New definition of happiness: when your work phone rings and the Caller-ID says “US CAPITOL”
Before this semester, I had considered starting and keeping up with a blog for more than a year, but I always got sidetracked or discouraged. Thoughts like “What do I really have to say?” and “My life isn’t that interesting” popped up in my head whenever the urge to blog would come up. So, it should come as no surprise that while I so looked forward to my Washington, D.C. semester because of the internship experience, experiences of being in a new city, and discovering the history of this country, one of the other things that excited me most was this one thought: I finally have something worthwhile to blog about!
Even though my family and friends would pat me on the back and say “Oh Hayleigh, you’re so interesting, regardless of D.C.,” there is something about being in this city that just makes me feel truly lucky and interesting—and that makes me want to write, write, write EVERYTHING I’m thinking or feeling down.
I would like to dedicate this post to the things that I’ve learned or noticed about this city– even in my short time of being here! Even if they might seem obvious to the common person, I don’t want to leave out anything because I feel like there is so much that is unique about this city that goes BEYOND just traveling to a new place.
For example, of course there are differences between Indianapolis and Chicago that I have noticed, but the culture is generally pretty similar. However, I have a biased view because it’s not like I live in the downtown area of Chicago and I DO live in the metropolitan area of Indy.
Regardless of all this, D.C. is a world away from Chicago OR Indy and here is what I’ve learned so far that other current or future D.C. interns should know.
1) Metro etiquette is the most hardcore, unspoken system, EVER. And everyone knows it. I don’t know how long it’s been like this, but there is such an etiquette and certain way to ride the Metro here in D.C. I’m sure it’s something that D.C. interns learn quickly, and I’m sure it is glaringly obvious to notice who lived in the district permanently versus who is here for a short time just by the way they act on the Metro.
The two main rules I’ve noticed? The left side of all Metro escalators is for WALKING traffic, not standing as the escalator goes up or down. That is the right side. Do NOT mix up the two, otherwise you will screw up the entire system and–especially in the morning– people will be MAD.
The second rule is that you absolutely, positively have to GET OUT OF THE WAY when the Metro doors open to let anyone coming out come out. Those doors have like a 5-second rebound rate and then they close. If you’re blocking the door, people aren’t going to be able to get in or out as fast as they need to and the door WILL close on them.
2) Attention plastic-lovers…Have plastic AND cash on you at all times. The worst thing is when you’re trying to go somewhere, you’ve already walked the distance from your apartment to the closest Metro, you go downstairs to buy a ticket, and the credit card function (or cash function) isn’t working. You’re out of luck and will have to walk back up the escalator. For anyone that gets on or off at Woodley Park Zoo/Adams Morgan like I do, you know what I’m talking about it. According to my Foreign Policy professor, we live by the steepest entrance to any metro stop in D.C. You don’t want to have to do that more than once.
SmartGirl trick- In order to avoid ATM fees if you don’t bank in the area, I get “cash back” whenever I pay with my Debit card at CVS or the grocery. ATM fees add up!
3) Grocery shopping for ONE is a TWO person job. Pick your grocery buddy immediately. Mine is my apartment-mate Amanda. Grocery shopping is tricky in the city. I don’t have a little black wire rolling cart that all cute, city girls should have because I’m only technically a city girl for a semester, so I have resorted to carrying my grocery bags with my own two hands and the help of Amanda (and a very large, durable Kenneth Cole duffle-like purse). I know, I know–back to the dark ages! Just kidding.
But I don’t think anyone could argue with the fact that when your nearest grocery store is more than 10 city blocks away and you live on the fifth floor of your apartment building, you get tired slightly faster than the short walk from your car to your house.
SmartGirl trick- After a long, tiring day at the office or sightseeing, grocery buddies can always be bribed with always-on-sale mini Haagen-Dazs or Ben&Jerry’s ice cream cups in the freezer section. They are usually a buck each and a worthwhile reason to make the trek!
4) As a DC intern, there’s always an eye and an ear on you. You know that rude, petty, or gossipy conversation you had with your friend on the Metro on the way to the office this morning? Well, just take one visit to the popular DC Interns blog and I bet you will think twice before having that conversation. Metros are close quarters, people can hear you, and believe it or not, what you say in what you see as a danger-free zone actually could have an effect on the relationships you build with your intern peers, coworkers, or supervisors and actually does have an effect on the way interns are viewed in the district. Remember, you are in a city surrounded by people whose jobs are more related to yours than you would think– they basically ALL are in some way related to the U.S. government or something to do with politics. It’s a huge city, but it sure is easy to find someone with something in common here. Use it to your advantage by being a smart, professional intern, NOT a sloppy one.
That’s all for now, folks. As the semester goes on, I will revisit this post and perhaps write more intern/DC newbie advice that I have picked up along the way.
I potentially have an exciting night ahead of me– I won’t lay out here what it is in case it doesn’t happen, but let’s just say it involves me and my favorite thing to do EVER- JOURNALISM WORK! 🙂
I’ll explain tomorrow or the next day if my plans ended up happening– and why I couldn’t share more fully now!
Have a great night!