In Washington to try and sort out some paperwork, I had nothing to do but wait. Wait for clerks and wait for breakfast and wait for lunch.
Founded in 1856, the Old Ebbitt Grill describes itself as a tradition. Certainly, it had the American tradition of a barman with something in common with every single customer. As I eavesdropped on his patter, if he didn’t come from the same state as his interlocutor then one of his ever multiplying sisters surely did. As I was leaving a woman began coo-ing over a little dog. “Oh, that is so cute!” she said. “Isn’t he just adorable,” she said. “Isn’t that the sweetest thing,” she said. I looked around for the dog but couldn’t see it. Locking eyes with the woman, I flushed a little as I realised that I was the sweetest, cutest, most adorable thing. The waitress next to me could barely suppress her laugh. I felt it time for a dignified exit.
At the Smithsonian museum on American history, I walked through a couple of exhibitions to kill time away from the sun. One was on the treatment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War; the other was about the invention of the incandescent lightbulb. Yet in truth neither was about their advertised topics. Both were at heart about American greatness. The exhibition on the internment of over seventy-five thousand citizens for the crime of ethnic ancestry was really about how great America was for apologising forty years later. It was as if the entire episode was merely a vehicle to demonstrate a people’s commitment to working for an ever more perfect union.
As my wait stretched into the evening I went to find a hotel for the night, checking into one I had been to before with nothing but my computer, book and a couple of sheets of paper. I sat in the park across the road from the hotel to secure my discounted on-line booking. Almost as soon as I hit the confirm button a fight broke out. Two huge men threw themselves at each other, fists finding their mark with surprisingly definite, if squishy, sounds. As one bolted for the gate the other, in a phrase I didn’t know existed outside Hollywood films, shouted “I’m gonna #$%& you up every day if I see you in this park again. I’m a gonna #$%& you up ever-day!”. I couldn’t help but wonder if I had made a mistake in my choice of hotel.