A while ago, I decided, on whim, to go to DC for the day with a program at my school. I didn’t know anybody going. I hadn’t been to DC, but once. I wasn’t in the program sponsoring the trip (it was open to all students) and, to top it all off, we were leaving at 5am.
Needless to say, it was definitely an experience.
Up to the morning we left, I had struggles of my own. I seemed to never be in the same place the teacher who was collecting money for the trip was. I only sort of knew one person who was planning on going on the trip, and she didn’t show up the day of the trip… and I had put her contact into my phone incorrectly so I couldn’t find her to text her and ended up messaging the wrong person.
But, you aren’t here to read about my struggles pre-DC trip, but rather the trip itself and all the fun experiences associated with it. So, without further adue, I present my first (nonfiction) short story on my blog: Lost in DC.
It all started at 5am. I had packed my small black bookbag the night before, filling it with all the necessary tools—money, food, a portable charger, and, of course, homework for the bus ride. I had looked at the weather and prepared myself for the predicted rain by wearing rainboots the day of, my black tall ones with different sized colorful polka dots. I had a scarf, a hat, a jacket, and gloves (my mom had taught me well…and I had been sick the week before so I was not about to do that again).
The time rolled around, and I was more excited than tired. I woke up and even had time to put on some makeup (which, if you know me, is a very uncommon occurrence). I made it to the part of campus where the bus would be picking us up, parked in the streetlight lighting, and checked in. I went on the bus and, assuming my friend would be joining, sat in the front, so she wouldn’t miss me.
Flashforward to our first stop where, by now, I realized my friend wasn’t coming. We stopped at a gas station and all 50 some of us got off the charter bus to get breakfast. The hardest part about this was that I am vegetarian, meaning that there weren’t many options for me. I actually never realized how many breakfast sandwiches have meat in them until that day.
So, I bought a blue Powerade and a bag of nuts with dry fruits while everyone else got a breakfast sandwich. I huddled in the corner and observed as I normally do when I know no one. (I switch into writer mode whenever I do not see myself as a direct part of the situation.)
And, over near the check out, I saw someone I knew. Franceska.
Franceska and I had been on this one retreat what seemed like eons ago and had liked each other enough to exchange numbers. We had hinted at getting food sometime, but both of us were so busy that we never did. We had some mutual friends and talked every now and then but not ever more than a few times each month.
When I realized that I was staring, it was too late. We had mad e eye contact. She waved me over and introduced me to her other two friends, one of which I also knew a little—Mire and Rowan. We talked and, for some bizarre reason, they asked if I wanted to join them as we explored DC instead of making me join the group of teachers and those who didn’t want to travel alone but had no other group. And, for another even more bizarre reason, I said yes.
The rest of the bus ride I spent on my phone procrastinating the homework in my bag. I watched us go from spring to winter weather as we got closer to DC. And, when we got there, I joined Franceska and her friends.
We decided to head to the art museum first. We broke off from the group and started walking down the street. Then, much to my surprise, Franceska left to go explore another museum.
Which left me with Mire, the girl who I sorta knew, and Rowan, her roommate and good friend. In DC. In the cold.
So, naturally, we went to the art museum.
The first few minutes we spent just looking at the pictures and statues. Mire and Rowan went to the bathroom and I explored the giftshop while waiting. They got out and I didn’t see them leave so there was some momentary confusion on where each of us was, but eventually we found each other and braced the museum.
After a few rooms of Rowan pouring her Art History expertise on us, Mire and I were overwhelmed by how much just a simple work of art can convey. A picture is worth more than a thousand words. And we started adding our own few words to the pieces.
“He looks mad because he just broke up with the woman painted over here because she was sleeping with the bust over here. However, they had a child together, as shown in that painting, so that complicated it all…” and the drama of the people portrayed in the museum thickened like maple syrup in the winter as we made our way through most of the galleries.
Not only did making up these imaginary stories help us get closer as friends, but it also helped us forget our slowly dying phones. My phone was on 73%, Mire’s phone was on 42%, and Rowan’s phone was on 34%. And I had a portable charger that was more dead than our phones.
Flash forward about an hour and a slight confusion on if a certain exhibit existed still, and we were finally heading out of the museum. Or rather, we were about to when Mire established another inside joke for the day.
Mire was going one way and this guy the other, his friend trailing behind. They got up to where their paths would cross and, and, just like they were at a traffic light, they both stopped. Mire looked up at him to let him move at the same time he did. She said, “sorry” and tried to move forward at the same time as him. He said, “sorry” and started to move then stopped to let her forward. Then, the full on finding nemo seagull scene played.
While this went on, his friend looked at me and I looked at him. It was one of those few moments in my life where I was 100% sure I was sharing the same thoughts as a complete stranger.
What. In. The. World.
After a few moments of that, one of them finally moved. Mire, Rowan, and I walked outside. We went to a café and attempted to charge our slowly dying phones. There were too many people at the café, so no outlets were free. We went to an Italian place to eat and charge out phones, but found that there were no outlets near our table. At all. None. So, we ate our food, put our phones on low power and airplane mode, let Franceska know our phones were almost dead, and continued on our way.
Because it was Mire’s first time in D.C., Rowan and I decided that we should show her another highlight of our nation’s capital—the mall. We GPSed it on one of our phones and started walking.
Now, I, for once in my life, was actually prepared for the weather. I had checked it the day before and there was a high chance of snow and/or rain so I had worn my rainboots. Rowan and Mire not as much. They were both wearing nice closed-toed shoes.
But, that didn’t bother either of them… until it started to snow. They were freezing, unprepared, and now, soaking wet. And we were still a bit from the mall. So, we did what any group would do—we talked through it as though nothing was wrong.
I learned more about Rowan and her social life than I had ever learned about anyone I had met less than 12 hours ago. It was definitely a bonding experience (as though the rest of the day wasn’t).
We got to the Lincoln Memorial just as the snow started to really come down. People who had prepared more than us were walking out into the storm with bubble umbrellas and brightly colored rainboots.
We stayed next to Lincoln reading the information displayed all around. There were wreaths around Lincoln’s feet and décor everywhere. It was beautiful.
Oh, and by this point, Rowan’s phone had died.
After checking my watch, we decided to head back. We had about 30 minutes to get back to where the bus was meeting us and the GPS on my phone said it would take us about 26 to walk over to where I had dropped the pin earlier (I couldn’t remember what we had been dropped off near so I had pinned the location so we wouldn’t get lost).
We went out into the snow (by this time it was about 3 inches deep) and tried to stay on the parts that weren’t as covered. We walked and walked. We took the wrong path, then the right path, and then my phone decided to turn off. Even though it was on 34%.
So, that meant that I was without a location of where we needed to be. Thankfully, Rowan and Mire could remember some landmarks near the bus drop off or we really would have been screwed.
We made our way over to an busy intersection in hopes of finding someone who could tell us where to go. We asked these two girls walking by us with an umbrella, but they were also lost (we saw them again later going the opposite direction). Mire pulled out her 3% phone and called an uber, but it didn’t come before her phone died and the uber was a generic color and car so we couldn’t find it among all the other cars.
So, there I was, stuck in the middle of a city with two girls I had gotten pretty close with in less than 24 hours. We had no idea where we were, it was snowing, our phones were all dead, and there were about 5 minutes until the bus was about to pull off according to my watch.
Which meant I did what anybody never does, I laughed. I thought it was so funny. The whole situation in itself. All the pieces that had to line up perfectly for us to get in this conundrum. It was quite comical in my mind.
Mire and Rowan didn’t necessarily agree with me though. They did what the normal human would do and went into crisis mode. We walked across the intersection then back again then back across again in attempts to find someone who could help us.
Then, there was this young woman running there in the snow and I almost didn’t flag her down (she had her music in), but figured there was no loss in asking for directions. The worse she could say is no.
And, let me just say, that woman was a literal God-send.
Not only did she show us where to go, but she also called a cab for us and showed us where cabs tended to hang out in case we could get one before the cab she called came.
Rowan, Mire, and I were forever grateful. We thanked her profusely and started to walk over to the cab area.
Then, we saw a cab. Rowan, in her soaked shoes, started to sprint in the snow over to where to cab was so she could wave it down. She shouted and screamed. Mire was close behind, doing the same thing. I tried my best to run in rainboots, but it didn’t work. The first time I regretted wearing rainboots all day.
We bundled up into the car and gave the cabbie our desired location. Thankfully, Mire and Rowan remembered where the bus was parked. The cabbie was new to the area, but he knew it better than us. He dropped us off about a block from where we needed to be.
Then, we began the task of trying to figure out which bus was the right one.
As we made our way down the isle of parked buses, our teacher popped his head out and we were on the bus in no time. He waved us in and I went back to my seat at the front, Mire and Rowan at the back with Franceska. We stopped for 30 minutes for dinner (it was going to be an hour but everyone insisted it be thirty minutes because they were slightly mad at us). A dude slept in the back of the bus on the floor.
Oh, and I checked my phone out of curiosity on the way back and it turned on, no problem. Apparently, it had never died.