Friday, April 22, 2005

Traveling so far to sleep

Late arrivals can be difficult. No one has eaten, everyone is tired, the directions you’ve been given may be wrong. Such was the case with my father’s drive to the Radisson. Hertz rental car said go south when he should have been going north. I ordered some sandwiches at the hotel restaurant just before closing and waited for Marg and Dad to arrive and inhale the food.

They did, and they did. Sleep.

Awoken by the cruel offer of coffee, it is now 8:15. Eventually, Marg is called. A half hour later, Marg is called again. She has not yet moved since previous call. It is at this point I realize what we’re dealing with here.

After some breakfast, Marg decides to rest more. Steve and Dad head out to town. Its nearly noon by now. Nothing like vacations with early rising fathers and late rising grandmothers.

I navigate Dad to downtown via the metro and he wants to walk. Basically, I repeated my 1.5 mile circuit I’d done the day before but with much better and closer views of the White House.

We attempt to leave the basic area of the White House and here is where the conflict in today’s story occurs…

I seem to have a knack for traveling with incompetent map readers (actually, this doesn’t apply to Jane, but with my friend Timmy it did). Perhaps you know that Washington, DC is laid out in straight lines, with a few diagonal exceptions. Pennsylvania Avenue for example. Otherwise, its all rectangles.

Well, dad has a map. A very good and accurate map with descriptions of many buildings, etc. But he keeps turning and walking in the wrong direction. And I keep telling him, “No, DAD, this way.” He gets confused as to my challenges. I reason with him. Explain slowly. Show him the map. Orient the map so that whatever way he is standing, he is looking at the map in the correct direction. Then he changes his own orientation. Return to “explain slowly”, and repeat. 3 times! This is a 52 year-old man we’re talking about here, this shouldn’t happen.

Here’s the problem with know-it-alls. We assume we know it all. My father was an intern for the Department of Labor in college. His office was on Pennsylvania Avenue. He would ride in on a bus, which stopped outside his building. Interestingly, that bus stop is now another building. And remember how Pennsylvania is at a diagonal to all the other streets? Good memory. Dad’s entire orientation to town was based on his summer working in an office 30 years ago on a street that doesn’t conform to the grid. Walking with him this morning, he had no concept of the supremely basic rectangular grids that aid children in not getting lost in their nation’s capital.

Therefore, I abused him the rest of the day regarding this deficiency.

We made it to the American History museum, saw one exhibit, and then exited for an hour worth of phone calls. Not me, him. Sorry Jane. I was wrong about him getting off the phone, he got right back on another call.
By 3:30 pm, we were ready to return to the museum. And we saw some stuff about history. Interesting to see, boring to write and read about. But we did stay until closing and the guard was shooing people out. I tried to walk back ten feet behind a partition to retrieve pops and the guard verbally chastened me. I was displeased by his authoritative use of authority.

By now its time for dinner- Marg has been called several times and knew we wouldn’t be coming home if she was napping-and we return to the hotel.

An excellent Italian dinner followed by a late evening drive into the city were delightful, but we did get lost. Several times. I blame the Pennsylvania Avenue problem.

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