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Monday, October 18, 2010

Touring the Capitol

Cap

If you've been to DC and you've taken a tour of the Capitol building, you know what kinds of treasures those halls hold, right? Frescoes, statuary, documents, whisper spots, ghosts of Senators past...oh, no, wait...that was a live one, sorry...

Anyhow...we'd been to the new Visitor Center and looked around at some of the statues and read up on the full-size model of Freedom and perused the gift shop and ate in the cafeteria, but we hadn't actually had a tour yet, because it involves pre-planning and we're lazy. But a few weeks ago, when it occurred to us that our time in DC was winding down quickly, we scheduled a public tour through the Visitor Center and the boys, Dr. SmartyPants and I headed down on a Friday to check it out.

We were in a group of about 30-40 people, all wearing headphones so we could listen to the very bored tour guide tell us about the paintings, etc., and we spent approximately 2.3 seconds at each stop (please don't stop for more than just a second to get a photo...we have to move a lot of people through here...). While we saw some really amazing things, and had a nice time, the whole tour took about 30 minutes and when the guide dropped us off at the gift shop, we were kind of confused...you know...like, that's it? He told us to feel free to walk over to our representative's office and pick up passes for the House Chamber, if we wanted to see that, and have a nice daythankyouforvisitingyournation'scapitol.

We didn't have time to go to see our representative that day, but I decided that when Kristi came to visit, we'd stop by together to pick up gallery passes before the tour, and that would at least extend the experience for a little while. So, I scheduled another tour and thought that was that.

On the day we decided to tour the Capitol, Kristi, Derek, Joshua and I stopped by the Rayburn Building to visit our representative and pick up our passes for the House Chamber gallery. When we got there I decided to ask the staffer that gave us the passes if the representative was in.

Two minutes later, we were escorted into his office, we had our picture made and he invited us to sit down on the couch. He was only in the office for a couple of hours, so we had caught him by chance, but he sat down with us and talked to the boys about his job as a congressman, how laws are passed, why he has such a nice view of the Capitol dome from his window, etc. He spent about 15 minutes with us, and as we were walking out of the office, he asked if we had taken the tour of the Capitol yet.


I'm especially proud of the way Joshua took great care with his personal hygiene that morning...Sheesh, kid...buy a hairbrush...

We told him no, and he asked his staff in the reception area to please give us a tour. Now, they schedule tours through the office, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, but they took us right then.

For TWO HOURS, people. Mr. Johnson, our tour guide, took us (the FOUR of us) all over that building. We saw the crypt and the rotunda, where we could stand and gawk as long as we wanted. We experienced the whispering spot in the old House chamber, but also saw where Lincoln sat. We heard about every painting in the rotunda, including the one where Jefferson is standing on Adams' toe. We walked through the halls on the Senate side, passing Joe Lieberman in the process. We walked through the old Supreme Court chamber and the old Senate chamber, wandered the halls on the House side and rubbed our hands on the toe of Will Rogers' shoe for good luck. We walked up the stairs that the Presidents walk down to be inaugurated. We sat in the House chamber while he pointed out the bullet hole from the shooting by Puerto Rican Nationalists in 1954...

Appropriations

In short...it was an amazing tour. We talked about it the rest of the week. We pitied Dr. SmartyPants that he hadn't been with us for that one. We bragged to family and friends and anyone else who would listen.

Capitol Dome nw

So the lesson here is...take the time to run by and say hi to your Representatives and Senators, people...they really do work for you, after all...