Wednesday, July 06, 2005


I've lived in (or within spitting distance of) a couple of heavily touristed places in my life. And as a rule, I like tourists. It's so cool to think that you live somewhere that people would choose to come to for fun. When I lived in Munich, I loved helping people with the subway or giving them directions to the local tourist attractions, especially if they were American. In fact, I taught a little girl how to purl on the train last summer. Her family was spending two weeks in Germany and Switzerland after a year living in Sweden, where the dad had just done a Postdoctoral Fellowship. They were in the compartment directly across from mine on the Night Train from Copenhagen to Munich. The little girl was 8 or 9 and had taken an instant liking to me. She knocked on my door several times over the course of the evening to ask me if I wanted to share her cookies or walk to the end of the train with her or see a picture of her dog back in the U.S.

At some point, when she came over, I had gotten out my knitting and was merrily clacking away. She got very excited; apparently, they had learned knitting at her school that year. But she just couldn't *get* how to purl and I must be really smart to be able to knit without watching and purl too! Well, heck, that's nothing special, here, I'll show you how! And she sat with me for the next hour, carefully mimicking my motions until she produced a purl-- and promptly dropped the knitting on the floor out of sheer excitement. Her mother started apologizing and told the girl to leave me alone, obviously worried that I would be annoyed or angry or that the little girl would ruin my knitting. I assured her that it was fine and that there was nothing that the girl could do to the knitting that couldn't be fixed. We picked the knitting up off the floor and set to it again. She purled almost a whole row-- and it wasn't bad, either; I actually left the row in, thinking that it was pretty cool that I would have a sweater with such a cool memory right in the fabric. But she was done with knitting and after thanking me for teaching her, ran off to see if she could get another bottle of Coke from the conductor.

I wonder if, years from now, she'll still remember the woman who taught her to purl on the train in Germany? I know I'll remember her.

But I digress.

Today, I was annoyed as all get out at the tourists. Don't STAND in the middle of the escalators, blocking the whole path! Some of us have jobs to get to. Don't come to a sudden and complete stop right in the middle of the sidewalk! If you need to stop and get your bearings, check your free map from the hotel, look for your camera to take a picture of that man hawking those handbags (fake, BTW) from a converted hot dog cart, whatever, that's cool. But move to the side of the walkway-- either side is fine-- so that you don't cause a collision when the rushing commuter behind you can't stop on a dime. If you don't know how to use the Farecare dispensers, there's no shame in asking. But don't stand there and randomly press buttons, staring at the display like it's in Sanskrit, then refuse the offer of help from one of the locals, especially if you're planning to add some smart remark about how you're not stupid just because you're not from D.C. You're stupid because you think that an offer of help is an insult. Don't let your kids run wildly up and down the aisles of the Metro. A) It's annoying as hell and 2)Someone's going to get hurt. It damned well had better not be me. And if Bubba, Jr. runs these stockings, I will kill him; they're my last pair. While we're on the topic, don't let your kids scream and screech on the Metro or anywhere else for that matter, but especially not in the confined space of the Metro. We're not talking about babies here, we're talking about middle schoolers. It's not cute or funny and I really don't appreciate starting my work day with a splitting headache. When the train stops, please GET ON. Don't stand in the doorway waiting for God knows what. If you hear the pretty voice tell you to "Please stand clear of the doors", well... please, stand clear of the doors.


But enjoy your time here in Washington D.C. It's a great city!


At 4:55 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice story, I loved reading it.


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