It is common knowledge that Washington, D.C. in the summer is a brick oven, a solid mass of heat-reflecting concrete. You sizzle like a slab of beef slowly turning over an open flame.
Despite this well-known fact, our daughter and her family spent four days with their kids in D.C. touring the Capitol, the White House and visiting memorials and monuments.
We took a similar trip years ago when our kids were school age. We toured the White House, sat in the gallery of the House of Representatives, walked the National Mall and visited monuments. Ask them what they remember, and they will say, “A man with a huge snake wrapped around his body standing outside the Smithsonian and the heat. Mostly the heat.”
So much for educational vacations.
Our daughter’s family logged as many as 30,000 steps a day in the blistering heat and humidity of D.C. They also played a game to see who could go the longest without complaining.
Perhaps they didn’t know D.C. is a city built on complaining. It is a prerequisite that you complain about the heat. I think they even sell t-shirts in D.C. that say, “We came. We saw. We complained.”
You don’t go to Maine and not get lobster. You don’t go to the beach and not get in the water. You don’t go to D.C. in the summer and not complain.
Complaining is the foundation of democracy. If we hadn’t complained against the British, we wouldn’t be a nation.
I asked the youngest if she had complained. She said not out loud, but she did in her mind—about the heat, her feet hurting, wanting to stop and wondering if there was a bench anywhere.
Another admitted that she complained out loud about the heat and the humidity. She also volunteered that her mother complained about their father not complaining.
For the most part nobody complained until late in the day, which was remarkable consider the heat index.
We joined them on the last two stops of their trip, Mount Vernon and Monticello. They asked if we wanted to take the No Complaining challenge. We said sure.
We had this. We were “in it to win it.” We were fresh off the bench and they were worn slick. Wet noodles. The youngest even looked like she didn’t feel well. At the very least we could outlast her.
We asked what the prize was.
There was no prize.
We both complained, but only to ourselves.
The first morning in a hotel together, I returned to our rooms after wandering through the hotel lobby.
Someone asked if I found any coffee.
“No,” I said. “There was nothin’!”
Two minutes later I was informed I was out of the competition. One of the kids reported that I had complained there was no coffee.
“I was merely stating a fact,” I offered in my defense.
I was told that my tone was complaining.
What did they expect? There wasn’t any coffee.
Barely after 7 a.m. and I was knocked out of the competition.
I inquired about a do-over. No.
A second chance? No.
Three strikes and you’re out? No.
The first one awake and the first one busted.
Where does a woman go to complain?