The streets are clogged with office-workers staring at their phones.

You may have heard that yesterday we had an earthquake along the East Coast. You may have also heard that it was much ado about nothing.

Basically, I felt a rumbling in my office at mid-afternoon and assumed someone was pushing some heavy machinery around in the halls. (It’s the “That was a truck, right?” reflex of a spoiled Marylander who’s never felt a strong quake.) Then it kept going, and I heard other people saying it was an earthquake. In the hallways, one of my supervisors (Peruvian) and our HR manager (Ethiopian) were asking each other in what part of the room Americans take shelter when there’s an earthquake. I told them that if it was going to be a strong quake—and it probably wasn’t—then we needed to go downstairs and get outside.

Not that I’m an expert on the subject, or anything, but if it’s the type of quake in which we need to take shelter, then there is just no part of our 12th-floor office that’s a safe place to be. And sure enough, just then a voice came on the PA system and told us all to get to the stairwells. Want to know the American custom for dealing with an earthquake? It involves not being on the 12th floor of a building made of steel, concrete and glass. So we all cheerily skipped our way down the stairs, and thank goodness it didn’t take too long.

The quake doesn’t appear to have done any damage beyond knocking some objects off a few desks, but it gave us an afternoon outdoors. I quickly found that my phone couldn’t send any text messages, and wrestled and growled at the stupid thing until I tried using Opera and found that I could access Facebook. Pretty much everyone else was doing something similar; the whole neighborhood was outside and standing around in the streets, and, being Washingtonian office-workers (I work in Arlington, VA) we were all staring at our phones.

Most of my co-workers went home early. The real complication, for me at least, was that the Metro system spent the rest of the day running at 15 mph, which is about a third of their usual speed just in case there was any damage. So I said, if they’re going to run like that for the next several hours, then I need to get out of here early, so I followed my boss’s advice at a little after 4 PM and vacated the premises. Furthermore, I had no interest in spending two and a half hours sitting on a slow train, so I took the rail as far as Farragut West (got me over the Potomac and safely into the city), got off and walked as far as Columbia Heights (which is where I used to get off to visit my then-girlfriend, so I know the neighborhood) and took the Green Line home.

It was a lovely, sunny walk, but damn. I managed to get off the bus and reached my new apartment building at around the same time as usual, and after the subway and bus rides, my poor beleaguered feet were still screaming, “Help me!” There is nothing like walking a few miles in an hour on a gentle uphill slope to show you just how out of shape you are. Early in the walk I was thinking something like, “It’s a good thing I’m as young and able-bodied as I am, so I can do this,” and by the time I spotted the Target in Columbia Heights, the question of “What the Hell was I thinking?” occurred.

When I got home, there was just no way I was not going to take a nap, and sure enough, a little, “Just let me rest my feet for a few minutes” turned into sleeping for almost 3 hours. All that, and by 11:45 I was ready to go to sleep again and slept a full night. The quake didn’t do much damage, but it sure drove a wrecking ball through my day.

Rudeness in DC

Anna North shares her experiences of unpleasant and ill-mannered people in various American cities. Aside from The Internet, I haven’t actually been to any of those places except for New York, and not very much time there. From my admittedly brief and touristy time spent there, I haven’t found it to suffer from any lack of courtesy (aside from Canal Street being a ridiculous shit show), and maybe that’s because I live and work in the DC area. The comments are a free-for-all, with everyone talking about how various cities and areas have treated them badly, and DC occasionally comes up, especially regarding Metro behavior.

Perhaps because I’ve lived here nearly my entire life, I don’t find DC a particularly rude city. Maybe I’m part of the problem, but I think it’s just the culture that tends to develop in a city of strangers, which we are. I think we suffer from a lot of the same issues as New York, though to a lesser extent; we have a lot of people trying to get from one crowded place to another in a small amount of time. We have a lot of people coming in from all different parts of the country (and the rest of the world) and that brings a lot of different cultures, with their own standards of etiquette, bumping uncomfortably together. The cost of living is high, the mass transit system is busy, and folks have a lot of stuff to do and places to go. It may be a vacation for you, but for us it’s just the daily shlep. We don’t mean you any harm. We don’t want you to get lost, mugged, ripped off or otherwise humiliated. We just tend to err on the side of minding our damn business.

If there’s anything that genuinely bugs me about the culture of courtesy here, it’s that we don’t have the spine to call people out for doing things that are seriously not called for. Music blares from headphones halfway across the car, handbags get seats to themselves, and priority seating is used inappropriately. And we hardly ever call these cretins out.

So, with that in mind, I will not apologize for this much: if you are in the Metro system, and you block up the escalators? And yes, I do include anywhere in the confines of Union Station as part of the Metro system, and for some reason—could it be all the out-of-towners using the Amtrak station, perhaps?—that is the worst place in the city for dumbassed escalator behavior, so take note. If you are in our mass transit system, and you think the left side of the escalator is a good place to stand still? You deserve what you get. At least nine times out of ten, you won’t get called on it, but if you do happen to land that 10th time, and someone yells at you for getting in the way? You should’ve thought about that. Welcome to the nation’s capital, but don’t you make our commute home from work take any longer.

Also, if you’re of the Tea Party persuasion, just don’t come to DC at all. We’re all gay here, and we carry dildos. We’re like the new San Francisco.

Interfering with the legislative process of where you don’t live

“Democracy” means something different when we’re talking about DC:

Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, appealed that ruling to Superior Court. Last week, 39 members of Congress filed a brief in support of Jackson’s appeal, arguing that the election board overstepped its authority in denying a public vote on whether marriage should be defined as a being between a man and a woman.

So, this is the situation: there is a bill which will extend marriage rights for people who live in DC. That bill was passed by democratically elected council members who represent DC, and signed by the democratically elected mayor of DC. The people trying to fuck with the bill are a pastor from Beltsville, which is in Maryland (hangs head in shame) and therefore not DC, and 39 Congressfolk who do not represent DC. The DC Board of Elections and Ethics says, TWICE, that they can’t fuck with the bill. A judge who serves the people of DC says they can’t fuck with the bill. So these people coming from everywhere except DC keep on saying, “We wanna fuck with the bill!”

Sorry, what’s that about marriage equality being undemocratic, again? What’s that about “judicial activism”? Does “the will of the people” now mean letting elected officials make decisions for people they don’t represent, and whose interests are therefore of no consequence to them?

All that said, I can see where Bishop Harry Jackson is coming from. Beltsville isn’t in DC, but it’s not far away, either. A very large share of Maryland’s population works in DC and/or lives near it. When DC starts letting same-sex couples marry, it’ll only be a matter of time before a critical mass of people in Prince George’s County see enough to realize it’s not the downfall of civilization. Once PG County is on board with marriage equality, well, Montgomery County will already be there and the rest of the Baltimore-Washington corridor will either be there already or not far behind. And then Bishop Harry Jackson will find himself in the position of ministering to legally married same-sex couples who held their weddings at other churches. I suppose that would make him uncomfortable.