Washington, DC 101 for Visitors

Even though the thermostat says otherwise, the summer season is fast approaching and that means the locusts are coming– I mean the tourists are coming to a major city near you.  So, with that in mind, I figured that it would be nice to offer a few tips to visitors who may be visiting the nation’s capitol.  These tips are provided not only to help you seamlessly (or as close to that as possible) navigate the Washington, DC area, but to also prevent the nasty looks and comments from locals and transplants who live and work in the area.
Public transportation

  • The MOST important rule to remember when using the metro subway systems — Stand right, walk left.  I repeat– STAND right, WALK left.  Please, please, please do not stand on the left side when taking the escalators up or down, you will either receive dirty looks, be cussed out or run over (or perhaps all three) by individuals in a hurry to catch a train or get to work.
  • The metro system is the primary mode of public transportation to most of the tourist attractions.  In order to use the rail system you must purchase a smart trip card.  It is highly recommended that you budget at least $7/day for rail fare, depending on the location of attractions you plan to visit.  If you plan to park at a metro facility, the parking fee is $5.10.  Note that the spaces designated as reserved are open to all vehicles after 10a.m,
  • To maximize your savings, wear comfortable walking shoes and group your attractions based upon geographical region.
  • The best time to use the metro system to visit local attractions is after 9:30a.m.  Most local commuters should have already started their journey to the office prior to that, so it will not be as crowded.  In the afternoon, it is advisable to either head out to the metro before 3:00p.m. or after 6p.m.  Anytime before is will be pure chaos, especially at your multi-rail connector stations (L’Enfant Plaza, Metro Center, and Gallery Place).

 

Local attractions
Now that you know how to navigate the metro systems, decide where you want to go.

  • If it is monuments and memorials you desire, there are plenty.  Most notably are the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. monument, the Lincoln memorial, and the Vietnam memorial.
  • When it comes to museums, the DC area has some of the best.  My favorite is the Air and Space Museum because you can purchase space ice cream.  Other notable museums are the Holocaust museum, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and the National Gallery of Art.
  • Other attractions of interest to you may include Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum (I still think the one in London is the best), the Spy Museum (in DC, go figure), and let’s not forget the White House.
  • If you up to visiting the capitol and sitting in a session or perhaps seeing the place where your politicians waste your tax dollars, contact your local representative months in advance to request tour tickets.

Dining Out
There are many dining options within the Washington, DC metropolitan area.  Many of wish metro accessible.  Options range from the budget friendly to the uber posh and expensive.

  • Washington, DC is known for a culturally diverse food options.  You can find Ethopian in the U Street Corridor; Lebanese, French and German in Georgetown; Italian in Adams Morgan, and Jamaican in the Shaw area.  Whatever you taste, whatever your budget, you can find it easily in the DC area.

 

Sporting Events
Summer time in the Washington, DC area is a time when the local baseball, basketball and soccer (football) teams are in full swing.  All teams have numerous promotions and giveaways throughout the season, so do a little bit of research before planning a trip to see a game.  As with almost everything else, parking is available near the various sporting events, however, it is HIGHLY recommended that you take metro.

  • There Washington Mystics is the local professional women’s basketball team.  I guarantee that you will find a lot of high energy and excitement during the games.  The prices are reasonable so that you can take the entire family to enjoy the action.  Basketball season runs from May until August and games are played at the Verizon Center in NW.
  • The Washington Nationals is DC is the area’s local baseball club.  Games are played at Nats stadium in SW and you can catch a game most days of the week.  If you really do not care about being up close and personal, arrive at the stadium when the gates open and ticket booths open.  This is when the $5 upper level seats area sold.  Please note that the tickets are 1 per person, so if you have a large party, please make sure everyone is present.  There are also tickets available for as little as $30 or so which include a food credit (known as the family fun pack).  If my memory serves me correctly, these tickets are only available on the weekends and were in the left and right field sections.
  • The DC United is the Washington, DC soccer team that once was famous for having the youngest professional soccer star.  The team currently plays home games at RFK stadium in SE (former home of the Washington Redskins); however, they are scheduled to relocate to a new location near the SW waterfront in the next couple of years.  Tickets are reasonably priced so that families can enjoy a day at the game.

It is my hope that these tips have helped, if there are any additional questions, feel free to reach out to me.  Regardless of where you stay, what you do, or what you eat while you are in the area, do not forget the most important tip — STAND right, WALK left.

Your Passport and Your Job

Okay, this post may not be about what you are initially thinking.  It is not about having that totally awesome job where you travel the world and actually get paid to work.  If that was the case, I would not be blogging about this very matter right now.  Unfortunately, I recently found out that my passport caused a problem with my new firm verifying my eligibility for employment in the states.  How is that you say?  Sit back and learn.

So, for those of you who don’t know or perhaps you have been with your current employer forever, when you start a new job with a new employer, that employer has three business days to certify that you are eligible for employment in the states.  Okay, easy enough because that has been the case for so long.  I mean, you’ve always had to supply to one piece of evidence from list A or two from list B of the I-9 document, right?  Yes, that is correct; however, in the past this process was not handled electronically in most cases.  Moreover, DHS was not always involved.  Well, now they are.

So how does your passport have any bearing on your job?  Well, allow me to use myself as an example.  As it has been stated so many times in my postings, I LOVE to travel.  Absolutely LOVE it.  Well, last year I had a little more than 3 years left on my current passport and the number of available pages was extremely limited.  So, I applied to have extra pages added to my current passport instead of waiting for it to get completely filled up and then applying for a new one.  STATION BREAK HERE – Before you decided that is a great idea and that you too should do the same, December 31, 2015 was the end of that option (hopefully they will bring it back, but I doubt).  Well, the only thing that changed with my passport is that is become a bit thicker.  Same picture, same control number, same biographical information.  Nothing changed.

Fast forward to April 2016 when I present my passport to satisfy the requirement under list A of the I-9 form.  The HR representative enters my information into the E-Verify system (the system the employers must use to verify your eligibility) and I go about my merry way completing orientation activities.  Well, the next day I receive an email and an IM notification from the HR representative informing me that there was a problem with my passport.  The document was flagged in the system as a mismatch and I need to determine whether I want to have the matter investigate or not.  If I choose “or not” that means I will not have my new job.  So, of course I option to go through the process and have the matter investigated.

Lucky for me my first call to DHS was my last call.  Apparently I was dealing with a woman who was very well versed with these “mismatch” issues and asked me one question.  “Mam, did you have pages added to your passport?”  “Um yes” was my reply.  She said that it would be a quick fix because this problem happens all the time.  With that bit of reassurance I jokingly remarked, “I guess I have to say in this job until my passport expires so this doesn’t happen again, eh?”  She laughed and the conversation ended.  It has almost been one month since I started my dream career and I have not had any more issues, so I can clearly say that the problem is resolved.

Bottom line, if you are applying for a job within the US and use your passport as documentation to verify your status, just be prepared to undergo a similar process if you have made any updates or modifications to your passport recently.  I am sure that this issue does not happen that often, but at least you can share this tidbit with someone who may be in a similar situation.