I was at the World War II Memorial on Saturday. There were a lot of volunteers there, but most were hanging out in the contact station, so I spent a lot of time in the memorial. It was a little chilly and windy, but in the sun it actually got warm enough for me to take my earmuffs and gloves off. Visitors came in groups–sometimes the memorial was very crowded and sometimes it was nearly empty.
And it was the first day in a long time I interacted with some of our more memorable visitors.
I watched two visitors ride Capital Bikeshare bikes down the ramp into the memorial. One skidded to a stop just at the edge of the step near the fountain. He nearly ended up in the fountain. Then he started to walk away from his bike.
Me: You can’t leave that bike sitting there.
Visitor: I can’t take a picture?
Me: You can take a picture, but you can’t leave the bike sitting at the edge of the fountain. And please walk the bike out of the memorial.
Visitor: So I can’t take a picture? I have to leave the memorial with my bike now?
Me: You can take a picture. Just make sure you walk the bike out of the memorial when you leave.
Visitor: How will I know when I’m out of the memorial?
Me: Count to 100 as you walk the bike out the way you just came in. When you get to 100, you can get back on and ride the bike.
Visitor: What do you mean?
I watched two other visitors riding their bikes near the Price of Freedom wall.
Me: Excuse me, guys, can you please walk the bikes inside the memorial?
Visitor: I am so sorry, I didn’t even think about that.
Me: It’s OK, just please walk them until you are out of the memorial.
I stopped to answer a question from another visitor, and then walked past the guys with the bikes again.
Visitor: I want to apologize again, I am sure you spend all day telling people to get off their bikes and I just feel horrible. I didn’t even think about getting off my bike.
Me: Well, I don’t spend all day doing that, but you are not the only person who has done it. Just please remember to walk out and you’re OK.
I saw a man with a very professional-looking camera on a very professional-looking tripod set up right in front of the Price of Freedom wall. This is a HUGE no-no, so I called for Ranger assistance. He moved to the fountain before the Rangers got there, and when they arrived he left the memorial. Another visitor asked me a question, and then I headed back towards the two Rangers.
Ranger 1: So, the visitor over there asked me if it was appropriate to tip volunteers.
Me: Which visitor?
Ranger 1: He’s not here anymore, but I told him you are considered a federal employee so tips would not be appropriate.
Me: How big a tip was he going to offer?
Ranger 1: I don’t know, I didn’t ask.
Me: Next time, send him to me and I will decide if it’s appropriate.
(Before anyone panics, I would not accept a tip from a visitor I didn’t know. I have accepted tips (and lunch) from friends for whom I’ve done tours. It’s not expected and I am happy to do a tour without a tip, and I always tell them it’s not at all necessary.)
I talked to the two Rangers for about 90 minutes. We talked a lot about 9/11/2001 and its various memorials. We also talked about our experiences that day and other things related to the day and its aftermath. They both served in the military. At one point, a visitor walked up to us.
Visitor: So, what are these states all about?
Ranger 2: What do you mean, sir?
Visitor: These things with the states on them. What are they all about?
Ranger 2: Well, they are the names of the states and the territories that came together in support of our efforts in World War II.
Visitor: But what do the state names symbolize?
Ranger 2: The states.