In my last two columns, I’ve described my experiences on a surprise trip my family took to Virginia when my daughter’s equestrian team earned a trip to the National Hunt Seat Finals. I’m still not exactly sure what “Hunt Seat” has to do with anything other than the fact that I spend a lot of time hunting something to eat and sitting until I have fossilized buttocks.
After the competition, we were able to wrap up our trip with some time in Washington, DC. This also gave my wife and me a chance to familiarize ourselves with Uber–because putting your safety in the hands of your iPhone and a complete stranger seems to be the preferred mode of cosmopolitan travel these days.
Since we were with a large group, we needed several Ubers, which also meant that my wife and I would need separate Uber accounts on our iPhones. As we prepared to embark on an evening outing to the National Mall, my wife and I looked like a couple of hamsters trying to decipher blueprints for a nuclear reactor as we struggled to download the Uber app on our phones and create individual accounts. Somehow we wound up with the same credit card numbers, probably because of our deep psychological bond (except when I would rather stay home and devour our pets than accompany her to Olive Garden), and we weren’t able to order more than one vehicle. Most of our group was already happily Ubering at this point, and I could actually hear my middle daughter’s eyes rolling behind us before she came to our rescue with her technological expertise. (She then immediately made us reservations for a nursing home.)
With the mysteries of Uber solved, we were on our way, and along with experiencing the incredible convenience of Uber, we also learned that to qualify as an Uber driver in DC, you have to speak a language unknown to planet Earth, chain-smoke Swisher Sweets, and cover up the odor by marinating yourself in Drakkar Noir cologne. In other words, it’s like being driven around by a typical teenaged American male.
The National Mall at night was breathtaking, and we were able to visit several monuments and war memorials. The only drawback was that we were constantly in danger of being trampled to death by throngs of touring junior high students making bodily noises and trying to grab each other’s extremities. I can’t criticize too much, though, since I, too, participated in a D.C. trip when I was in junior high, and while I don’t remember much about what I saw, I can still play the National Anthem with my armpits.
On our second day in DC, we visited the museums in the Smithsonian Institution. Our first stop was the American History Museum, where we spent the first hour in the museum café because our Uber driver didn’t pass a Chick Fil A on the way. (Clearly he wasn’t a Christian.) On exhibit, we saw important artifacts from America’s storied past, like the original Bert and Ernie Muppets (which made me cry a little), Archie Bunker’s Chair, and some hair from George Washington’s shower drain.
Once we had absorbed all of the American history we could stand and I had extracted my middle daughter from the gift shop, we headed next door to the Natural History Museum. I explained to my daughters that this museum is a lot like a zoo, except almost all of the animals are dead.
After looking at a few dried up giant squids and some dinosaur poop, the girls were ready for the main attraction–the Butterfly Pavilion. This exhibit involves paying for the privilege to stroll through a giant toaster oven full of butterflies that refuse to land on you for a decent photo. You are also told to be careful not to step on the butterflies that are sitting on the floor laughing at you for paying actual money to go in there. Once we were completely drenched in sweat and gasping for breath from dehydration, the butterfly TSA stopped us at the exit and required us to do a set of burpee pushups to loosen any butterflies who were trying to the escape the heat by stowing away in our body cavities. On our way out of the museum, we passed an exhibit of mummies, which I now suspect are just former tourists who lingered too long in the Butterfly Pavilion.
Looking back, I have to admit that the trip to Virginia and DC was an unforgettable adventure (which can mean lots of things), and it gave us some time to bond as a family. We explored our nation’s history, gazed upon beautiful landscapes, witnessed thrilling athletic competition, and only took each other to the brink of insanity once or twice. I’m even considering a part-time job as an Uber driver–as soon as I get all of these butterflies out of my pants.