I used to go to Washington DC a lot. I was vice president of a consulting company and our customers were mostly government. So I got to know the place. Here are few factoids…
It seldom snows in DC, so the drivers there don’t know how to deal with it. The occasional heavy snow leaves a lot of cars abandoned on the roads, wherever they were when they got in trouble. The city is likely to shut down for days.
There are more drunks in DC than anywhere else in the country. One December the local police set up random roadblocks to test for driver inebriation. No arrests, just gathered information. Over 25% of drivers were over the legal limit. Someone pointed out that it was the holiday season so of course there was a lot of drinking. So the police repeated the test the next spring. Same results.
One night I had arrived early so went out to a neighboring bar for a sandwich and drink. The martini came in a huge lemonade glass and was at least a triple. That was all they served. I could not get even half way through it.
Compared to all the states, the District ranks No. 2 for the percentage of adults who consume alcohol and No. 1 for the percentage of heavy drinkers, according to Detox.net, an online resource for alcohol abuse treatment programs.
Mental Health in the District
It is rumored that DC also has the highest concentration of shrinks in the country. All due to the pressure of working in government. This was probably true once when government workers had liberal mental health benefits. But these benefits disappeared long ago in one of the cut-backs. Might be a good idea to bring it back. Remember James Coburn in “The President’s Analyst”? In this film he was driven into a desperate flight to freedom after weeks of emergency sessions with the president, usually at odd hours. Does our present president have an analyst? If so, can they survive?
Friends in High Places
For whatever reason I seem to be able to make friends with highly placed people. Like my friend John, who once worked just under Cyrus Vance, secretary of state in the Jimmy Carter administration. John told me that Washington was a city of power, and that the power manipulations occurred after hours at the receptions, cocktail parties and dinners. That’s when people traded favors and influence. He told me that Washington ran on power, that’s all there was to the people who ran the country. Makes sense. Washington is the power capitol of the world.
John was present in the war room during the Bay of Pigs disaster. He described how John Kennedy and Robert had no idea what they were doing, and that they were in total disarray. Leading to one of the worst decisions possible, which was to withhold air support and leave the field to Castro’s forces. Of course some would argue that the whole invasion was a terrible decision and would have had even worse results if we had won. We would then have had to occupy Cuba.
Richard, another friend of mine, had been a case worker in Miami before the Bay of Pigs. Meaning that he was in charge of recruiting and training Cuban exiles, who then went over there to fight and get killed or captured. There was a heavy toll of case workers as well; insanity, suicide, emotional problems due to the betrayal. None of this got into the news.
Another thing about Washington at that time is that you did not go very far away from your hotel at night, at least not very far. Very high crime rate.
The taxis in DC were a real bargain. As long as you stayed in DC. The Senate had rigged the taxi rates to make it very inexpensive to go from one part of the district to another. They used taxis for this. There was a zone system instead of meters. There was a most interesting battle over this system:
I occasionally visited the office of a senator or representative. The staff did all the work and they were usually crammed into a totally inadequate space, papers and desks and equipment chock-a-block. Chaos, just like the government and the people who run it. I had very occasional contact with the law-makers. They did not appeal to me.
I have not been in Washington for many years now, and don’t travel by air any more. I will never go there again. I don’t miss it.
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