Our Nation’s Capitol

April 26, 2007 at 1:43am By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

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I can’t say that Washington D.C. is my favorite large city in the country. Its quite expensive, densely populated, and has a (well-earned in my opinion) reputation for reflecting all that’s best and worst in this country. Still, you can’t deny its unique positives. The metro there is great. It’s a fantastic way to tour the city without having to deal with the horrible traffic and parking situation there.

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Besides the ubiquitous monuments, there are a few really nice neighborhoods worth a visit in the city too, like Logan Circle and Dupont Circle (above) – that is if you don’t mind the in-your-face gentrification. D.C. was beautiful, almost close to 90 degrees that day.

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Having lived in Maryland for 4 years, I’m a little familiar with the seafood there. And seafood means…going to Fell’s Point in Baltimore, where I hooked up with an old friend who recommended eating at John Steven, Ltd., for steamed mussels and crab cakes. I parked my car near Camden Yards ($22 for about 4 hours), and after meeting up we walked back there through Little Italy and the inner harbor and I somehow managed to make it back to my hotel that night.

The next day was spent at the Mall in D.C., where I finally saw the Lincoln Memorial and World War II Memorial for the first time with another friend. Unfortunately, my favorite museum – American History – was closed for renovation. Regardless, both of us highly enjoyed the National Gallery of Art – which has a great shop – and the Museum of the American Indian – my first visit there.

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The museum had your share of “traditional” displays of native artifacts and dress.

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However, it also featured a dizzying display of interactive, multimedia educational elements about native livelihoods both in the past and now. I was really impressed with how closely the Smithsonian worked with tribal curators to design all the displays. This museum alone is easily worth an entire day.

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Then it was on to the historic triangle of Jamestown – Williamsburg – Yorktown in southern Virginia. Now is a particularly good time to visit the area because 2007 is the 400th Anniversary of Jamestown. On our tour of Williamsburg, we learned that the Rockefeller Brothers played a really crucial role in restoring the historic city into the site it is now.

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We spent the day listening to folks like Thomas Jefferson (above), touring the first legislative house in America, and dining at a tavern where George Washington once ate. 

Great trip so far. Then things went south. We first flew to Chicago, hoping to get on the last leg to Lincoln last night. There’s something always a little unsettling about being scheduled on the last flight in somewhere. Our flight got delayed, then eventually canceled. So we stayed over night on a United Air paid-for hotel in Chicago, and then woke up at 4AM for a flight into Denver after a 3 hour nap. OK – little sleep but that’s no big deal.

So we hung out in Denver early in the morning, waiting for that last leg into Lincoln. We boarded the plane late in the morning, and then sat in it for 40 or so minutes on the runway. WTF?

It turned out they had to search the entire plane and asked us all to get off. After “un-boarding,” about 15 or so TSA agents, police, and various officials moved us into a “security corral” in a corner of Denver airport because we were “contaminated.” They were armed. We weren’t allowed to leave the area as a bunch of these security people stood around us like hawks. After a few minutes, some people got very irate. They kept us there for close to an hour while a bunch of suits talked in the background about what to do with us. Although it was funny to some, for me it was a bit frustrating because after all I was exhausted and was supposed to have been on a plane to Lincoln the day before.

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It was worse for others however. One older woman - who only spoke Vietnamese – was understandably worried and had no idea what was going on. TSA didn’t have any foreign language interpreters on hand, and weren’t helping in anyway. Fortunately, some resourceful passengers also caught up in the security cordon were nice enough to call up a Vietnamese interpreter in Lincoln on a cell phone for her. Another woman in the “security corral,” it turned out, wasn’t even a passenger on the original flight, but just happened to have been standing in the area and got caught up by the TSA dragnet. She ended up missing her flight when they eventually let her go. I called up my libertarian buddy Mr. Wilson to female dog at that point.

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After standing around for an hour, then they ordered us all onto a bus on the runway, surrounded by a bunch of airport security/TSA SUVs with agents watching our every word. A few moments after taking this photo, one of them started screaming at me to stop taking photos and get on the bus. Yep, I was definitely thinking “Jet Blue experience” at this stage.

So we stood on the bus (and stood, and stood).

One of the passengers got in an argument with a “person-in-charge” about the fact that we had been standing around for hours without being allowed to go to the restroom or get food. The response was along the lines that they couldn’t bring us sandwiches because we were in the “security corral.” Then one of the cops ordered the guy off the bus because his complaints apparently amounted to “threats” against the agent. Nice. I was standing right there and there were no such threats.

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When the bus finally got started, there were security SUVs escorting us from behind and in front. Cops were waiting in a line as we got off the bus. We were led into a screening area and screened (again), and then finally allowed to walk back to the original gate and get on our plane to Lincoln. One passenger gave me his card and asked me to email my photos to him so he could complain to United Air later. Everyone was pissed.

In the end, we all got a $50-off voucher for a future United Air ticket. Thanks guys!

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The Comments

D.M.B. April 26, 2007 at 3:13am

LOL all that DC stuff was cool but…dang that airport ordeal must have been something else.

beerorkid April 26, 2007 at 1:06pm

well glad you are OK.

Karin April 26, 2007 at 1:44pm

Yikes!

I’m going to DC in June for the first time. I hope my trip back doesn’t end up like yours. I would be awfully pissed- I get *really* cranky when I’m hungry.

So you never found out what all the fuss was about?

jwiltshire April 26, 2007 at 3:02pm

OMG OH NOES TERRARS!

I too would like to know why you were detained.  But it sounds like you might never know.

beerorkid April 26, 2007 at 6:52pm

oh and them fries look good.

CP April 26, 2007 at 10:00pm

I cannot belive that this can be done to ANYONE in America with no explaination. Citizen or not. In enfuriates me on principle alone.

Mr. T April 26, 2007 at 11:57pm

The reason for the whole debacle was because TSA or whoever was in charge forgot to do a security check of the plane itself before letting us in.

Apparently, every morning before a plane goes into service, they screen the entire plane to make sure that people aren’t able to smuggle on a bomb or weapons. Since they forgot to screen the plane and let us on, any of us theoretically could have been a hijacker or terrorist working with someone “on the inside” who left a bomb for us on the plane. Thus, we were “contaminated” and had to be removed from the plane, detained, and screened again.

Lesson to be heeded Karin - if you ever see something like this happening in an airport (i.e. tons of TSA agents forcing a crowd of people into a corner of the airport), stay as far away as possible, or you might get caught up in the “security corral.”

Anyway, I called United again today and they are issuing me another $50 voucher “to show good will.” So now I have two $50 vouchers from United. Guess I can fly for free from Lincoln to Grand Island one of these days.

MBA May 18, 2007 at 12:06am

Two words: Frontier Airlines. I hassled with United for several years before I made the switch. Now I couldn’t be happier with my airline, even after being stranded during the Denver blizzard of ‘06.

Regarding the American History museum: I’m sorry you didn’t get to visit, it is my fav also.

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