewildered eyes and (pointing to the elevator) say: "The Zoo...Down there, yes?" To which I always want to respond: "Yes, it's a subterranean zoo." But I do not, because if they're that lost, will they appreciate my sarcasm? Prolly not.

Shannon said...

Zipcode, the only thing that intrigues me about the Crime and Punishment museum is the handcuff velvet rope out front - kinky!

HP - yes, it's a subterranean zoo, it's all about local wildlife...like rats.

Capitol Hill 20210 said...

I have one of those in my bedroom - haha just kidding or am I (insert dr evil laugh here)

DC said...

Great story of life in D.C. I have linked to this at The DC Feed.

Justin said...

Is it just me, or is getting hot in here?

freckledk said...

I've lived in the city for so long - and have gone without vision-repairing glasses for so long - that I don't know any DC street names. I can't even give proper directions to my house. My directions would be something like, "Take a right at the liquor store with the green awning..."

Lemmonex said...

I have lived in this city for nine years and still get lost. It could be a local asking for directions, like, um, me... My internal compass is broken.

BatesHorn said...

Walking across Stanton Park, 8 years ago:

"Hey Mister, can you tell us how to get to Dupont circle?"

"Yes, go up Mass Ave, turn into Union station, park, get out, take the Metro. Seriously."

Is there anything more DC than hating tourists? And deservedly so at times.

Ibid said...

You have to learn DC three different ways. Once on foot, once by subway, and once by car.

How do you get to White Flint?
Red line.

Shannon said...

Zipcode, nothing to see here, move along folks...

DC Feed, thanks! No such thing as bad publicity.

Justin, it's just you. Have some ice cream and cool down.

Frecks, sounds like Southern directions to me. I was once told, "Turn left where the old church used to be."

Lemmonex - I am really good at reading maps and giving directions, but my internal compass is supremely busted. Always go the opposite direction from where I point, and you'll be fine.

BatesHorn, I try to be nice to tourists, and for the most part I succeed. I just get annoyed when they argue with me, as if I personally rearranged the city just to annoy people.

Shannon said...

Ibid, I don't really drive, so all my directions are via Metro and walking.

lacochran said...

I had a friend who worked the gate of a park. Since he was in uniform, people would often pull through the gate, right past the huge signs announcing the park, and ask him how to get to the park (that they were now in.)

He'd look at them and say: Sorry, you can't get there from here.

Capitol Hill 20210 said...

off topic but the guys that recommended ok cupid - where are you? bone to pick - on my lord I have a fab post in the works for tommorow - who really takes a picture with chopsticks up their nose? man shaking head

Shannon said...

Lacochran, I was probably one of those people...

Zip - the OKCupidites are Justin and Ibid...and I think Refugee has blogged about that site before as well.

Capitol Hill 20210 said...

oh its a scary place indeed - rr has given me great advice and one of the few who knows what I look like now - yikes.

Justin said...

Shannon, you're evil, and you know why :)

Zip, what can I do for you? Shannon has my email if you need it. She's my e-pimp.

Ryane said...

hahahahahaha. I live by the Zoo and I am counting down the days until the tourons pack up and go home. It's like they all share a gigantic mind meld and forget how to be normal, decent, polite visitors to our city.

maryjanejeff said...

Whatever happened to yelling "Marco" "Polo"? Or does that only happen in swimming pools and lakes?

Shannon said...

Zip, Justin, yeah, I'm quite the e-pimp.

Ryane, I agree. Yesterday I barreled through a bunch that were standing on the left side of the escalator. It's RUSH HOUR. Get out of my way! (Yeah, I told them about walk left/stand right, they looked at me like I was from Mars)

MJJ - I use the Marco Polo thing in crowded bars sometimes. I never grew up, I guess.

D.C. Confidential said...

Touristing families and individuals I don't mind (although, I do want to slap sullen teenagers who whine and say "I don't wannnnnnnnnt to be in the picture..."), it's all those gawdamn tour buses and high school tour groups I could do without.

My favorite tourist story? At the Lincoln Memorial. A woman looks east toward the Capitol, turns to her family and says, "Oh look! Don't forget to get a picture of the White House." Coulda slapped her.

My second favorite tourist story? An acquaintance was in town and I was giving her and her husband my famous Washington at Night Tour. As we drove past the Washington Monument said she, completely deadpan, "You know you can see the Statue of Liberty from the top of the Washington Monument."

Ugh. And double ugh.

dara said...

I have the same tourist issues too. Yesterday, while I was in a rush to get back to the office, someone asked me where something was -- and they were one block away, standing next to a sign. I pointed down the street and pointed to the sign. They then said, "Well, I don't know why I bothered asking YOU, and walked off in a huff." Seriously. You can't win.

Shannon said...

DC Confidential - yeah, tour groups make me INSANE. Like, at least keep the 43 hormonal teens OFF the Metro when I'm trying to get to work.

Dara, most tourists are pretty nice when I give them directions, unfortunately, there are always the ones that think they're entitled to far too much hand-holding.

average blogger said...

Apropos of nothing anyone else has said in your comments -- I thought I was the only person unlucky enough to have ever spent the night at the Fort Wayne airport! We should start a club.

Shannon said...

Average Blogger...or a support group. Yowza.

G-Man said...

My favorite tourist question, being in the military and always around the Pentagon and Navy Annex (aka Air Force Memorial), is "How do I get into Arlington Cemetery?" My usual response is "Well, first, join the military..."

maryjanejeff said...

My own tourist moment, I went for a walk at lunch, got asked for directions to the Museum of Natural History, and sadly I couldn't tell them where it was, even if I had been there before (albeit 8 years ago). I was on 7th and Independence. I hope I pointed them in the right direction.

Shannon said...

G-man, well said. It would have been funnier if they'd asked to get into the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, though.

MJJ - you were, like, a five minute walk from Natural History. Whoops.

Mike Licht said...

People, people. There are very simple, straightforward rules for dealing with DC tourists --

http://notionscapital.wordpress.com/2008/06/07/welcome-tourists/

Stephanie said...

I wonder if they were looking for Lincoln's Cottage...not that I'm such a D.C. nerd that I know about obscure tourist sites like that.

Shannon said...

There's a Lincoln's Cottage? For real?