Sunday, November 23, 2003

More bumps in the road

I woke up this morning around eight. I couldn't get back to sleep so I decided to go for breakfast. I had located a McDonalds on a map last night so I set out for the land of the McMuffin.

The McDonalds I had pinpointed ended up being underground with just about everything else in Crystal City. It was about a five minute walk but I was beat by the time I got back to the hotel. Shelly and I ate breakfast to the sounds of Headline News then decided to go back to dreamland.

I saw the top of the Washington Monument as we were leaving the airport... that's it so far.

Anyway... back to my story... When last we left our intrepid travelers, they had just landed at Reagan National airport in Washington, DC...

As we deplaned, I made a comment that the gate area looked like something out of Star Wars. That is, something you might see in the Death Star. It was a circular-shaped area with a large newsstand in the center. Above the newsstand was a central fixture as a design focal point. The fixture forms a hemispherical object made of several panels - I think it's a speaker cluster. From the edges, the ceiling rose in an arc, turned down quickly, then flowed smoothly, as if draped, toward the center, finally dropping down as if the fixture were hanging from it. It appeared to have pairs of giant tubes, evenly spaced, running along the arcs. Very sci-fi.

As we walked toward baggage claim, I commented on the apparent age of the facility. I would later discover that the other terminals were more up-to-date.

After collecting our bagage, we headed for the Metro line. The hotel was a mere one stop away. As Shelly stopped to pick up some information, the gentleman at the booth asked where we were heading. He told us that a courtesy shuttle runs every 15 minutes and it would take us directly to the hotel. We decided to take his advice. It was a good thing because we later found out we probably could have walked half the distance from the airport to the hotel just getting to and from the two Metro stops.

Once we placed ourselves at the appropriate location for pickup I took in my surroundings. The front of the airport is... well... interesting. It looks like a government building or, perhaps, one of the monuments. Several windows are efaced with tall, square columns. Accross the top it reads "Washington National Airport" and on either side of that are the eagle with the olive branch and arrows and another official-looking symbol. Very stark and very striking. I decided I wanted a picture. There were some signs in the way and the angle was better from across the street. The opposite sidewalk had a barrier along it so I trotted over and leaned up against it to take the picture.

I didn't see the cop coming until I'd already snapped a couple of shots.

I figured he was going to come over, tell me I shouldn't be leaning on that side of the barrier for my own safety and send me on my way. The conversation wen't something like this:

Officer: Hi there.
Joe: Hello
O: What are you doing?
J: Taking a picture.
O: Of what?
J: The front of the building.
O: Why?

Now, where I grew up, if someone has a badge, meaning he can arrest you, and he carries a gun, meaning he can shoot you, you respect that and answer whatever questions he asks you and you answer them truthfully. Honestly, though, by this time I was a little confused. This was the first time I'd ever been rousted for taking a picture.

J: (I answered haltingly) because I think it's kinda cool.
O: Well, that's alright. Do you have some ID?
- I showed it to him -
O: Tourist?
J: Yes.
O: What brings you to town?
J: My wife has a job interview on Monday.
O: What do you do?
J: I work with the email at Oklahoma State University.
O: Okay.

I presume he could either see the confusion (and a bit of apprehension) on my face or he has had this type of conversation quite a bit. He finished up by appologizing for the inconvenience and explaining that they've been through a lot since 9-11 and anything out of the ordinary makes them a bit nervous. [you may recall that the plane that hit the Pentagon took off from Reagan National]. He thanked me for my cooperation and sent me on my way.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank him for a job well done. He wasn't rude, he didn't ask anything unreasonable of me, and didn't delay me any longer than necessary. I'd also like to take this opportunity to give some advice - If you want to take a picture of the airport, ask the cop first.

When I got back to the shuttle waiting area, Shelly took the opportunity to say, "I tried to tell you you were about to get in trouble."

Shortly after, it was off to the hotel. The shuttle driver was less than enthusiastic about... breathing, I think. He didn't say anything beyond the required pleasantries and those he uttered with the minimum amount of effort to make them seem sincere. It was a nice, easy ride, though.

To give you an idea where the hotel is, I can see the airport from my hotel room. It's about three blocks away.

Anyway, when we checked in, we were informed that our room had been upgraded. I'm not sure if Marriott did it because Shelly asked about getting reward points and they weren't able to provide them because of the way we booked the room. I'm not sure if the concierge requested it because I had called about getting some flowers delivered to the room (more on that later) and he thought it might be a special occaision. I'm not sure if the Smithsonian requested it just to schmooze a bit. Honestly, I don't care. We ended up with a Jr. Suite. List price is $700.00 a night! Way cool.

Once we got settled we decided to go to the hotel restaurant and have lunch. The restaurant is honestly nothing to write home about, nor is the food, but I have to tell you what I had for lunch. I had a Chesapeake Crab Cake Sandwich. It consists of baked jumbo lump crabmeat served on an onion bun with lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce. As good as it sounds, it was actually rather bland but all I could think was, "I'm having a Krabby Patty for lunch"

I told you it was a very full day and, at the moment, it's getting a little late and I have to pack so we can maximize our efficiency tomorrow. More later and maybe some details of the interview.

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