An Insider's Guide to Washington
(as it might have been written by Robert Benchley)
Everyone ought to go to Washington, D.C., if only to visit your money, as Bob Hope philosophized. Actually, one would have to book passage to China to do that.
Truthfully, a tour of the Treasury Department, or even the U.S. Mint, is not the best use of your time in exploring the nation's capital. There are far more amusing and forgettable things to do than watching money being printed to feed the appetite of your elected spendthrifts.
Fortunately you have a highly knowledgeable -- and entertaining -- Washington insider as your guide.
How could an entrenched New Yorker be at all informed about the federal city, you may ask? Wipe off that impertinent sneer and you may get an answer. I will have you know that I speak from experience. My lengthy and somewhat musty resume contains proof of a stellar record of service in the national government, possibly unmatched by any other member of the Algonquin Round Table.
Who but I can claim to have been the publicity director for the Aircraft Board at the beginning of 1918? As evidence of my productive and expeditious performance, on May 20, 1918 the board was replaced by a bureau. Shortly afterward, I assumed a publicity position with the Liberty Loan program. Modesty forbids my extolling the virtues of this enterprise and its success. Buy bonds!
But I digress. It's time for me to reveal some insider secrets about Washington: a place of power, politics and pitifully poor snow removal that, with a slight shift in history, could have been named Fillmore.
Washington is located in the District of Columbia (D.C.), an area of 68.3 square miles created to provide living space for hotel, restaurant and bar employees, bus and taxi drivers and sidewalk souvenir salespersons. With the exception of the president, not a single federal worker lives in D.C. Members of Congress even sleep in their offices between long weekends at home.
Incidentally, Will Rogers labeled Congress the “National Joke Factory”, but with all due respect to Oklahoma’s rustic wit I have to take issue with the inference that jokes can be manufactured like widgets – especially considering the unskilled workers that toil under the Capitol dome.
I am rare among writers of commentary in that I have a deep respect for this city; and that is because it is the birthplace of the three-martini lunch. Lobbyists are so unappreciated.
I fear I have become distracted and failed to share the insider secrets I promised, but I’m back on track. You will impress “the folks back home” by knowing that Congress has its own library, which has more than 33 million books and one librarian. But the Librarian of Congress does draw a handsome salary.
Another nugget of wisdom is that Washington is the site of more equestrian statues than any other city in the U.S. So when you visit the nation’s capital, you will be greeted by a profusion of horses’ posteriors.
-- Robert Haught