I’m sitting in the lobby of the Du Pont Hotel at Du Pont Circle, Washington DC. It’s the first morning of a few weeks in Trumpland.
It’s early, very early. Jet lag. I think jet lag is a good term because the time zone your body thinks it’s in lags behind (in my case five hours behind) the time zone you actually inhabit. And you’re caught in the middle – a laggard. Neither here nor there.
Hence the early morning writing in a hotel lobby, while besuited briefcased men and women power walk out the door towards whatever important issues await their attention in the command and control capital of the world. Also, the hotel provides free ‘coffee’, in the mornings; or more importantly, free ‘hot’ water for me to dunk my Barry’s Tea bag into.
I have a theory that, in the way that each city has its own particular light (Tokyo’s is a searing and very very very pale blue) and sound (Venice is wonderful and unique because there aren’t any cars), it has its own smells too. The smell of DC (let’s call it DC, it’s shorter and carries tones of being an insider) so far is the Aveda moisturising hand lotion they offer in the ladies toilet here.
The group of American women who have just rocked up beside me have clearly been liberally applying it. And now they discuss it, among many other topics – there are three conversations going on at the same time, each one vying to outdo the other in volume and exclamation. Grandchildren feature.
The upside of hotel lobbies is that the passing parade (as my father used to call it) is interesting and varied. The downside is that it’s difficult to write and listen to three VERY IMPORTANT!!! conversations about … grandchildren. But now their car is here.
A blonde young woman in a black suit has just met up with some colleagues and, although she is only two feet away from them, she can be clearly heard in Maryland – maybe even Georgia. She has told them what they are going to be doing for the rest of the day and they have nodded compliantly. Sadly her phone rings and she has to step outside on the street. I can still hear her but my attention has been taken by another sideshow.
Now, an Australian man has met up with a younger female work colleague and he needs her help. He has just set up an Instagram account and he needs a professional picture to use as a profile picture. He is very un-Australian about it. She guides him on the look he needs (‘no, don’t smile’; ‘no, don’t scowl either’). She is enjoying it. He is uncomfortable. She takes about twenty photos by the window, in a chair and up against a wall, and he looks through them (‘too reflected’, ‘too much shadow’). Reluctantly he chooses one. She reassures him it’s ‘totally fine’.
Oh, assertive blonde black suit is back, but with her boss, so she’s quieter. They are waiting on a colleague. Boss guy isn’t happy. He announces he’s going to sit down. The three younger colleagues all pull out their phones (scratch that, they already had their phones in their hands). The three younger colleagues all begin working their phones to warn the other person but she arrives out of the lift so calm is restored. Pity.
A handsome but very hung-over looking academic type sits down opposite. I try not to be caught looking him up and down. Long greying hair, beard. French kind of a way about him. He has a bad shake in his hand. He searches for something in the trendy (and very fine) satchel. It’s a phone. He finds it. He considers doing something with it, then changes his mind. He sighs, hefts himself out of the chair and shuffles away. I really wished he’d made that call, even in French. I think he did something he shouldn’t have last night and was about to call his missus and lie about it.
Wait, he’s back! He takes out his phone again. Damn, he starts texting.
Another early morning jogger skips out of the lift and heads out the door. The doorman can hardly keep up with the fucker and just manages to open it in time. That’s five in twenty minutes. It’s dispiriting. The last one was older than me, the langer.
Now the sun has found its way over the buildings out on New Hampshire Avenue and it counteracts the aggressive air conditioning. I had been considering going back up to the room to get a cardigan or something but now I won’t have to. I wish I’d brought my shades down with me, though.
Another person planks her arse on the smokers’ seat of shame outside and lights up. She is the third so far. They all have a guilty, put-upon look about them, which is a shame because the first puff of the day must be satisfying. I’d prefer to have a pint with one of them than the joggers. I wish they would just enjoy the smoke and fuck the begrudgers. She comes back in, meets a very finely coiffed briefcased woman in a green sleeveless number and they tell the doorman they are going to Capital Hill. He whistles up a taxi for them.
I love hotel lobbies. Way better than Sky Sports.
And it’s not even eight o’clock.