Washington D.C. is the most bizarre place in the USA. It has so many roles and so many central resources yet communication is nearly impossible.
Millions of people live there, but the residents are probably in the hundreds. Taxpayers pay for public services, but most people in the District pay their home states and not Washington. If you are living with your house and car in Washington, but working for a representative from the third district of Pennsylvania, the District will take all of the taxes out for themselves. Then come April 1st, you have to pay taxes for the year to the third District of Pennsylvania. Then file for a refund of all you paid in D.C., except for any property owned in Washington. In that order, pay taxes twice then wait for one refund if you are lucky.
The taxicabs go by a zone system. You can go 2 blocks or 2 miles and the 2 blocks could cost more. It’s one of the only cities in the world where the meter doesn’t run by time or distance. The city is blocked out in zones and if you cross a zone border you are charged the full rate whether you go across the whole zone or just a couple doors down. Everything is within walking distance and no one walks anywhere. They also don’t take the subway/metro. They must be zone hopping in those crazy cabs.
Parties and lobbyists pay for anything and everything and it’s all okay as long as it’s done upfront and in person. Yet the employees of Congress besides the representatives, of course, get paid near minimum wage. The Senate and House of Representatives are only a couple hundred yards from one another yet getting a message from one to the other takes at least 6 months.
Neighborhoods change so quickly: one minute you are in the heavily guarded capital or White House zone, and within a few blocks the wrong way you are at the Home Depot of death where shootings are as regular as lumber sales. You can go from the lush green campus of Georgetown or Catholic University and be in a high crime area or at the house from The Exorcist in minutes. Scary either way.
The White House is bought and paid for by taxpayers but we can’t really see it. We pick the president, and his family. We pay their rent and all of their bills, but we need to get tickets months in advance just to be allowed on the premises and once we get in we can’t see the parts we hear about and we can’t touch anything. Can you imagine if you acted like that as a tenant who didn’t pay their own rent?
Our representatives work in decadent buildings with a bank, stores, a cafeteria and even a private subway. They have escalators and moving sidewalks and offices the size of apartments. We pay for all of it, plus their salaries and usually their Washington residences and a driver. But if we are in Washington and would like to see the fruits of our labors, we have no right to do so. Although we hire them and pay for them, their work just doesn’t include taking our phone calls or letting us in their offices.
The center of D.C. is a long mall with no stores or shops. No real reason to be called a mall. It’s not the mall of America because that is strangely enough in the center of the US, one of the least popular vacation spots in the hemisphere. The Smithsonians dominate the mall, yet 90 percent of people have no idea what or who a Smithsonian actually is or why they have a bunch of museums named after them. At the end of the mall is the reflecting pool. Nine out of ten people have no idea what to reflect on when they get there.
The National Cathedral is in D.C., where the Constitution is, the one that announces the separation of church and state and the freedom of association. Yet a Christian Church called the National Cathedral sits just blocks from the seat of democracy of the country. And it was also the subject of a huge copyright dispute based on the Keanu Reeves/Al Pacino movie, The Devil’s Advocate.The streets begin in different directions and shoot outward like rays of sunshine in every direction.
They are separated by major thoroughfares which sometimes break for a few blocks and then begin again. There are times when it is blatantly unclear of where you are. It all changes so quickly and none of the streets are just straight through the city. They pop in and out, around monuments, buildings, headquarters, highways, the mall, and the White House. Everything takes an extra hour to get to because even walking is directed by nonsensical lights surrounded by speeding blaring traffic in every direction.
Washington, D.C. may be the center and capital of the U.S. but it seems to be very scattered. Most of what happens there, from the layout to the names to the way the average citizen is treated makes no sense. Maneuvering the physical city is hard enough, and then the political operations and strange charges across the city for residents, visitors and the strange hybrid that is political employees make it one of the most bizarre places in the country.