Friday, October 24, 2008

What I WON'T miss about the DC area

I'll try to hold back here, but then again I may say too much. I don't want to sound like someone who is ultimately ungrateful for where I am. You see my tension, don't you?

Oh well, here goes.

1) The great majority of people are completely unfriendly, myself included.
As just one qualification, think about the DC area. So many people come here for internships, fellowships, vacation, to make their mark in the military/government/etc., but the point is that they're coming here. They are not from here-this is not their home. And then you have the people who are actually from here who see this constant ebb and flow of people. What is permanent, what is something I can count on? Nobody knows the answer to these questions, humanly speaking, and as such, almost everyone has their guard up. This air of indifference and apathy, etc., is something that I can't wait to get my mind away from. Oh, and there's also the air of importance that is downright disgusting. As I said, people come here on a mission, and sometimes it feels like everyone thinks that their mission is the ultimate one. Oh, human folly. Ever ubiquitous even in SoCal, but this flavor of folly really gets to me.

2) The disgusting summer.
Humidity that makes one feel guilty for breathing. It has to be more unhealthy than smoking, I can just feel it.

3) The bugs.
Maybe California is the unnatural place, but I'm used to the idea that when it looks nice outside, IT IS NICE. And maybe my foreign blood is tasty to these East Coast bloodsuckers, but whatever the reason, I just can't stay outside without having some beetle, mosquito, or wasp, bee, etc. coming after me. And then there is the elusive fear that I have of ticks. I can proudly say that in ~3.5 years I've never had one of these on my body (and no, I never even worried about them in the time before then). Meanwhile, I've heard of people coming down with Lyme disease!

4) The places called Mexican restaurants.
When I first got out here I thought, ok, where can I get some Mexican food? And of course I don't just mean On the Border or Baja Fresh, I mean some place run by a family, some place that has pozole and menudo on the weekends. The long and the short of it is, there isn't really a place like that. One place in an obscure part of DC makes that cut, but it is too hard to get to on a regular basis. A key clue that I found myself in this situation was that most places would say something like "Mexican and Salvadorean food". This was a clear sign that the patrons were from El Salvador-they meant well, knowing that the average Marylander would shrug over Salvadorean food, but darn it all that's their home territory! So they'd serve up "Mexican" "favorites" that they "knew" "Americans" would "like". And so my depression sunk to a new low.

5) The lack of a sense of service
In a land dominated by "public" "servants", it's amusing that this place has to be the worst when it comes to service. At nearly every store in my area, the customer will find himself in my shoes: you begin to ask the waiter/checker/salesperson for their help, or they strike up the conversation with a "Can I help you?" or a "Can I take your order?" Here, in the world of paper, we are fine. But going deeper, I can tell you what else accompanies these mere letters. A smirk, a shrug, a begrudging sigh, a slouch, a frown, the tone of voice that says why in the world am I serving you? This is especially true of chain stores, which may be a big reason why I am opting for more family-based businesses as of late. Whatever the reason, it's almost impossible to go to the grocery store or Barnes and Noble without wanting to tear one's hair out.

6) The horrible drivers
California is sometimes referred to as the land of the fruits and nuts, and this is true for some justifiable (and some unjustifiable) reasons. However, one area where we Californians have received a negative mark without cause is the driving department. It's true, we have areas which are very densely packed, but with that being said there is not as much insanity as what I have seen out here, and that is with very limited driving experience. I am sure my wife could bring you all to tears with the myriads of monster stories that sometimes come to me via her. As one point of substantiation, I think I have been waved at by someone letting me get over once in ~3.5 years. In California, sure, there are jerks but there are still those people that I lovingly call "humans" who actually extend this courtesy to each other on a more regular basis. In fact, when I flew out for an interview in the Bay Area, I recall leaving the airport and getting waved at when I was trying to get over 3 times in the span of ~100 miles! This also extends to the realm of pedestrians. When I would go jogging in the OC, people would stop for me and even wave sometimes (Was it some kind of mockery or curiosity at this space oddity? To me it matters not.) Over here, people die on a regular basis. And I'm not joking at this point. Ultimately, I can't wait to get away from this driving experience. Is it the abundance of out of towners? The twisty roads which predate the War Between the States? Is everyone mad that they don't live in California? I don't have the answers. I just call them like I see them.

7) Government Waste
Seeing the enormity of government first hand is frightening. It has a breathtaking element when viewed from afar, but zooming in close one can see what everyone knows--this heaving beast is far too large to properly care for itself. I won't enumerate instances of waste, and am not (necessarily) speaking about where I work, but let's just say it's something I'd rather leave out of mind, by leaving it out of sight.

8) The winter
Walking in a winter wonderland also includes sliding on a slippery ice slope and hitting one's proverbial fanny. That, and the fact that there are moments where my weak soul says "How much longer?" to days of scant sun, and awkward vesting and unvesting of the 4 or 5 layers of sweaters, jackets, gloves, beanies, gloves and the rest (think old school Gilligan's island here).
Winter is fun for 3 weeks, tops.

And yes, I know our DC winters are nothing as compared to Canada's winters.

Oh well, I think that's enough for now. Maybe I don't feel like complaining anymore because in posting about winter I'm realizing that I won't even be here during this coming winter. I'll be back in California in a mere 12 days, d.v.!!!

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