If you don’t know this about me, it might surprise you: I love America. I’m obsessed with the 4th of July, I’m fascinated by all of the history, and I get seriously choked up when I visit the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives. Knowing this, you can imagine how enthralled I was during a recent 3-day weekend in Washington DC. I saw family and friends during the evenings, but during the day I was a shamelessly wild tourist, scouring the monuments and various museums. Completely losing self-control a few times, I even informed some not-as-obsessed tourists waiting at traffic lights. “Did you know that Lincoln’s hands form an ‘A’ and ‘L’ at the Lincoln Memorial, for his initials?”, “Did you know that Washington was designed by a Frenchman because Thomas Jefferson wanted the city to have the feel of an American Paris?” Most tourists pacified me with a semi-interested nod or smile, or in the case of non-English speaking Japanese tourists, a look of utter confusion.
On Sunday it was time for me to return to warm, sunny, spectacular Milwaukee. In an attempt to save some money I flew into Baltimore, not realizing it would have been easier to travel between East and West Germany in the 80s than to travel between Baltimore and Washington. The MARC only runs on weekdays, and never if it snows. The Amtrak only runs twice a day, and once on Sunday. The horse and buggie runs every day, but doesn’t transport Protestants. I gave up on finding an affordable option, breaking down and calling Super Shuttle, which would take me to the airport in Baltimore for a ridiculous 39 dollars. At first the only passengers in the van were myself and a successful businesswoman in her 30s. She was from Boston, and was in Washington for her sister’s bachelorette party. A few blocks later we picked up a girl from Georgetown University, a disastrous trust fund baby who staggered into the van rather than boarding it. She looked and smelled hung over, barely covered in pajama pants, a tanktop, a hoodie, and the kind of flip-flops you wear in the shower at Summer camp. She got a text message every twenty-seven seconds, which I assumed were coming from her dorm-rat one night stand. I wouldn’t blame her for not revealing her whereabouts, since “I had to visit my parents in Albany” sounded like a classic “get out of breakfast lie”.
Our final pick-up would be our demise, as two college students entered our van. The first to enter was Alexander Findlestein, a junior in English from Arizona State University. He was wearing one of those ties that only a frat guy or a game show host could pull off, and was sporting a ridiculously safe and generic haircut. The next guy to enter was Evan McDaniel, a PHD student in anthropology. Because of Princess Hangover’s phone going off I didn’t catch where he went to school. They commenced into an intensely stimulating conversation, one of those conversations where nobody is really listening but rather everybody is showing off their arsenal of one-liners and useless statistics. Their conversation would be the soundtrack for what was surely the most annoying hour of my life. Because I was clearly stuck with their banter I decided to at least be constructive and determine what the heck they were talking about. I deduced from context clues that they were in some sort of student organization that was having a national conference. I always thought these sorts of conferences were a little ridiculous, with the hours of speeches, mixers, and awkward evening parties with free booze. Let’s face it, college students go to these conferences for the aforementioned booze and the potential of meeting a person of the opposite sex that is equally as passionate about whatever absurd cause everyone was supporting in the first place. The next morning, instead of cuddling, these people would blog about their ideals and swap contact information so they can have more of these terrible conferences. Looking at these two gentlemen in the back seat of the shuttle, neither of them had the fortune of the boozing or the women. They were hardcore, the doofuses with ribbons and pins all over their nametag, and a booksack full of books to be autographed by otherwise unknown authors. I continued listening to their conversation, and eventually determined their conference was to do with something political in nature. It was becoming increasingly painful to eavesdrop on them, their idealism and lack of reality about issues like healthcare, the economy and urban poverty was sickening. I had almost decided that they were right-wing radicals until they started a discussion about legalizing certain drugs, which had me truly stumped.
I realized this was going to be a harder case to crack than I previously thought, so I started to google some of the names they had dropped on my phone. I couldn’t even fathom what all of the results had in common: they were anarchists. The irony of anarchists unifying enough to have a convention made me chuckle for a moment, but the laughter soon turned to rage as I realized what a buzz-kill this was at the end of an “I love America weekend” in Washington.
I decided that Alexander Findlestein was innocent and harmless, too young and green to know any better. His father probably bought him that hideous tie, and he probably got roped into anarchism when they were offering up free tacos and bumper stickers in the student union. Evan McDaniel on the other hand was older than me and too high on his pedestal to even know that I was listening. I felt bad for Alexander because he was clearly enamored by Evan, who boasted his “two master’s degrees” and “research grant”. I had to restrain myself from blurting out, “he lives in his parent’s basement!” or something else to snap Findlestein out of his hypnosis. I came to the conclusion that to be happy with myself I was going to have to zing this guy. This was tough, because the last thing I wanted was a political debate in the close quarters of a van. I also wanted to somehow zing him in a way that he wouldn’t be able to go into his whole “schpeal” on me. Much like PETA, Greenpeace, or Mormons, I assumed anarchists had a whole speech ready to go at any time, complete with statistics and reading materials. I finally got my opportunity when I found out where he went to school. When he began his next sentence “back down in Austin…” my blood boiled. Not only was he an anarchist, not only was he a toolbag anarchist, he was a student at the University of Texas. I could just picture Evan McDaniel back in Austin, wearing a pair of Birkenstock sandals and socks, a Longhorn shirt, and some denim shorts. He probably handed out leaflets at outdoor music concerts, and pranced around with his other anarchist friends, drawing moustaches on Obama posters with a Sharpie. Evan McDaniel had somehow in a very short amount of time shown me exactly what my arch nemesis in life may look like.
I saved my zing for the last five minutes of the bus ride, because I knew the timing had to be flawless. I innocently engaged him in conversation, telling him I was originally a Texan. I gained his trust by making familiar references to I-35, Whataburger, and tumbleweeds. As the van pulled up to the airport I asked him where he went to school, even though I already knew the answer. He cleared his throat, looked at me as if there were no other schools in the entire state, and said “Why, the University of Texas, of course”. I could see in the way he smiled at me that he assumed I was a fellow Texas Longhorn, and he believed that at this point we would swap humorous stories about gay old times on 6th Street, loving Bevo the Longhorn, and having all organic, cage-free, fair trade, unicorn-encrusted picnics on the edge of the Brazos River. Because of this, you can only imagine how horrified and startled he was when I replied to him:
“I would rather be boiled alive than wear burnt orange”
He paused and looked at me with puzzlement, so shocked that he couldnt’ come up with a comeback as I was already off of the van, with my suitcase, entering the terminal. It really was a weak zing, but for some reason it felt good. “I’d rather be an anarchist than a Texas Longhorn” probably would have been better, but if being a proud, government-loving American has taught me anything, it is to live with no regrets.