It’s June already and we are in the throes of the D.C. guiding season.
It’s that time when you can barely remember one group from the next nor what you said or to whom you said it.
This is my ninth year and and for the first time, I have had eighth-graders inform me with their air of confidence that Thomas Jefferson, slave-owner and slave-maker, invented macaroni and cheese.
They had me for a minute but their incorrectness raises a thorny ethical issue: do I really want to be correcting cooking rumors or should I aim for higher fruit?
So far my response has been a smiling “Who doesn’t love a good mac and cheese” as we move on to far weightier subjects like “Are there fish in the Tidal Basin?” and “Why is the Capitol so big?
Those questions solicit a “yes” and a “I don’t know” from me.
The fish question is an eight-grader and the why so big question is, of course, a fifth-grader.
Everybody knows when the fifth-graders get rolling with the “why” questions it’s better to nip it in the bud or the sun will set as the hands are still being raised.
Friends ask which do I like better, eight-graders or fifth-graders?
That I can answer: fifth-graders except immediately after the consumption of any meal involving sugar.
Two days ago we had 100 fifth-graders in the US Capitol Visitor Center right after they had eaten the lunch they chose.
Where are the Capitol Police when you really need them?
Perhaps they realized that they, too, were hopelessly outnumbered as they discretely melted away or hid behind the many statues.
The kids turned the area outside of the restaurant into an impromptu playground, jumping and romping, refusing any request for quiet or calm.
Finally, it was decided to escort them outside where mounted patrols or at least motorcycle units could keep them corralled.
(Earlier in the day we had met up with Trooper, a U.S. Park Police horse whose officer graciously stopped to say hello. Even Trooper neighed and pranced at our roving band of young ones.)
The kids seem to get some basic symbolic concepts such as the choosing of an unknown soldier at Arlington but in the end they are still quite literal-minded.
At the Capitol we stopped on the west terrace to enjoy the magnificent view down the Mall.
On the lawn was a pro-Trump rally with no one in attendance but the two hapless organizers complete with their “drain the swamp” signs.
Just behind the organizers and down the hill was the large cement pond at Union Square.
One of my fifth-graders, a bespectacled fellow named John who spent most of his time tearing about, including heedlessly sprinting across streets, tapped me on the arm.
Peering up at me he asked, pointing down past the organizers to the pond below, “Mr. Eric, is that the swamp they want to drain?”
Pausing briefly, I answered, “By gosh John, I think you’re right.”