- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Every Washington intern worth his or her salt goes on that great mainstay of D.C. culture: a tour of the U.S. Capitol. So when my mother flew in for the weekend to see me for the first time in months, I gleefully cashed in on my girlfriend’s job with a historical society to score us a guided tour.

Seeing the different models of the Capitol was interesting enough. But the real excitement came in the room where Lincoln’s desk is. “Wow,” I thought, “this sure sounds like a Kodak moment to me.”

As I fiddled helplessly with my digital camera, our snarky tour guide, apparently tired of my mother’s never-ending barrage of questions (sorry, Mom, but it is true), decided to shove the rest of our group into another room. That left me, my mother and my girlfriend scratching our heads as to where they went.

Many tourists and interns thrill to the thought of entering the Capitol; my adventure was the battle to get out.

“So, ” I say. “What do we want to do?”

My girlfriend, who was a wee bit frantic at that point, looks at me with an unhinged stare. “We have to wait here,” she exclaims. “We can’t go anywhere without a tour guide.”

Aha. It all makes sense. The tour guide wants us to starve to death. I sit quietly. At this point, a slow death won’t hurt as bad as ticking off my girlfriend.

A half hour passes. No matter who we talk to, no one can seem to give us an actual explanation of how to get out of the building.

“So you take a left, and then a right, and then when you get to the ‘T,’ you want to take a right,” an officer says.

Right … whatever that means.

“You want to take the elevator, and then go left,” the gift shop cashier says.

And yet, oddly enough, there is no left.

I begin to wonder: When is the last time any of these Capitol denizens actually have seen the sun? I long for one person to tell me honestly that I am simply trapped in the bowels of the building: “Yeah, I started work here in 1965. My family doesn’t know I’m alive. My beard now touches my feet. Have you news from the outside? Reagan was president?”

Another part of me sees the raw irony: I usually spend the lion’s share of my days praying that I don’t do anything to get me kicked out of someplace. Yet now I’m wondering, what exactly do I have to do to get ejected from this place in a timely fashion? Pull a fire alarm? “Pants” a security guard? Strip to my skivvies, write a cryptic message on a painting and lie down like the Vitruvian Man?

Before things got that drastic, though, we finally managed — over an hour later — to return, blinking, to the bright and sunny outdoors.

So fellow Washington interns, I urge you: Lest you end up as one of the Capitol’s hapless prisoners, never let your tour guide out of your sight. Better yet: Never let your mother ask too many questions.

David Pepose is a member of the Class of ‘08 at Brandeis University.


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