By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)
A short visit to the nation’s capital this week provided a first-hand perspective on the chaos taking place in Washington and across the nation as the federal government shutdown over a planned boarder wall drags on and on, without a glimmer of an impending resolution.
To illustrate this perspective, note the two images — both taken from my room at the DuPont Circle Hotel — that accompany this post. It’s my intention that these perspectives will somewhat metaphorically provide insight into the nation today.
The top image was taken Sunday in mid-afternoon as bands of snow fell across the city and surrounding areas. The weather created challenges for travelers arriving at Reagan National Airport, people taking the Washington metro transit system and pedestrians, as the snow and ice made it difficult to walk, much less pull a suitcase across sidewalks that had yet to be shoveled.
In town to attend a transportation conference, I learned firsthand of travel nightmares, closed museums and attractions, and lives of federal workers and many others disrupted. An Italian restaurant near my hotel, where I had planned to enjoy a light dinner and glass of wine, had closed early. Other restaurants in the normally bustling neighborhood were open but not crowded. There was a sense that evening that Washington was hunkering down, that it almost was under siege due to the forces of nature and a government that did not fulfill its obligation to its citizens.
But on Monday morning, the bands of snow moved east, resulting in clear skies. Crews had been dispatched to clear away snow and ice, making basic mobility much easier and less dangerous than 12 or so hours before. The WMATA Red Line train I took to the Convention Center was crowded, efficiently transporting people to jobs, appointments and events. Later that evening, crowds descended on the Capital One Arena to take in a hockey game. As noted in the second image here, the city had shrugged off obstacles and stood resilient. Things appeared to be “back to normal.”
As the shutdown enters its 27th day, the question remains: How many times can Washington figuratively brush off winter snow and clear sidewalks while some 800,000 workers wait for resolution and a paycheck?
Other recollections on my 48 hour sojourn:
- My Tuesday morning trip on the Yellow Line back to Reagan Airport offered a glimpse of the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial as the train crossed the Potomac River. My thoughts turned to the nation these Founding Fathers built, and whether the ideals they formulated were crumbling.
- From the American Airlines concourse, I counted around a dozen construction cranes in the distance, testimony that new developments, business and commerce will continue while the government stalemate dragged on.
- The lines to get a cup of coffee at the Starbucks near the TSA checkpoint were longer than the lines required to pass through security. Was this an anomaly? A result of fewer travelers due to the shutdown? Luck?
And, finally an aside of sorts. While at a reception Monday evening near the Convention Center, a colleague noted that Massachusetts Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren was present, dining with her husband, glasses of beer before them. As unobtrusively as possible, I approached their booth. The Senator smiled, turned and extended her hand. She demonstrated a firm handshake.
“Hello Senator,” I said. “Wishing you success in the campaign ahead. We’re here for a transportation conference.” “Transportation is very important to the nation,” she said. I wholeheartedly agreed, bid the couple farewell, and they quietly enjoyed their dinner and evening together.