1) Strangers do not like to be smiled at. In Oklahoma, where I am from, you smile at strangers. It’s just the thing to do. You are in a long hallway, you pass someone, you make eye contact, and you say, “hello!” Why? Because you are both humans. You already have something in common!
When I moved to DC, I made the mistake of making eye contact with a stranger. I learned in about five minutes that eye contact in DC means that you are: up to no good, clinically insane, about to ask for money, harangue them about a political cause, or all of the above. Basically: no human interaction unless you are exchanging money for goods or services, or unless you know the person well. Otherwise, you do not exist.
2) You have to say no. When a man claiming to be a taxi driver tells you to get in his unmarked cab, say no. When you are walking down a street and an actual cab driver offers you a ride “anywhere for free”, say no. When a cab driver drops you off at your house, and then casually mentions he will stop by sometime, you say “um, I don’t think so.” I think what I didn’t mean to say is: don’t ever take cabs in DC?
3) Use common sense. So yes, you can take cabs, because if you stand up for yourself, people in DC will leave you alone. Walk on the well-lit side of the street even if you do think you are being overly paranoid. Don’t listen to your ipod after dark. Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t sell or buy drugs in the “drug-free” zones. That one should be obvious, obviously. I mean come on, they have street signs marking these safe zones. It should make everyone feel better that before I got married, I lived in a “drug-free” zone. Unfortunately I did not live in a “don’t stab people with a knife and take their purse” zone, but hey, if there isn’t a sign, how can you expect people to do the right thing?
4) Never be surprised at the cost of living. Specifically, the cost of renting. I went from “wow, $350 is a bit much (in Oklahoma)” to “wow, it’s under $1,000??? Dirt cheap!” in about one week. And when I say under $1,000, I mean a tiny bedroom in a tiny house shared with at least 3 other people. If you want to live alone in a place where your chances of survival after dark are above 80%, expect to pay upwards of $1,500. And that’s most likely a studio.
5) DC is really pedestrian-friendly except when it comes to grocery shopping. It’s like all of the sudden, they expect people to a) own a car AND feel okay with paying $10 for parking b) not mind adding a cab fee to every grocery store run c) have the arms of a professional weight-lifter d) carry groceries home in order to save money, only to spend ten times the amount saved in chiropractors visits. If you must know, I fall into category d.
6) You can’t believe everything Nicholas Cage tells you. To be more specific: there are no clues leading to any kind of National Treasure in DC. A friend of mine, and I, have checked (see below). Some would say that the Smithsonians are a national treasure, and there are lots of “clues” pointing you to those…but, while I do love the Smithsonians, a pile of gold and ancient artifacts would tickle my fancy even more. I am here to confirm what none of us suspected: National Treasure is a farce.