Since Covid started I haven’t traveled, except for a short hops to visit Mom in Saskatchewan. But I spent Monday and Tuesday in Washington DC workin’ for The Man (the man being Uncle Sam) and came away with notes on planes and hotels and cameras and people.
First, camera news · The rest of this piece is miscellaneous travel notes, aimed at people who are interested in Washington DC or the travel experience. But you might want to skim through it anyhow for the pictures. As usual, I traveled with a camera bag containing an excellent Fujifilm and a variety of lenses. I never broke it out. The results from the Pixel 7 are just unreasonably good.
DC · I’ve always liked DC and this time I was in a new neighborhood, Southwest Waterfront, which is pretty nice even with too many large Federal agencies.
There are cities that feel unwelcoming, but DC isn’t one of them. On the way from the airport to my hotel via (excellent!) public transit I got lost twice, consulted a taxi dispatcher and random cop for help. I had a shopping mission where I needed guidance from big-store staff. I ate a couple of solo dinners, tucked into the corners of large-ish establishments at unpopular times to minimize plague risk. Nobody made me feel like I was bothering them, everyone was happy to help, and in the empty-ish restaurants, staff dropped by to just shoot the shit a bit.
100% of the people I’m talking about were Black. Just a coincidence?
By the way, I heartily recommend Walter’s Sports Bar — I figured that since I was in the Nation’s Capital, the most American possible thing to have would be a burger in a sports bar. The place is comfy, the food is fine, and, as noted, the people are nice.
What happened? · On this sort of trip, I’d normally write up the payload — the meat of the meetings and the shape of the work. But it is, as they say, “the subject of current litigation.” I promise, assuming I remain of sound mind after this is over, to share as much as I legally can. It should entertain.
Plague protection · Given that each episode of Covid incurs a 5-10% chance of progress to some flavor of Long Covid, which my wife is already suffering from, and that the top medical recommendation for Long Covid sufferers is “Don’t get Covid again”, I was extra ultra paranoid about the possibility of infection. So I wore a KN95 in all public indoor spaces, to the extent possible, which means except when I was actually putting food or drink in my mouth. As I write this, I won’t know for a few more days whether or not it worked.
Other people? not so much. The entire population has decided to “put Covid behind them” I guess. I can’t begin to understand how they see the trade-offs. I don’t think I’m crazy and it’d be ungenerous to think that everyone else is.
Enviro-sinner · I can’t write about this without addressing the environmental issues. A handy online flight-emissions calculator suggests this little jaunt worsened the global CO2 problem by 1.4 metric tons. Ouch.
I could point out that this level of sin is a tiny pale shadow of what I committed in my decades of jet-setting on behalf of one employer or another, or that my trip, in support of presumably-worthy high-stakes litigation, was of benefit to the species. Doesn’t really make it OK. I am now lobbying The Man to make future meetings virtual rather than physical.
Planes · Meh. Like many things in life, the experience on offer has declined over the decades, as the “business class” experience has simultaneously improved; a symptom of our society’s current insanely-dysfunctional level of inequality. Since I have a vast inventory of points left over from my jet-set phase, I upgraded both ways. Shoot me. Or, shoot out the window.
I simultaneously miss travel and have enjoyed the past few years of not fighting airlines and airports; my long-held belief is that this is an industry that hates its customers. I have reserved a special level of hate for Toronto’s Terminal 1.
Thus, you can imagine my surprise when my rollie busted a wheel in DC and I decided to check it through to Vancouver, and they just checked it through! No need to do the recover-and-recheck in Toronto. And also, you can come in from the US and go out again on domestic without passing through security. I guess I must tip my hat to my old enemy.
Oh, and (noted reluctantly) more good news. The video system on one leg of the flight was Android-based (telltale boot screen) and wow, it was miles better than any previous in-flight entertainment experience. I knew about Android Auto, but I guess there’s now Android Airplane. So the pilots can say “OK Google, land on runway 23”? I hope it doesn’t need a reliable USB-C connection.
Postmodern hotel · How can a hotel be interesting? This chain I’d never heard of that I’m not gonna name had rooms right across the street from work and the reviews were good and the price was good. I’m not naming them because I think their concept is sound but they haven’t nailed the execution yet. The idea is that the rooms are teeny-tiny (like I’ve experienced in Japan) but on the ground level there’s this huge sprawling “Living Room” with lots of desks and sofas and tables and a big TV lounge and a bar with decent basic food. The decor is breathlessly hip everywhere.
I watched Monday Night Football there, enjoying the company of a Mexican-American family who were crushed when Seattle pulled off that absurd last-minute win over Philadelphia; tears were shed on Jalen-Hurts-branded jerseys.
Also, excellent breakfast.
I think they might be onto something, except for I had a hard time sleeping because the duvet was too thick and the pillows were too thick, so I was cooking and my neck was hurting.
I filled out the feedback form and got an email from a real person, so maybe it’ll get better. I mean, the core competence of a hotel has to be getting you a good night’s sleep, so this isn’t an excusable miss. Anyhow, it’s years since I’ve stayed at a hotel that wasn’t a boring beige cookie-cutter.
Travel! · It’s what humans do; go read Bruce Chatwin. I’ve missed it. But, to be enjoyed in moderation.