I spent the final day of 2016 at the Korean War Veterans Memorial. I would have loved to end the year where I began it, but WAMO is closed for at least another 2 1/2 years, so other sites get my attention these days. It was a beautiful day. Crisp, cool, but sunny most of the day and there wasn’t a whole lot of wind. I spent my day either at the desk in the Korea contact station, or inside the Memorial.
Visitor: What street is this?
Me: Daniel French Drive.
Visitor: Is there a street number?
Me: Are you trying to call Uber?
Visitor: No, we have someone coming to pick us up.
Me: Is it a taxi or bus?
Visitor: No, just a car.
Me: Well then they can’t turn in here. You’ll have to walk out to Independence and 23rd.
Visitor: But he’s picking us up.
Me: OK, but only buses, taxis, and people with handicapped permits can turn down this road.
Visitor: Well, how is he supposed to pick us up?
Me: You can walk out to Independence Avenue and he can pick you up there.
Visitor: Why can’t he turn down here?
Me: Because he is not a bus or taxi, and he doesn’t have a handicapped permit.
Visitor: But I can’t walk any more.
Me: Well then I guess you’re going to have to stay here forever.
Visitor with a brown husky walks up, I open window, dog puts her paws up on the ledge and sticks her nose in.
Me: Well, hello puppy!
Dog gives me a kiss.
Visitor: I’m so sorry, she has no manners.
Me: Oh it’s fine, I love dogs. Especially well-behaved ones.
Visitor: Well, I wanted to ask where I can go with her.
Me: You can go anywhere except inside any of the memorials. You can walk by them or up to the entrance, but not inside.
Visitor: Thanks, that’s what I needed to know.
Me: Oh, well, you actually can take her into the FDR Memorial and walk through.
Visitor: OK, cool.
Me: Make sure you show her the dog statue.
Visitor: There’s a dog statue:
Me: Yes, it’s Fala.
Visitor: The dog statue has a name?
Me: Well, yes, it was FDR’s dog.
Visitor: Well then I guess we have to go there.
Dog gives me another kiss and they are on their way.
Visitor inside Memorial: Can I ask you a question?
Visitor: Oh wait, here comes my family. They are visiting from New Zealand.
*Visitor tells family members to walk their bikes inside the Memorial*
Visitor: I’m sorry about that.
Me: Oh, that’s OK, a lot of Americans don’t know to walk their bikes either.
Visitor: That’s actually my wife. She’s American.
Me: Oh, well, she’s not alone.
Visitor and family from NZ come back.
Visitor: Are you with the National Park Service?
Me: I am.
Visitor’s relative from NZ: And guess what? She’s a volunteer.
Visitor: You are?
Me: I am.
Visitor: Well, that’s great!
Ranger: Oh but guess what? She’s not just a volunteer. She’s the 2016 Volunteer of the Year.
Visitor’s relative from NZ: Wait… the 2-0-1-6 Volunteer… of the Year?
Ranger: That’s right.
Visitor and family clap.
Me: That’s really not necessary. Really.
At least 10 visitors: Where are the fireworks tonight?
Me: Not here.
Visitors: Really? There were fireworks last year.
Me: No, we do fireworks on July 4th and that’s it.
Visitors: But I SWEAR we came down here for fireworks last year and the year before.
Me: Not on the National Mall.
Visitors: Are you sure?
Me: I am sure.
Visitor, after I watched him and his family walk across the grass and hop two fences to get into the Memorial: Why is there so much dead grass around here?
Me: Because people don’t follow the signs and insist on walking on the grass instead of on the sidewalks.
Visitor: Where is there a sign?
Me: Right there. You stepped over it before you hopped the fence to get into the Memorial.
Visitor: I didn’t see that.
Me: Well, you did see the fences, and you still hopped over. And now look, there is a whole parade of people who saw what you did and are now doing the same thing.
Visitor turns to look: Why did they follow me?
Me: Because all it takes is for one person to do something, and everyone else thinks it’s then OK for them to do the same. And then we end up with dead, trampled grass all over the Mall.
Visitor: Wow, I really made myself look stupid, didn’t I?
Me: How about we just agree you and your family will take the sidewalks out of here?
Visitor: It’s a deal.
Visitor’s child: See dad, I told you we shouldn’t hop the fence.
Ranger comes in to the contact station: Hey, if you’re hungry, there are some great cookie bars and brownies at Survey.
Me: I know, I made them.