DC Life


A  little more than a year after I was in a car accident I’ve finally reached a settlement through my attorneys with the insurance company. Last week my attorneys faxed me a form that I sign to allow the attorneys to disburse the settlement check to pay my medical bills and themselves. I’ll get a little extra as well.

So on Wednesday I walked to the banks in my area to get the letter certified when I signed it. I finally found that BB&T had a teller who could help me for $2. When I handed her the paper, my money and my ID, she pushed it back at me under the thick glass teller window and said I needed two witnesses to sign it as well. “Seriously?” I asked. She nodded.

“Well then I guess I’ll have to scrounge some up right now,” I said and looked around me to see an empty bank floor. Ugh.

Just then a woman walked in and headed over to one of the standing-height wooden glass-top tables where people can sign the back of checks or do whatever else they need to do in a bank. I’ll be back in a second I said and walked over the to the woman and curled my left hand over my right hand in common begging style. “Excuse me,” I said. “I’m really sorry to bother you, but I need someone to be a witness for me when I sign something, it should only take a second. Would you mind helping me?” I said and tried to beg with my eyes as much as possible.

She agreed and followed me over just as a girl about my age walked in and entered the teller line.

z “Excuse me,” I said and repeated what I’d told the other woman…”so if you could help me I’d be very grateful. And you could even count it as your good deed for the day,” I said and smiled.

“What is it for?” she asked.

“I need to sign this release so my attorneys can pay my medical bills from an auto accident. I just settled with the insurance company and I need those bills paid off,” I said, hoping that I’d tugged on a heart string enough to convince her.

“Well I guess it would be OK,” she said and I thanked her.

I mailed the signed, witnessed and certified letter later that day. Thank God that there weren’t two people in the bank at that time who were paranoid and selfish.

When is it OK to run in front of a moving bus?

Well, unless you hear your actions being narrated in real-time, you have a mystery woman composing your life’s-script on an old fashioned black typewriter and a child really does step in front of a bus and you could save them, the answer is: NEVER.

Yesterday, I was taking my usual commuter bus ride home from work in DC when a man ran, I mean he really ran, alongside and nearly in front of the bus.

While it’s common place for people to try to  flag a bus down and run to catch the bus before it leaves a stop, I can’t recall a time when I saw someone run along side the bus and nearly in front of it to grab the driver’s attention.

There were gasps and yells of non-distinct half words as people saw him. Then the bus driver saw him, slammed on his breaks and looked at the man outside.

The man was dressed in DC business casual attire, he had no visible marks or distinctive characteristics to him (other than he ran along the bus) to indicate he was loopy. No, he just wasn’t going to let the bus leave without him.

“There has to be some sanctity of life,” the man sitting next to me said. Thinking he was referring to the bus driver who should have been more watchful, I nodded. My seatmate continued, “I mean you can’t just run around a bus like that,” he said.

I nodded as if I’d understood my seat-mate all along. “Once you pass 24, you’re too old to be taking stupid chances like that,” I said, ignoring the nagging memories of many a reckless act I’d made  in recent years. He nodded.

The bus driver harrumphed and motioned for the “bus runner” to cross to the other side of the road. He indicated that the bus would pick the runner up at the curb where we swung back around. The bus did just that.

To my surprise, when we picked him up a few seconds later, the “bus runner” didn’t look the least bit ashamed of his daredevil act. Either he has an inflated ego, a missing sense of self preservation, or he really, really had to pee.

On a side note, I wish people would stop grumbling on the metro when it takes an hour to make a 20 minutes trip? Haven’t you silly people listened to the news, read the WMATA alerts or noticed that it’s all messed up? I want to get home just as much as you do.  So, suck it up and stop blowing hot air on the back of my neck every time the conductor gets on the intercom to explain the delay.

When was the last time you stopped and observed anything? I mean really observed.

When was the last time you stopped your mind from thinking, rushing, heading toward the next task, and stopped to be present to what’s around you in all its glory and ugliness?

It’s easy to stop and smell flowers and their sweet perfume, or to notice when a sewage drain on your block has been left open. But have you ever paid attention to the underlying basic smell of DC?

I’ve been on a bit of a spiritual journey lately and I’ve come to realize that I had numbed myself from paying attention to the world I live in: the sounds, smells, taste, physical vibrations and texture, among other things. I have a lot to work on personally, but this is an area where I believe change will be easier for me.

I was surprised how different my world appeared the other day when I took my “non-smoking break” and walked around the block where I work. I’m easily distracted by people when I make eye contact, so I fixed my eyes at a point on the ground a short distance ahead of me and walked, making sure to listen, feel and smell what was around me and pay attention to my body at the same time.

As I stood outside my office, it was like someone had turned up the volume on all of my senses. Seriously, as I stood there and made myself present to the moment, the volume on the sound I heard moved from a five to an eight. I inhaled and realized the city didn’t smell like cars or body odor, but more like hot, moist yet dusty, neutral yet somewhat car exhaust-tainted air. Then I smelled the spicy meat of the hot dog vending machine before I turned the corner. I tried to be aware enough to smell the potted flowers along the sidewalk but I couldn’t discern them from the other smells.

I turned to paying attention to my body as I walked. I felt my feet sink into my black heels and the pressure of my toes pushing off the concrete with each step.

The ground shook a little when groups of people walked by and their voices were clear in my mind, but not their words. I heard the tones of the voices.  Some were louder and dominated the conversation with high-falutin-tootin voices saturated with inflated egos, some were rushed and tired, some were hurt and needy and some were plain and uninspired.

I heard the ding of a bell as a door opened at a cafe I was passing.  And I thought to myself, “I didn’t know that door had a bell,” as the rush of cold air escaping the cafe pushes against my exposed arms and legs.

My bones moved and creaked with each step.

I didn’t want to return to the office but I had to. So I went inside, listened to the sounds of the elevator and slunked back to my desk to turn my mind back on and get some work finished.

Lately, I’ve also left my screened-in windows and door open at night to listen to the crickets, birds and other sounds of nature. It’s very calming to sit on my couch and read a book, or journal, sip some tea or other liquid with the soft background sound of the outdoors.

I don’t know how I lived before without that extra connection to nature and I am scared that all too soon, winter will come and I will be forced to keep those doors and windows closed all day. Perhaps when that day comes, I will take my dog on longer walks in the early morning and at night, just to be outdoors a little longer.

So last year I only made it out to one of the Screen on the Green movie events on the National Mall, and this year I’m determined to see at least two.

Last night my sister, Mu, myself and Bradley attended the showing of Dog Day Afternoon starring Al Pacino.

My sister arrived early and we laid out a blanket, which was smaller than I’d remembered, and snacked on unhealthy junk food and grapes until the movie started.

screen on the green

As it turns out, we didn’t need to do much to entertain ourselves.

First, a man proposed to his girlfriend. As he and his girlfriend approached the lawn, the man acted like he was scanning the crowd. All of a sudden, a bunch of people in red shirts  stood up and held up cards that spelled out the marriage proposal. I wasn’t sitting at a place where I could see any of the letters other than a question mark on the end.

The crowd around us burst into cheers and the girl threw her hands up to her mouth in surprise. She was grinning and the couple hugged. I saw her nod and say what looked like “yes,” and then he yelled “she said yes.” and the crowd burst into claps and cheers again. It was a wonderfully romantic moment.

Also, there are inevitably a few people who gets a little too drunk at these festivals, although alcoholic beverages are prohibited on the National Mall, and start doing silly things at the front of the area near the big screen.

Half naked man dancing before the show

This man clearly was among that list. Here he is dancing to “American Woman.”  Although you can’t see it very well on the photo, I especially enjoyed how he had a strong wife-beater tan. At first, I was appalled at his dancing around. But then I couldn’t look away, and finally, I had to laugh and enjoy the brazen silliness of the man.

So I’m going to see the Star Trek movie tonight and I’m really excited. I don’t go to see movies that often but I didn’t want to miss this one on the big screen.

The sun is out today and it is warm enough to forgo the black scarf/shawl so I decided to eat my salad in the park-like area across the street from my office.

I  was sitting outside eating when I overheard several guys sitting nearby talking about going to the Star Trek movie tonight. Then they moved into discussions about underground treky  groups and I realized it was totally turning me on.

“Oh God,”  I thought. “I’m a total nerd.” Then I smiled because I realized I would be surrounded by people like them tonight.

Yay.

Have you ever avoided getting in a cab because you see the vehicle bears the scratches and dents of a fender bender? Yet have you ever heard yourself saying to a cab driver: ” I’m in a hurry so the quicker you can get there the better.”?

I have.  But until a cabbie started ranting about it to me the other day I failed to realize how often they are asked to hurry. The cabbie told me that he’s sick of being stuck with red light camera tickets and speeding fines for a couple of extra dollars.  Since then, I’ve tried to refrain from mentioning my time crunch when I slip into a cab.

I also have this fear that the cab will get in a car accident. As a result I’m always surmising from the outside and inside of a cab what I believe to be the driver’s recent road record. And in the interest of full disclosure, I’m always a little disappointed when I get in a cab that is slightly run down… just because I like to feel posh.  Silly me.

Today, for example, I climbed into a dark blue cab that on the outside seemed to look safe enough. Yet when the driver started moving I heard this grinding noise of metal on metal and felt every little bump in the road to the point that my back started to ache. The guy was driving fine but his car wasn’t in the best condition. It felt like his alignment was off and that something was loose under my side of the engine. I tried to ignore the rattling noise until we arrived at my destination near Georgetown.  It was with a sigh of relief that I paid the driver my $6.50 and exited the car at my reporting event.

Oh and one more thing. Even though I’ve lived in the area most of my life, I never know how much to tip a cabby. If the trip is bad, I usually give them a dollar but if they get me there fast and without making me reach for the “oh sh*t handle,” I sometimes give them $2.

On Friday night I caught a cab from near DuPont Circle out to Glover Park. I didn’t end up leaving the guy a tip and he made a noise of disgust at me that sounded something like the air being let out of a tire for a split second. I felt guilty when I realized I’d failed to tip the guy but from the way he acted it didn’t make me feel too bad.

Still, I must admit that today I gave an extra dollar to a cabbie just to get my cab Karma back in sync.

Wednesday was the birthday of a long-time friend and we decided to go to an Asian cuisine restaurant in DuPont Circle to celebrate his 36th year on this planet.

It’s a small restaurant where they serve a mixture of Japanese and Thai (and maybe other types of) cuisines. I hadn’t eaten there before and I’m not sure I will again because of what happened. The restaurant, which has a capacity for maybe 20 guests on the first floor, was mostly full and the tables were spaced very close to each other.

There were three of us at the dinner table. Two people were facing the nearest wall and I was sitting facing toward the interior of the restaurant area with the sushi bar and kitchen entrance to my right.

In the middle of lifting a small green cup of hot Saki to my lips, I saw something moving along the floor near the sushi bar.

I looked at the floor and gasped when I saw a dark grey rat with a body the size of my hand slithering across the floor. I know slithering is not a word one typically uses to describe a rat but in this case it’s exactly what it looked like.

Unlike most rats and rodents I’ve seen, this one was moving sluggishly with its belly barely off the floor.  The rat turned around the corner of a stack of boxes and hid under a serving tray stand which had an empty serving tray on it.

I wasn’t the only one to see it. A waiter who was heading back to the kitchen looked down as he passed the rat.

I leaned over the table, my Saki glass and hand still suspended in the air, and said in a semi-hushed voice: “Hey guys there’s a rat in the corner. I saw a rat just come into the restaurant from the kitchen.”

“What?” they asked and turned to look where I pointed. “No way, really?”

Within a few seconds the owner of the restaurant walked out and calmly headed toward the corner stack of boxes. She looked around the room and caught my eye. Without saying a word I pointed with my free hand toward where I could still see the dark silhouette of a rat.

For at least a minute the owner and one of the sushi chefs stood together staring at the rat corner.

“What is she gonna do?” we asked each other. Clearly we were the only patrons in the restaurant to have noticed. We know that if the rat were to start running amuck around the tables with her chasing after it, the restaurant would clearly loose its customers. She was in a no-win situation.

I gave a little chuckle and my friends did too. The suspense was wonderful and terrifying at the same time.

We heard a scratching noise when the rat started climbing the stairs. Immeditealy, the woman reached under the table where the rat had been and pulled out some black flat plastic thing about the size of a license plate and threw it onto the stairs where I’m guessing the rat was climbing.

Before I could gasp for air the chef, who had been holding a clean white cloth table napkin in one hand the whole time, stretched his right arm with lighting speed to where the rat was. His hand retracted in a partial fist holding the white cloth with a grey nose peaking out of the top and a long tail hanging out of the bottom. His other hand never left his side and I did not hear a noise from the rat.

Calmly the chef he put his arm (the one with the cloth full of rat) down by his side and walked back toward the kitchen as if nothing had happened. The owner followed.

“Good thing we ordered our food a long time ago,” I said, and they nodded.

I’m guessing the rat had eaten some rat poison and was dying because I can’t imagine a rat allowing itself to be caught that easy or to not squeak when it was picked up with a cloth napkin. I’m also guessing that the rat didn’t live inside the restaurant but that it sneaked in from the back door when someone went out for a smoke or took the trash out but didn’t close the door behind him between loads

Oddly enough, it comforted me to think that the rat might have eaten poison, because that meant that the restaurant at least was trying to keep rats from infesting the place.

About a minute later the sushi chef came back into his area, turned to the sink and scrubbed his hands with soap for a good amount of time and then he resumed rolling sushi.

I’d like to say that we left the restaurant immediately or that the restaurant owner comped us our meal, but we didn’t and she didn’t.

Instead we casually finished our sushi, while I tried not to look back in the corner where the rat had been, and our pad Thai/green curry, etc., paid our bill and tip and left the restaurant.

I’m not sure why, but the event didn’t traumatize me. I guess it just means that I live in a city where a rat in the restaurant isn’t enough to make me throw down my chopsticks and run out.

Next Page »