Washington, DC is a strange place. Few people are from there, and as a result, people are coming and going constantly. Which means, for one of America’s great cities, a disproportionately high number of people eventually have the “leaving DC” experience.
I am one of those people, having departed earlier this year for Los Angeles, and I’m not saying I’ve been listening to Cinderella’s “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” on repeat, but, well, when it comes to DC it IS kind of true. The things that once made you crazy could weirdly become the same things you feel nostalgic for. Such as...
1. How alarmingly aggressive everyone is
While living in DC, many people bemoan the fact that the city is made up of super-zealous, type-A workaholics. “I just need an escape from the city,” you’ll tell your friends, “I feel like I can’t relax here.”
Then you’ll move away from DC, and wonder why the hell everyone in the rest of the country is so goddamn inefficient. Work emails requesting even the most menial things will take hours to be returned. You’ll move to a place (like, oh I don’t know, LOS ANGELES maybe), and your waiter will try to give you his headshot instead of the burger you ordered 30 minutes ago. You’ll find yourself longing for the crisp efficiency of Washington. Elected officials excluded.
2. Conversations that actually have substance
I worked for a national news program while in my first months in DC, and one time after work while getting drinks with my coworkers, one of them asked the group what our opinions were on the merits of offshore balancing.
Offshore balancing, for those of you who don’t obsess over political science, is a concept in international relations relating to how a country chooses to deploy its military power globally. It can also be a somewhat dry topic to bring up over drinks. But after spending way too many hours over the past couple months listening to people give their hot takes on the evils of GMOs and how an Internet article they read really does prove vaccines cause autism, I’d give anything to delve into the subtleties of geopolitical strategy again.
3. Those charming potholes
HAHAHAHAHA JUST KIDDING. The roads in Washington are dog shit. Both metaphorical and (sometimes) literal. Clean up the potholes and clean up after your pets -- you’re supposed to be the capital!
4. The sights
DC is an incredibly picturesque city, but after living there a while certain stunning sights invariably become commonplace. You’d be surprised how much you can miss just being able to peer out your office window or go for a job and be all “welp, there’s the Washington Monument again.” Beats my current view of a homeless guy tweaking on a park bench.
5. The limitless food choices
Everything I said about not knowing what you have until it's gone doesn’t apply here. If you don’t already appreciate the fact that you can get everything from amazing Afghani kebabs to chili-smothered half-smokes, often on the same street as each other, then you’re an idiot.
6. The low bar for snow days
Somehow DC forgets snow exists every winter like it’s the guy from Memento and is rendered completely incapable of handling even a light dusting. This means, when the snow hits (and it will), you get to “work from home” (drink).
I miss snow days.
7. Jumbo slices
Other cities’ slices are simply not sufficiently jumbo once you’ve lived in the District.
8. The impressive concentration of distractions
In DC you can spend your morning visiting everything from the National Zoo to the Lincoln Memorial, and still make it to the Georgetown waterfront for a late lunch. Yesterday I spent 40 minutes driving to buy a gallon of milk.
9. People dress like they give a crap
Granted, the dress code in DC sometimes feels like it vacillates between “guy from Brooks Brothers catalog” and “guy from last year’s Brooks Brothers catalog.” This can be annoying when, say, you walk onto the back patio of Town Hall and feel like you’re about to be washed away in a sea of pastel.
But you know what’s worse than an overabundance of prep school-looking jackasses? A city where people legitimately don’t care how they look. In California it’s not uncommon to see someone roll into the bar in gym shorts. In San Francisco, specifically, I saw a 60-something guy walking around Dolores Park with nothing but a tastefully placed tube sock. (It WAS argyle, for what that’s worth.)
10. The Metro is actually pretty fantastic
Under things that I thought I would miss about DC, the Metro was just below “the crazy people handing out pamphlets in front of the White House,” but somehow I find myself yearning for the Orange Line.
I’m not here to say the Metro is an exemplar of great public transit; it’s not. But it’s a hell of a lot better than other cities. Ever deal with the T in Boston? Or try to find even the slightest semblance of a functioning public transportation system in Miami? Then you know.
11. The melting-pot factor
Outside of New York, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another city in the United States that brings the same multiculturalism to the table that DC does. Well, at least until Trump gets in there and has his say (shudders).
Because of the aforementioned snow amnesia, the entire city seems to go into hibernation during the winter despite the fact that it never really gets all that cold (this is coming from a Connecticut native). The nightlife in the city suffers from a noticeable downswing, and the number of times your friends tell you, “I’m staying in tonight, it’s too cold” may drive you insane.
But holy hell are the first few weekends of spring beautiful. People are outside at beer gardens, rooftop bars are reopening, and the energy in the city is incredible. You get all the energy of rebirth without having to suffer through the actual soul-crushingness of a Northern winter.
13. So much free stuff
From free admission at Smithsonian museums, to free concerts at the Kennedy Center, to the free drinks you can find at some think-tank events, DC is a place where, if you know what you’re doing, you can have a great time without spending anything. Next time you’re in San Francisco, see how far zero dollars will get you.
14. The hilariously bad sports culture
The weird mixture of self-pity, hopelessness, insane owners, and racist team names is a constant source of hilarity -- so long as you don’t actually root for any of the local teams. In which case, there’s a good chance you’re sticking around anyway.
15. Feeling the nation’s heartbeat
It sounds weird to say, but when something monumental like this year’s ruling by the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage goes down, you feel like you’re more a part of it while living in DC. Everywhere else in the country marches to the beat of DC’s drum, and you can’t quite feel the rhythm in the same way when you’re anyplace else.
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