A unique spring break in Washington, D.C.


University of Kentucky student Shannon Frazer, pictured in the Kernel office on 10/14/09. Photo by Ed Matthews

What was the most memorable thing about your spring break?

A pretty sunset? The long car ride to your destination? The challenge of loading everything you packed in your suitcase before your trip back into said suitcase?

Well, you could say my spring break 2011 memory is a bit different. I went with a group to do community service in Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas.

On the whole, that in and of itself was memorable — there’s no denying that. But the hassle associated with gaining access to the historical monuments and museums on our touring days was something I will not soon forget.

Take the U.S. Senate session, for instance. It’s not enough to go through security, a metal detector, another security desk to drop off all larger-than-a-bread-basket bags, turn in all electronic devices and cameras, and then go through one more security and metal detector check point.

Once my group finally got through to the oh-so-familiar Senate session room (thank you, CSPAN), we found it practically empty. The only ones present were three interns who poured water for 20 minutes and, assumably, the stand-in pro tempore (apparently Joe Biden had other duties to attend to that day, and this man was clearly not Sen. Daniel K. Inouye) and minutes secretaries. I went through all that security and didn’t get to see a single senator.

Docents even reprimanded visitors if they looked at all like they were about to fall asleep. I guess former West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd’s dozing episodes were more discreet than I thought.

On St. Patrick’s Day, some of my other group members who wanted to visit Capitol Hill had to bypass the area because President Obama was meeting with the Irish ambassador.

Apparently they were convening about Ireland’s economic woes, a delayed mirroring of what the U.S. went through recently … but I still say St. Patrick’s Day was all too convenient.

In addition to the security provided by guards in the already heavily-fortified area — seriously, there were security guards with hefty guns on every corner of the U.S. Capitol building and surrounding proximities — my group was told they had to go well out of their way and delay their Senate trip.

I suppose that’s the trouble with visiting a tourist attraction where major government business commences: Even if you are indubitably sure that you want to go to a particular D.C. attraction, security will try to convince you otherwise.

Sure, you’re welcome to see first-hand how government “does its thing,” but I hope you’re not offended by security guards fondling your purse/bag contents and aren’t overly attached to that $4 bottle of water you just purchased.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved visiting the nation’s capital during spring break. But the security will probably be the thing that I will remember most.