Fear and Loathing 2020: Escape From The Beltway

Sixty degrees and drizzly here in D.C.  The kind of weather I’m glad to escape; it’s a sad excuse for a February, far as I’m concerned. Plenty of snow where I’m going, though. Packed gloves, two scarves, and zipped the liner into my old field jacket.  Way too warm in the Uber, but I’ll need it.

The Beltway is deadly on a night like tonight. Just wet enough to be slick but not enough to slow anyone down. Insane road; six lanes narrows to two, then goes back up to four, and for some reason the exit is always on the far side. I tell the driver we should never fix things; it’s our best defense against lawyers. You can always tell: they’re the aggressive ones in Teslas. They’ll cut everyone off until two meet that are equally coked up. Over time we’ll thin their numbers through attrition.

He laughs, but his heart isn’t in it. An honest to God Bentley just blew past us doing about a buck ten. Must be late for the big speech.

It’s the State of the Union tonight — surreal. Tomorrow the Senate votes on his impeachment trial; tonight he’s telling us all about how we’re going to fix our education system. Bringing back Shop Class, apparently. Guess I can see that.

The side streets leading to the Capitol are all blocked off. Funny thing: Apparently, the city rents tour buses and parks them crosswise. It would make a lot of sense, except the sidewalks and islands are 50% ramps. Highly accessible city, is D.C.

There’s a SWAT team in front of Union Station as I collect my bags. I say to one, “Lot of you. Should I ask?” He smiles and says no, nothing is happening. I get the feeling he knows which pocket my pen knife is in just from that one glance.

More police as we board. Dogs. It’s a good thing I’m not doing a full Hunter S. Thompson impression; a suitcase full of acid would not go over well. Must be because it’s Speech Night. The conductor tells me it sometimes happens, but it’s random.

And here I was hoping Uncle Joe or maybe Bernie was on board. (Somehow, I just can’t picture Warren or Mayor Pete taking Amtrak.) Never know who you’ll meet in the Club Car.

I was surprised to see all the homeless folks in and around the station. One was reading through an extremely worn Bible; we shared a laugh. Some are so full of hate — and it’s hard to blame them, come to that — but a lot are just like the rest of us except with less money.

It’s been observed by others, but it’s worth repeating: It’s a shame the War on Homelessness doesn’t mean “buying people homes”.

Somehow, the idea of sleeping on the train seems a lot less uncomfortable now.


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