Sometimes it hits me: I live in Washington D.C.
This tingly, happy realization for someone who is not directly connected to the power structure of the town, as I am not, tends to come from simple things. A laundry list:
* Driving on Independence Avenue during rush hour and lovingly cursing a veritable United Nations-ful of cabdrivers, all trying to get into my lane.
* Realizing that the tinted-window caravan that’s just cut me off unceremoniously and without warning, and at which I’m angrily gesturing and screaming, probably contains an actual political figure. Maybe it even contains the POTUS. Or the FLOTUS. ("Flotus" sounds like some nasty and vile pond scum, incidentally.)
* Sometimes (not often) hearing the sound of firecrackers in the distance and realizing that they are probably not firecrackers.
* Being nearly mowed down by a young person who thinks too much of him/herself and is glued to an iPod and holds a job that, while it might have perks that I can’t even begin to surmise adequately, really needs to tone down the attitude and realize that most upscale stores offer free alteration service with purchase. (Yes, your suit doesn’t fit you well, asshole).
* Realizing that the paunchy neighbor who walks his dog in the early evening or the guy who is way too old to be revving up the hog on Saturday morning is actually the same dashing and serious-looking senator/congressman/power-player who you JUST saw on C-SPAN or on any of the Sunday morning shows.
* Yes, yes. The Capitol, the Washington monument, the Lincoln memorial, etc. But you can get that thrill from a postcard.
But the other day, as Herr Meow and I took a little walk nearby, we got to experience one of those definite DC moments that you could not duplicate, if you tried, anywhere else.
Perhaps you don’t want to try.
Herr Meow is slowly building up his vocabulary and his boundary skills. Although I sometimes become very concerned that he will wander into traffic, I try to give him the opportunity to walk around on his own and so far it’s worked out well. It also helps that our street is relatively calm. He likes going near the stoops of other houses and explore them. On one occasion, we found a gazing ball ("baaah!"). Another time, we saw some dumping trucks and other toys ("wah zat?").
As with anyone coming unsolicited to my own stoop, I am wary that not everyone likes having "visitors" and so we keep our visits short, all the while reminding the baby that this is "Not Ours." Our conversations tend to be short, but full of philosophical meaning.
"That is a gate. But this is not our house, baby."
"Yes, that’s a froggy."
"A doggie! That’s right! But he’s not ours."
Herr Meow shakes his head and thoughtfully repeats "nonono."
As we were exploring one early afternoon, we came to the stoop of a Washington Power Player.
If I told you his name, I am quite sure you would probably say "who?"
If you saw him on TV, you’d be equally blank.
But if I told you what he did, you’d go, "OoooooOOoooOoooh!" and we’d all nod and go on with our merry lives. Because he’s not really a celebrity but he is; he is really quite nice and doesn’t act like one at all. But he certainly has the security of a VIP, which he is.
Herr Meow explored the steps leading to the front door happily– up, down. up, down. He looked around the tiny garden: a couple of ugly shrubs and a small tree and two pretty pots with dead foliage, which looked altogether kind of depressing (can’t this VIP get some sort of landscaping service to help out?). He then went down the steps. He turned to look at me and was giggling because stairs and Not Ours things are fun, when from a few houses away we got an angry voice yelling,
"STEP AWAY FROM THE ENTRANCE! MOVE THE CHILD AWAY FROM THE STEPS!"
The feeling of cold, icy dread was instantly replaced by indignation: are you seriously kidding me? Does my child look like a tiny terrorist or something?
I did not acknowledge the guard yelling the warning as he gave away his hiding position (smooth move, ExLax!) Instead I looked up and met the eye of the security camera which had betrayed our lingering and obviously unwelcome presence and frowned at it; then I scooped up Herr Meow and back home we went.
And so, another day, another reminder that in DC, some stoops are just not like the others.