Guiding in DC:  A Texas Iwo and Capitol Karma

Always Bigger in Texas

It’s busy, busy, busy as the guiding season swings into high gear with cherry blossoms and spring break equaling an avalanche of visitors.

I recently toured with senior citizens who traveled by motor coach from the mid-west to see the extraordinary blossoms at their peak.

Having strolled along the Basin, where the catfish were leaping, we headed out to see the Iwo Jima Memorial, now also known as the United States Marine Corps Memorial, across the Potomac.

As we walked in front of the immense bronze sculpture, one fellow sidled up to me and said, “You know, the original one is in Texas, don’t you?”

I replied, “You must be from Texas.”

He shot me a look and said, “Why is that?”

I said that over the years I have noticed that Texans often need their’s (whatever their’s is) to be older, newer, or bigger, whichever will occupy the top spot.

I ever so politely added that this was THE memorial, wherever else there might be others.

He grunted and said I should google it before adding “You are probably right.”

To which I replied, with a smile, “I usually am.”

He said, “you must be a cop.”

“Nope, firefighter.”

“Christ, he replied, that’s even worse.”

Laughs all around.

(For the record, in Harlingen, Texas, is the “clay sculpture that the bronze statue in Arlington Cemetery was made from.”)

Close but no cigar.

Karma and the Capitol

I had an especially irksome group of students recently, the boys mostly, but who is surprised at that?

Horseplay intermingled with blank stares was the apparent order of the day.

The first evening the group was going on a three-hour dinner/disco cruise on the Potomac with several other 8th-grade groups.

The chaperones asked if I wanted to go along; I said, “Sure, right after I shoot myself in the head.”

On the second day of touring, after I had caught their act in full, one of the boys confided in me that the “bus driver hates us”, to which I replied, “Can you blame him?”

We were walking through the FDR memorial as I asked the kids questions offering cash for correct answers; one of which relates to the amount of time FDR was president. A complete stranger materialized as if from nowhere, piping in with his answer of “15”, to which I said, “Nice try, but you’re not even close” triggering the worst of my pirates-in-training to then accuse of me of bullying, leaving me shaking my head and checking my watch.

Would the day never end?

Most guides will agree that the kiss of death for a stop at the U.S. Capitol is to find out that your group has “scheduled” a photo opportunity with their member of Congress in addition to the normal tour.

“Scheduled” is a complete misnomer, game of hide and seek is more like it.

“It will only takes five minutes”, they say, or, “He’ll meet us on the East steps”, they say.

Hope sprang eternal as my rowdy eighth-graders straggled up the hill to find the House still in session.

A Capitol police officer made us take the long way round the plaza; perhaps he was in touch with our bus driver or just knew trouble when he saw it.

We waited in vain for some sign of a dapper and youthful “staffer”, acting vigorously self important, the inevitable precursor to the news that the “congressman is running behind.”

Don’t they always?

At these moments I usually find myself becoming slightly impatient as I try to keep the group on time;  then I realized that the tardy congressman was beginning to eat into the lunch hour of my mutinous entourage.

Suddenly, I wished for one last floor amendment or perhaps a button-holing in the cloakroom to further delay the honorable member.

Finally, he arrived, photos were taken, backs were slapped,  enshrining the moment for posterity.

After negotiating Capitol security to enter the visitor center, the kids had exactly 21 minutes to purchase and eat their food.

 Karma had made an appearance.













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