Monday, January 27, 2014

Got carried away.

I was supposed to answer this question on my Social Psych homework:

Illustrate the power of the situation using an example from your own life (e.g., describe a time when others failed to recognize you because the situation was different from usual, or describe a time when a given situation influenced you to act contrary to your beliefs).

My answer:

Despite how deep we think our convictions might be, there are times when the power of the situation makes us turn a blind eye to even our dearest-held tenets. As a resident of Washington, D.C., this is painfully obvious every single day on my commute to work. I consider myself a Buddhist, and the concept of “ahimsa,” or non-violence, is a precept that I cling to at a most fundamental level. To Buddhists, non-violence does not just mean no fighting or punching or stabbing people; it prohibits name-calling, angry yelling, and even aggressive thoughts. However, if you have ever driven in Washington, D.C. during rush hour, you surely know that it is impossible not to get angry at the asinine and homicidal behavior of other Washington motorists. No matter how many mantras I chant or Dalai Lama YouTube videos I sit and meditate to, it did not stop me from extending my middle finger to a guy in a white BMW on Interstate 395 in Arlington, Virginia several days ago. I am pretty sure he was actively trying to end my life.

In an interesting social psychology twist, I also committed the fundamental attribution error: by permanently attributing to him the quality of “huge douchebag in a white BMW,” I ignored the profound effect that the high-intensity, freeway situation had on this other driver’s limbic system, thus causing him to behave aggressively. However, he was not in a stimulating, amygdala-firing environment when he was at the dealership and decided, “I’m going to buy a BMW 7-series. Yes, and make it a white one.”

I kind of want to not change that last part.

Should I turn this in? 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wyoming Avenue and Hidden Interns

When you’re in the middle of Rock Creek Park at night, you can’t see lights on either side. You’re in the center of the District of Columbia, the reputed “capital of the free world”, but you can’t tell.

Imagine it's pitch-black night.

A few weeks ago I moved to Northwest Washington, D.C. after living in the Virginia suburbs for six months. This follows  my two year sojourn in Spain and five years in Oregon before that.  I live in a nice, semi-urban neighborhood, one that doesn’t look much like its cosmopolitan counterparts on the other side of town. I’m about three miles uphill from DuPont Circle and downtown D.C. It may not be the hippest of trendiest of hipsterest of coolest villes, but it will do. It is nice to walk to the grocery store. It is pleasant to walk to a hipster coffee shop inside a hipster book store. A hipster book store where Obama buys his Christmas presents. 

It’s nice. I feel younger. I feel vitality. I feel myself spending money on books I cannot finish.
Rock Creek Park is an interesting place, though. A swatch of wild, deciduous jungle in the middle of a more confusing concrete one. A few nights ago I was on my way home from work. I felt restless, and I wanted to break the mold of wake-up-go-to-work-drive-home. I was almost back to my cozy parking garage, when instead of turning right like I always do, I went left. Homeward I was not bound: I decided I was going to find the Maryland border without using my phone’s GPS.

 I cheated and used my phone’s GPS, but I found an amazing street called Western Avenue. You see, adoring readership, Western Avenue is an interesting place. A place where wonder and joy and intrigue thrive. You see, as I drove along Western Avenue, the houses on my right were in Washington, D.C., and the houses on my left were in Bethesda, Maryland. The license plates in the driveways reflected this oddity. They also reflected because they are made out of shit that reflects so you can see them in the dark. Fuck yeah.
I marveled at this geopolitical curiosity, this two state conundrum. If you shot someone from one side of the street and they died on the other, which police would arrest you? Where would you go to court? More apropos to the situation, what traffic cop would pull me over if they caught me Googling these questions as I drove along Western Avenue?

I totally wasn’t doing that.

Semi-urban: we have lightpoles with historical paintings on them.

Eventually, I saw on my right the sign for Oregon Avenue. Y’all know I’m a sucker, so I had to turn right on that shit. ‘Twas destiny. In a super sweet way, on my left was an impenetrable abyss of forest, and on my right were ramshackle, but clearly expensive, homes, some of which had porches with hanging Buddhist prayer flags. Very appropriate for Oregon Avenue.

It was about 10 o’clock at night and I hadn’t seen another car in about five or six minutes, rambling along Oregon Avenue in Northwest Washington, D.C. Then, at some point, I took a left and found myself in the middle of Rock Creek Park, pitch-black, and after about three minutes of driving, there were no more cars anywhere and I couldn’t see any lights on either side. It looked like I was in the woods in Wyoming. Or Oregon.

Rock Creek Park. Epic. I’m in The Capital of the Free World (in capital letters this time – whattup, D.C.?) and I could be in a forest in Wyoming for all I know. This city’s parks and recreation department must be real.

And then I thought:

Man, this would be a great place to hide a body.

Yeah, I think I’m going to like this city.