Thursday, January 04, 2007

A Day in DC

Today I went down to Washington, D.C. to watch the swearing-ins, etc. Through one avenue or another 3 congressional representatives had invited me to stop by their office or attend a reception or something similar. It’s been awhile since I went to Washington so it was a treat.

The day did not start off well; trains to DC were delayed for 30 minutes. However, once there, things picked up. I teamed up with another woman from Philly (well, London originally but Philly most recently) in the Metro but we had different stops on the red line. There was a long line outside the Rayburn Office Building and people were grumbling about not getting in before the ceremonies were over. A police officer came over to suggest some of us shift to a side entrance. Off we went. Two officers on bikes made sure we got to the right spot. I found a reception with televised coverage of the proceedings. It was on a balcony but there were so many people we were backed up the stairs and into the hallway. The woman next to me complained that people were squeezing past her and getting a better viewing spot. I told her she wasn’t pushy enough and she side tackled me as an example of how pushy she could be. We jostled and joshed for awhile and complimented each other’s clothing and blocked others trying to sneak past us. It was all in good fun though. There wasn’t much to see on the televisions. The House was just waiting for representatives to gather. I got bored and set off in search of office open houses.

What I found was the lower levels of the Rayburn building; what I could not find was a way out of them. Fortunately I ran across some workmen who were able to give me directions. The hallways were full of creaky old desks and file cabinets. At first I thought it was surplus furniture going to the dump. However, when I got a look at the congressional offices and saw what they were furnished with, I decided the things in the basement were probably just waiting to be moved somewhere. No one runs for congress to work in palatial offices with nice furniture. I visited the work spaces of Reps. Chris Carney, Patrick Murphy, Allyson Schwartz, and Joe Sestak, scattered around the Rayburn, Longworth and Cannon office buildings (all connected). All of the staff I spoke to were very welcoming. In most, people were watching news coverage of House proceedings. I paused in two to watch the roll call for Speaker of the House. Trivia – it looked like representatives-elect cast a vote for Speaker before they were sworn in. The election of Nancy Pelosi was met with cheers and I heard part of her speech afterwards.

While I met lots of nice staffers I didn’t see any of the representatives themselves. However, outside Carney’s office I saw Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll. In other spots I ran into Sharif Street, Ruth Damsker, and State Rep. Bryan Lentz. Other notable tidbits overheard – on Patrick Murphy’s first day on the job his infant daughter spit up all over his tie. Suggestion for his office staff – cover everything with plastic and start keeping extra clothes in the office. Soon after spitting up babies often learn to projectile vomit. If I remember correctly this is no fun for anybody and can be very messy. Plastic keyboard covers are a must. Allyson Schwartz has very little staff turnover in her DC office. This was mentioned as a point of pride. From my completely uneducated viewpoint the constituents visiting Sestak’s office looked wealthier than the people in the other offices. Just my opinion. However, it was the only place I saw women in pearls.

After over 4 hours of flitting around the Capitol area I started to get hungry. If there was any food in the buildings I couldn’t find it. One office did have some fruit and crackers out and while it was very good it wasn’t all that substantial. There were some vending machines near some of the elevators but that was all I saw. No wonder so many of the staffers looked thin. So I decided to call it a day and headed back to Union Station to grab a slice of pizza before catching a train home.

There were probably a number of events that I didn’t get to but it was interesting. Special thanks to the nice woman in Allyson Schwartz’s office who was willing to answer my “what to wear” questions.

5 comments:

phillydem said...

Thanks for the comment about the office furniture because contrary to popular belief, that stuff does get moved, handed down to lesser agencies
and/or reused. During my own federal career, I salvaged an large two tier desk carrel(sp?) and took it with me with every move. It made a great bookcase and even after we went to cubicles, it was big enough to stand alone on the floor!

AboveAvgJane said...

PD,

I really was surprised at how shabby some of the furniture looked. Some of the desks in the basement were upside down so you could see the particle board guts and poor joint connections in the drawers.

Good move on the makeshift bookcase!

phillydem said...

When an office or section or branch relocated or got new/updated digs or even when just one workspace or desk was left empty or unoccupied, there were always scavengers appearing to take any office equipment that was better than what we had or would be a good addition to our own workspace, things like bookcases and cabinets being prime objects of desire.

"Field Day" where everyone came in in blue jeans, sneakers and old sweatshirts, was another yearly ritual. The day was spent cleaning and tossing old/broken equipment and ancient files.

Anonymous said...

Patrick Murphy's former communications director (now with Pelosi's office) did wear a lovely necklace that I think was pearls, but I don't remember whether she made it to the Murphy events.

The Rayburn and Longworth HOBs have cafeterias in their basements, which are pretty decent, and not too expensive.

AboveAvgJane said...

PD,

We do the same thing where I work. My office pc is a hand me down from someone as is my pda It's a good policy. No need to buy new stuff for everyone.

Anon,

A staff member can afford pearls????

Thanks for the note on the cafeterias. I'll check into them next time.