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Message to D.C. Visitors… Be Respectful
By Susan Olling

This contribution was intended to be about another topic, but something from the Midwest changed it.
For all tourists who drive to D.C. and plan to park on the National Mall or the Tidal Basin, be warned.  The days of free parking will end on Monday, June 12.  About eleven hundred parking spaces on the Mall and the Tidal Basin will be metered.  Drivers will have to pay $2.00 per hour to park in these spaces between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.  Except on December 25, when the only open/staffed touristy site on the National Mall is the U.S. Botanic Garden.  Oh yes, there’s a three-hour time limit for the space.   Why?  Apparently to encourage tourists to use Metro and to encourage turnover in those parking spaces.  Not to worry: there is still free parking available.  In East Potomac Park and down by Hains Point.  A far piece for American tourists who are notorious for complaining about how much walking they do when they come here.  The National Park Service, who announced all this about six weeks ago, plans to begin enforcement right away.  I can’t wait.  I’m thinking of taking a chair, finding a good place, and watching the festivities unfold.
Tourists will have to plan better if they ride our little subway system starting June 25.  Fares will increase; and service hours will decrease.  Stations will close at 11:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, at 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights and at 11 p.m. on Sundays. Metro will open at 8:00 a.m. on Sundays.  The new hours will impact riders for at least the next two years.
What’s as noxious as that ridiculous O-H-I-O formation?  That cacophonous OH-IO chant.  I had forgotten about this other piece of nonsense until it surfaced in a national memorial, where it has no place.  There was a group of middle schoolers from Buckeye-dom at the World War Two Memorial a few weeks ago who apparently thought that the Ohio column was a good place to start OH-IOing.  Guess the chaperones thought this was acceptable.  A park ranger brought this egregious behavior to a stop with a succinct lecture on respect in a national memorial.  Two wonderful adult visitors, not part of the group, watched all this.  They thanked the ranger and told him they didn’t know how rangers “could put up with this s***”.   Well put.  School groups have become more and more disrespectful when they visit here, and that behavior has brought an increasing number of comments from visitors whose vacations did not include school groups who don’t know how to behave in national memorials.  The comments are not complimentary, in case there are school administrators or teachers reading this.  If schools can’t find responsible chaperones, why do they continue to inflict the little dears on us?   Ohioans seem to be excessively proud of Buckeye-nut land, but you’ll do the rest of us a huge favor by leaving the above-mentioned antics back in Ohio.
The hordes of school groups, both middle and high school aged, are still coming as of this writing.   Three adults, a dad and two sons (all firefighters), were visiting the Korean War Veterans Memorial when dad told the park ranger that he had to get away from all the disrespectful kids and that teachers aren’t teaching respect for national memorials.  Is he right about the last bit?  All of the adults who bring the school hordes to D.C. are responsible for the way their kids behave.  Teachers probably do prepare their kids for these trips, but that preparation is non-existent when the urchins arrive and start marauding.  Do they remember much about their trips?  Probably not.
Another thing I’ve noticed over the years at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial are tourists who put people, sometimes kids, on their shoulders and let them do name rubbings at the taller panels.  Dangerous and stupid.  It can get crowded at that memorial, and the walkway surface is anything but smooth.   Ask a park ranger or volunteer to do the job.
We’ve been seeing quite a few enormous RVs towing very large SUVs.  Glad someone wants to spend money on those gas guzzlers.  In our house, traveling in an RV is not considered a vacation.
Rhetorical question: how many of us have used our drivers’ licenses as proof of identification recently?  Drivers who live in the nation’s capital have my sympathy in this situation.  For a few years now, the current licenses say “District of Columbia”.  This has been causing confusion.  Some Americans don’t seem to know where the District of Columbia is.   Shouldn’t surprise anyone.  The motor vehicle department in D.C. will soon be changing drivers’ licenses to read “Washington, D.C.”    If people don’t know that Washington, D.C. and the District of Columbia are one and the same, there’s a bigger problem than what’s at the top of those pieces of plastic.

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