Washington D.C. has always had a buttoned-up, staid culture. Unlike its edgier cousins, cities such as New York and Los Angeles, the Nation’s Capital is a government town whose very existence and identity come from legislating and managing the business and welfare of the nation’s citizenry. The federal Government is also the largest employer in the region, and many of those who are not on the government payroll are still connected to and dependent on it through a support or partnership role.
So what happened last week when Congress became deadlocked and the government was forced to close, leading to massive furloughs and “non-essential “services and destinations shuttered? Not much beyond a few protests by federal employees and a collective expression of resignation as many folks thought, “here we go again.” In spite of the dire consequences rhetoric coming from various members of Congress, the white House and the media-there was little backlash from the stock market, local businesses, constituents around the country, and even the furloughed. It’s as though the city held its breath and waited until a deal could be made and then we would all exhale when it was over.
So what did this city do for excitement when there were no celebrity visitors, parties attended by the rich and famous or juicy scandals to break the otherwise hum-hum routine of business as usual? They anxiously anticipated and watched the season premiere of Scandal, wondering what would happen to Olivia Pope now that her affair with the president had been revealed. Then the city came to its feet in a collective cheer when the Redskins got their first win, after a dismal 0 and 3 start. Sadly, there was also the tragic killing of a woman trying to crash two security barriers with an infant strapped in the car, as tourists and locals alike scrambled for cover when they feared they were under attack. It filled the news and for the rest of that day it seemed no one even thought about the shutdown.
As expected, the Congress and White House are beginning to crank up the engine of government. Legislation was passed that will give retroactive pay to those who were furloughed and Department of Defense workers were told to return to work tomorrow because they are indeed essential to the business of our nation’s defense. Soon enough it will be business again as usual. Oh, well, maybe this winter will come through for us with a few blizzards that lead to shutdowns, intense media coverage and some real weather excitement.