Cost of a Ticket
Ok, I admit it. I’ve been putting off writing this bit here. If you remember from last week, I mentioned the trip we took as a family. It was the short time I was out of the office (which no one noticed because I am a recluse anyway).
This was a pretty big trip for us. We drove the 10 to 12 hours from Michigan to Washington DC, two cars, and one of the cars had the two grandchildren. We did make the trip there in the middle of the night in hopes that the kids would sleep most of the way. But none of that is the purpose of the story. But you can expect a little build up along the way.
As far as trips go it went as could be expected. We were pulled over in Ohio for going five miles per hour over the speed limit. Imagine two Chrysler Pacificas in the middle of the night on the Ohio turnpike traveling really close together. Sure that there is some drug runners if I ever saw them. As far as miracles go, we didn’t get any tickets… there.
Nope, the ticket came when we made it to Washington. We made it in plenty of time to hit at least part of the Smithsonian and all of that stuff downtown (the intended purpose of the trip). None of us had ever been and it was something my wife had been wanting to do for quite some time now.
What would you do? In a strange city, and readily available maps, we did what we have always done. We drove to the zoo and parked where we could find a parking space and did some walking. In Washington DC. Imagine how lost we were between the zoo and our hotel that was only about 12 miles away. That is a short trip at home for us. Took us over 45 minutes and we did spend some time lost. The place where I ended up parking turned out to be a park of the bus zone (Which was over half a block long apparently). That was a 100-dollar ticket to add to the cost of the trip. And then to park at the zoo itself was another 22 bucks. Annoying, yes, but at least they didn’t tow my car. And this wasn’t even the worst part of this leg of the trip.
Still too cold in early April so most of the animals were nowhere to be found. We should have expected it but a zoo is a zoo so it wasn’t too much of a disappointment. And still not even the worst thing of the day. We had finished with all that and we’re back at the hotel having dinner. My daughter and her husband had taken the babies to their room for bed and we get a knock on the connecting door. The older of the two babies had tripped into the potty and cut her forehead open.
After talking to the front desk they had gotten the address to the nearest emergency room and away they went. They took my other daughter with them but left the youngest baby with us. Imagine that, we finally have everyone away and we still don’t get any alone time, go figure.
I had been trying to find ways to get into town over the next couple days so we wouldn’t have to pay such huge fines for parking or even parking fees in general. Turned out that the biggest lesson of the day for me had been what I had forgotten. When you travel one of the first thing you need to do is learn the local customs. Find the ways to assimilate to what works for the place you are going to.
As it turns out, all the locals use the Metro (bus and train). The nearest Metro park and ride to us only charges a little over 5 dollars to park for the day and the trip to downtown both ways came out between 6 and 7 bucks a person round trip. No parking fines, no hassles, no getting lost in traffic congestion, the metro station we got off at was one block south of the Space and Air museum. It doesn’t get much better than that.
That was the important lesson for us to learn at the time. It doesn’t matter how much technology you have, you still have to remember to explore the locals and adapt to their ways. It doesn’t mean giving up what you hold as your own. But it does mean incorporating something new into your life.
Now after all that, I am not going to recount every last nuance of the trip. It isn’t my intention to bore the hell out of you and I am sure you don’t want to see our slides. But I do have a few more things to talk about before we part ways. This is where it gets a bit tricky for me. I don’t want to push to deep and alienate the world around me, but at the same time I want to share this experience because it hit me unexpectedly and we are all about the unexpected around here.
So first a little more background…
If for some odd reason you never experienced this about me, I will put it out there now. I am a patriot. I believe strongly in the founding principles of the United States. I don’t care to hear about all the faults that may be brought up with reactions to this statement. Everyone has faults even countries as an entity. But the founding principles remain the same, the country was founded on the ideas of freedom and equality of the citizens. This was something unheard of prior to this countries birth.
It may shock many to know, I am essentially a pacifist. I abhor the idea of war and the need for such. And still I spent time as a Marine. I understood then as know what the price of freedom is and will still gladly pay that price, even for those I don’t agree with. This is another part of that price, standing up for those who have as much right to their thoughts as we have for our own.
Which takes us back to this trip to Washington DC (a more wretched hive of scum and villainy you may never find…). It started outside the National Archives.
This was under one of the statues in front of the National Archives. It sucker punched me with emotion. Even now as I write this I still feel it. I am not one to suffer acts of random emotions except (apparently) in certain situations. I stood there, in the middle of Washington, out in full view of the world, with tears streaming down my face. And then we went inside to view the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
I couldn’t read the words. I didn’t need to read the words. As I looked at the documents with tears streaming down my cheeks the words echoed in my mind. They still do as I write this and relive the moment.
The next day, we drove straight home after we left the final park, we found parking for free (I know, crazy right) outside the war memorial park. This was the hardest day for me. See, for the most part, exploring the Smithsonian is great and all but in the end it is essentially just another museum. We all know museums and what to expect.
But the Lincoln Memorial, a monument to a president who gave all to bring unity back to a troubled country, a monument to a man who said that all people should live in freedom. Little did I expect how much that entire park would take to me, show me of what I have always felt deep in my core.
I didn’t lose anyone to Vietnam, at least no one I know of. Sure I am old enough to know vets who came back from there, many of us are. But even then to see the wall in person, to understand the testament to virtue of those who fought in a war despised by those back home, it isn’t something you can walk away from without feeling the weight of their sacrifice.
In our circle of the park we stopped at the World War 2 memorial. More feelings, more tears, I wasn’t the only one. We happened to be there at the same time as a group of service men who served in that war as well as the Korean war had come together to few the memorial as brothers in arms. You can say what you want about George W. Bush, if nothing else good ever came from his presidency, we still have him to thank for this memorial. We must never forget the sacrifice that both men and women have given through the years in this country in the service to not only our country but also the world as a whole.
This is something that we forget. The US as a whole has unprecedented freedoms, more freedoms than anywhere else in the world. These are guaranteed by our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Those who sacrifice their freedoms and far too often their lives in service to our country and in turn the world as a whole should never be forgotten. When our young men and women sign their name to that governmental contract, they are saying in effect that they are willing to lay their rights and life on the line for people they don’t even know. This is no small gift that they give to us.
And at this point I think I may be at the limit of my emotions for the day.
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