How to Survive in DC: An AWP Guide

I’ve compiled the following tips for my writer-tourist friends arriving in DC this week. I hope they help!

1. Escalators
STAND on the right.
WALK on the left.
LAY DOWN UNDER THE FEET OF DCers if you violate this rule.

2. Visiting a Starbucks
Our Starbucks are not like normal Starbucks. Please keep in mind the following guidelines.

a. There may or may not be a line. If you can discern a line, get in it. You must “box out” like in basketball to prevent skipping from people who are busier and–frankly–more important than you.

b. You may be familiar with Starbucks’s friendly baristas who are happy to help you, customize your beverage, etc. We don’t have any of those. We have embittered, surly folk whose job it is to actively prevent you from getting anything you may have ever wanted in your entire life.

c. Since the baristas will not call out your drink (or fail to do so correctly), someone may “mistakenly” take it. Please understand, in DC, there are no mistakes.

d. If someone takes your drink, pay it forward. Steal someone else’s. DC: trickle-down economics works!

3. Weather
Our weather is unpredictable, but one thing you can be sure of is that it will be unbearable. Be sure to pack the following:

Umbrellas (2–1 will fail due to high winds and/or be stolen)
A swimming suit or board shorts
A parka
A light cardigan/tank top set
A warm hat
Crocs (just kidding–are you even reading this?)

4. Socializing with the locals
You can identify most DC residents easily, as they begin conversations this way:

“Hello! I am [DC Resident’s name].”
“Hi, nice to meet you.”
“Yes, it is. What do you do?”

Recommendation: do not reveal you work in the arts, are an artist, enjoy art, or advocate for arts funding. Instead, say, “I am a lobbyist.” This will make most people vanish into thin air.

5. Riding on Metro

Here’s a tip from a nearby DC insider: “Avoid the Red Line like an STI.” The Red Line routinely experiences delays, single-tracking, and other debacles, rendering it nearly useless. Fortunately, this year’s AWP is located: on the Red Line.

Purchase a dollar-value farecard rather than a multi-day farecard (which come with all sorts of pointless time restrictions). You can roll the dollar value over onto new cards, should you need to reload, and you can also precisely calculate your roundtrip fares using the fareboard at the card machine.

Make sure you insert your farecard into the turnstile so that the arrow points toward the machine. It will pop out the top. Pull it out and the gate will open, allowing you to pass through.

6. Having a drink or two

Recommended frequently: multiple times throughout the day.

Happy Hour is the dominant drinking mode for DCers, and you’ll find generous and festive happy hours throughout the city.

7. The Smithsonian

Worth seeing: First Ladies’ dresses, Portrait Gallery, Hirschorn. Skip: the rest.

DO NOT GO INTO THE NATIONAL AQUARIUM unless you are interested in paying $20 for the equivalent of looking at fish tanks in your neighbor’s living room.

8. Eating

As much as people in DC love to drink, they also love to eat. There are a ton of great restaurants around, no matter what kind of food you’re looking for. If I were you, here’s what I would cry about having missed:

Ben’s Chili Bowl (U Street)
Matchbox (Gallery Place/Chinatown)

That is all.

Enjoy your visit.
Jaleo (Penn Quarter)

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