My first day on the hill felt a little like a nightmare, you know, the one where you have a pop quiz that everyone else seemed to know about already.
The day before, I got a message that said to attend a hearing at 10 am in Rayburn 2123. Haha cool. Because I know what that means. *Spends rest of night feverishly searching how to navigate capitol hill*
So after about 2 hours of google searches I learned that the first number of house office buildings indicates the specific building: where 1 is Longworth, 2 is Rayburn, and 3 is Cannon. Which Hannah rightfully questioned, “Why is Longworth 1 when Cannon was the first to be built?” Meh. Go with it. I then learned that the second number indicates which floor. Ok, so that’s actually pretty helpful.
In the classic it’s a small world moment, I then stumbled upon this helpful post from POPVOX. So with a bit of insight into navigating the hill, I google mapped my metro route and built in an extra 45 minutes for finding the exact room.
The next morning I was off. And after a brief panic attack of realizing I had no U.S. ID on me, I entered Rayburn. The security seemed lax, but that’s probably just because us millennials grew up in the era of 30 minute TSA lines. Imagine my surprise that House Homeland Security’s working on cutting those TSA waiting times.
After entering, I soon realized that Rayburn 2123 is actually the first room that you see after entering off of S. Capitol St. Fortunately, that meant I wasn’t going to wander around looking lost. Unfortunately, that meant I had 45 minutes to kill as I stood awkwardly next to security.
In the days following, I read signs religiously, and only got helplessly lost once. (As I failed to find an escalator up from the tunnels to Rayburn’s basement; thankfully a nice passerby pointed me in the direction of an unmarked door with a narrow escalator behind it.)
So, by the next week when the other interns joined I foolishly thought of myself as an expert. Wrong. On Tuesday, Hannah, Maddie, and I ventured on a scavenger hunt to try and master navigating Capitol Hill.
We spent a good half hour mapping out our destinations and planning the most efficient route (ok, so most of this was actually already done by our boss Whitney). And then we were off, trying to navigate our way through the House tunnels. For the most part, we navigated Rayburn and Longworth with ease, though there was a bit of confusion when an elevator in Longworth deposited us in an unmarked and unfinished tunnel. Overall the tunnels were surprisingly easy to find our way through, despite my fear of accidentally wandering into the restricted Capitol area.
Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to matter how confident you are or look, when walking in a fleet of interns, people will still ask if you are lost or need help. But, as Maddie so astutely put it, just because we are young interns doesn’t mean we can’t read arrows and signs.
Despite the hallways teeming with interns, you will always get slightly odd looks. Whether it was as we *casually* took selfies outside our Congressmen’s open doors or posed by Longworth’s old phone booths, we received exasperated looks and even the occasional question about where our scavenger hunt was taking us next. (Guess we weren’t as inconspicuous as we thought.)
After wrapping it up at the House buildings, we made our way into the sweltering heat and towards the Russell Senate Office Building. We had a chance to take in the ever picturesque Capitol, which Maddie beautifully captured.
Once in Russell, we worked quickly through the floors, checking off offices from our list. Then we made our way through the tunnels to Dirksen – but not before noticing how even the elevators in the Senate are fancier than in the House, albeit smaller.
Dirksen felt a little stuffier than the past few buildings. Maybe it was the lack of sunlit windows or the retro fitted lighting that forced the ceiling a bit too low for comfort.
Nonetheless, we walked through both Russell and Dirksen in awe, as we passed by the offices of Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] and Sen. Bernie Sanders [I, VT].
As we neared the end of our scavenger hunt we only had a few questions remaining: Isn’t it time we start getting more women in Congress if only to have equal numbers of female bathrooms? Jk And, if there is a basement floor and there is a 1st floor, then what is ground floor?
Finally, after countless double takes of signs, selfies in front of offices, and friendly security guards, we made our way to the Hart Atrium – featuring the most modern art installation on Capitol Hill. And then we stumbled back into the sunlight and GPSed our disoriented selves to the nearest Starbucks.