Monday, May 22, 2006

The Simple Life

While DC remained sunny and in the 70s for most of this past weekend, I spent my time up in rural but cozy Burlington, VT for my brother's graduation from the School of Natural Resources at UVM. For those of you who don't follow the national news, however, a good part of New England has spent the last several weeks suffering from perpetual rain and flooding, and Burlington, although not in as bad shape as my hometown of Danvers, was no different. It rained, it poured, it was disgusting, to the point where I even had to go to the local EMS to buy a new rain jacket, the one I was using being not at all up the task.

Most of the weekend was relaxing, to say the least, as I spent most of my time eating on my parents' bill and lounging around the indoor pool. Although I arrived Friday night, there were no ceremonies or required events until Sunday morning, giving my parents, my aunts and uncles who attended, and me plenty of time to chill. The ceremonies themselves flew by, and I was back on a plane Sunday afternoon headed back to DC.

My dad, little bro, and me

This weekend, though, I came to an important realization. I think I've truly reached the point where I've been in DC long enough such that anytime I venture outside of the Beltway, I have to recalibrate myself to the outside world. I'm not really talking about getting used to the fact that everyone around you isn't outwardly political or somewhat self-centered, although that's definitely a factor, but more about getting used to a slightly slower lifestyle, especially in a place like Vermont.

I stopped by a convenience store Saturday afternoon and ended up in a conversation with an attractive but slightly older-looking woman working the cash register, who clearly hadn't had a customer in hours and was so bored that she almost literally wouldn't let me leave. As I was paying for my things, she took hold of the $20 bill I gave her and stared at it. "You know, I just love these new colored bills, with the new designs on them. They say you can go to the U.S. mint in Washington and go on a whole tour of how they make these things," she said, desperately trying to keep the conversation going.

"Oh, well, actually, I live in DC, though I haven't been to the Mint," I casually replied.

Looking at me with wide eyes, she responded,"Really? That's so cool! There are so many places to visit and things to do there."

And she's right. There are a ton of things to do here. Although Burlington is a great little city, it's a totally different world, and it's not until I went to a place like it that I realized just how much I have here in Washington.

The trip back to DC on Sunday was probably the most interesting part of the trip. Sitting alone in the tiny three-gate Burlington "International" Airport on a Sunday afternoon is a pretty freaky experience. Five years after 9/11, the woman working at the security counter that checks to make sure your ID matches your ticket was at least 70-80 years old and (I'm not making this up) crocheting in between checking people's IDs. If that didn't make me feel comfortable enough, there were so few people in the airport at the time that it was like being in the airport of the past dimension from the Langoliers. Two hours of sheer boredom were followed by a hellish rollercoaster ride on a propeller plane to NYC that held no more than 18 people and had to circle La Guardia for 25 minutes due to what the pilot referred to as "delaying vectors," and then almost missing my connector to DC.

When we finally touched down at Reagan, we had another 20-minute delay waiting for a gate to open up for us. But damn, was I happy to be back.


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