Welcome to Washington, Amazonians
Amazon’s pick of Washington, DC, for its split new HQ2 will bring 25,000 company employees to the Nation’s Capital, aka, “the center of the universe, known and unknown,” and also “Trump Agonistes.”
In theory, Silicon Valley transplants should feel right at home in DC. We both live in an aloof, self-satisfied, smarty-pants bubble, the proverbial “50 square miles surrounded by reality.”
Here too in DC, a tiny, dank, wretched hovel for under $2,500 a month cannot be found. Also, people with extreme lefty food sensitivities who should be slapped into next Sunday by tatted wait staff inexplicably aren’t.
But as brilliant as you are, Amazonians, you might welcome a few things to know about Washington:
1. The local nomenclature
Take the name of Washington’s airport, which the Amazon HQ2 will be located next to. Originally it was called “Washington National Airport.” Twenty years ago, Republicans slipped through legislation in the dark of night changing the name to “Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport” to honor their patron saint and irritate the Democrats.*
All the partisan bickering, polarization and gridlock in Washington today stems from this renaming scandal, known as “Airportgate.”
You can tell a liberal in Washington if he or she refuses to use Reagan’s name and insists on still calling it “National Airport.”
(Note to Millennials: Ronald Reagan was the 40th U.S. president. You might not know or care because he, like Millard Fillmore, was president before you were born.)
(Sidebar: DC’s NFL team has a racist name I shan’t mention as well as the most arrogant, tiny, despicable and controlling owner who is directly responsible for leading the most depressing team for fans in league history.)
2. The local dress code
In Silicon Valley, your indescribable brilliance bringing vast riches to venture capitalists and improving our lives with indispensable technology and apps (“DogPoopTracker”) lets you dress however you want.
You can slob into work in surfer trunks, filthy UGG slippers and free team-building tee shirts from your last startup that burned through VC cash and went belly up without producing a single workable thing.
Washingtonians don’t slob to work. Professionals — including “young fogies” that at 25 dress, talk and look like their granddads — wear an elaborate uniform consisting of a structured and tortuously constricting wool jacket and matching slacks or skirt. The ensemble is called a “suit.” The suits are finely woven from wool and are worn even on 99-degree summer days when actual sheep are sheared of said wool.
The men cinch a stiff ribbon of silk up their necks, starving their brains of oxygen. [Insert hilarious quip; e.g., “that’s why politicians are dumb.”] The women wear “sheer hosiery” that is derived from petroleum and is “as strong as the women who wear them,” as an old pre- post-feminist ad touted.
If they are lobbyists, Washingtonians are required to wear $600 Ferragamo slip-ons. Not $600 Lanvin cap-toe leather low-top sneakers like Google CEO Sundar Pichai wears.
Nobody wears sneakers to work in DC except multi-millionaire lobbyists and political consultants who are more powerful than the most powerful politicians. You wear sneakers in Washington to show who’s really running the country.
Washingtonians drive but hate driving. Many depend on mass transit and hate it. Going out at night, we use Uber or Lyft but hate it. Bikers hate drivers. Drivers hate bikers and other drivers.
But Republicans and Democrats, Trump and Bernie lovers, people of every race, religion, nationality, cultural or sexual identity all shed their differences to unite in perfect harmony around a shared belief: Hatred for Millennials who whoosh around on dock-less scooters oblivious to startled pedestrians, and drop their scooters in the middle of sidewalks for people to trip over.
The internet essentially was invented in Washington. Today some 70 percent of the world’s internet traffic flows through the area. AOL and other internet pioneers were founded here. We have the largest collection of data centers in the nation.
Yet tech-wise, Washington is still in the dark ages.
“Like back when the iPhone still had an earphone jack” you ask? Bless your heart.
No, go way way back to before the global interwebs and Mark Zuckerberg were born (1984).
The U.S. Senate, the world’s “greatest deliberative body,” still thinks Google has tens of thousands of human researchers stationed in giant call centers looking up Google searches on Encyclopedia Britannica and deliberately citing Trump when you type in “unmitigated disaster.”
Congressmen also think the voice coming from car nav systems is a real woman stationed in a massive command center looking at maps on giant screens. Ads popping up on your Facebook feed for something you just thought of is either coincidental, magical, Big Brother watching or Russians hacking your brain.
Powerful committee chairmen dissolve into wracking sobs and beg for mercy as the post-pubescent IT guy sneers at their helplessness and makes the printer work again by putting more paper into the tray.
Lawmakers think “algorithm” is a reference to the awkward way former U.S. Vice President and internet inventor Al Gore dances that throws everyone off.
During the Congressional hearings into Facebook and Google, the greatest challenge Messrs. Zuckerberg and Pichai faced was not answering thoughtful Committee questions. It was shape-shifting their faces to mime respect while resisting the impulse to smack their foreheads into brain-bruising contrecoup, or going full-bore Col. Jessup in A Few Good Men:
“Congressman, we live in a world of the internet. I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. My existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, lets people send cute cat videos. YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”
5. Jeff Bezos
The Amazon founder probably is your boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss to the nth power times infinity. You might suspect Bezos is a hologram of an advanced Elon Musk AI robot built by AI robots that were built by AI robots in a sci-fi movie that’s impossible for non-nerds to follow.
Rumor has it Bezos exists only in the sixth dimension where he is cribbage buddies with Stephen Hawking.
I mean, c’mon: “Bezos”? What kind of fevered sci-fi writer could come up with a hackneyed name like that?
But in DC, don’t be surprised or fall to your knees in keening, garment-rending supplication if in line at Starbucks you run into a human guy who looks like Bezos. Or the musician, DJ, photographer, author and animal rights activist Moby.
Bezos has a mansion in DC’s old bohemian bourgeoisie Dupont Circle neighborhood. He converted the old Textile Museum, once a mecca for aficionados of needlepoint and tapestry and also people running out of museums to visit.
Bezos also owns The Washington Post. That’s right: The freaking Washington Post.
Bezos bought the Post essentially to bail out the great old-school journalism that holds power accountable like our Founders insisted on by making the First Amendment the first. The Post is not like Fox that boot-licks the president and serves as his official state media like Kim Jong-un has.
The Post represents the kind of real, professional journalism that political power always complains about and calls “fake news” or “enemy of the people” to sucker and screw the masses. As we see in countries run by dictators, you can tell when politicians are lying and desperate when they attack the media.
So when you see Trump, Fox and other right-wing slams on Amazon or Saint Bezos, don’t be alarmed.
It’s just politics. Washington is where people use political power, supposedly in the name of the people, to screw with their competitors in the marketplace of ideas and commerce.
But even Washingtonians appreciate free and next-day delivery when we forget important birthdays, anniversaries and gifts for Congressmen. Or need a new pair of Ferragamos to look professional at work.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer
*Typical Washington fake news. Bill Clinton signed the bipartisan bill on Reagan’s 87th birthday, back when Republicans and Democrats were allowed to work together.