When I first started writing this post at 3 pm, I had not yet finished my first day of work. I actually have six hours of work ahead of me, and one of  my co-workers has told me that several of those hours would be some of the most policy-intensive hours of the week. So many hours later, I realize that my co-worker was correct. I was thrust into an hour-long discussion about connectivity and intermodalism, providing transit service people with disabilities, and problems with federal funding and possible state- and local-based alternatives.

But I’m too excited to not start gushing about my job, because I’ve already become enamored with it. I could talk about the fact that ties aren’t standard dress attire. Or I could talk about the fact that I got to sit in on a phone conversation to learn about a newly developed form of transportation that, strangely enough, is actually based upon a form of transportation from the past and, even more strangely, is making me rethink my attitude towards light-rail systems, which is kind of like Dick Cheney saying that he’s rethinking his attitude towards torture.

But instead, I’ll talk about the second thing that happened to me this morning. First thing was that I walked into Room 557 for the morning staff meeting, and became immediately recognizable for two reasons. The first was that I was a new face in a relatively small organization (30 people), all of whom are pretty friendly with each other. The second was that I followed my usual pattern of behavior when I’m in a new professional setting, and that is become so overwhelmed by panic that I stand stock still and freeze up, like a deer in headlights. This is noticeable in a room of animated and energized people, and so many of them came up to me and introduced themselves. Fortunately, I maintained enough professionalism to introduce myself in return rather than give in to my fight/flight instinct (which was SOARING OFF THE CHARTS) and bolt for the door as fast as my legs could carry me. After a few introductions, the two people from the CTAA whom I first met last summer came up to me, and, wonderfully enough, they remembered me, and offered a warm welcome to the organization. Later, when they listed off the attendance, one of the people looked up and gave me a huge smile when he got to my name. I said “Here,” and the rest of the CTAA clapped for me. To reference the Danes, perhaps a bit too casually, it was very hygge.

But then the second thing happened (I know, I took some liberties with the definition of “the first thing”, but whatever), and that kind of blew my mind. The director of the CTAA asked a few members of the organization to stand up. I figured that they were standing up to be recognized for some accomplishment. The director then informed the rest of us that these people standing up would be leading us in a rousing morning edition of “You Are My Sunshine.” This was my thought process, starting at about two seconds after the director made this announcement:

Haha, he’s making a joke in the early morn to raise spirits. How merry and lighthearted!

Five seconds after the announcement:

Oh goodness, one of them is singing! That’s great. He’s in on the joke.

Seven seconds:

Oh my god, everyone is joining in. They’re all singing. It’s seven-thirty in the morning and these people are singing.

Nine seconds:

Sing, dammit! Look like you fit in! SING SING SING SING SING!

The moments that followed that thought are all a blur. I think that’s my memory being merciful to my sense of shame. And after the singing had stopped:

I don’t know the lyrics to “You Are My Sunshine”.


So I CLEARLY didn’t know what I got myself into when I signed up for this. But somehow, I have only come to love it more. I just can’t wait until I get to lead singing, because I think I will just belt out that song that they kept using from “Hello, Dolly!” in “Wall-E”. That should make some mornings.

p.s. Oh, and for the record, it seems as though I was clairvoyant when I wrote last night’s post. Because this morning, one of my co-workers went to go get an ID badge for me. And when it came back, I found that whoever made my badge has now christened me “Baire Breen.” Which is actually a new one.

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My time in Copenhagen (the curious/archival sorts can read about that time at learningtobike.wordpress.com) gave me the bloggin’ bug, and I’ve decided to continue blogging, even though I remain on US soil. Interestingly enough, however, the setting of my future adventures is only slightly less foreign to me–I am going to write about my experiences as a first-timer in Washington, D.C., a place through which I have only been a passerby. I wouldn’t even go so far as to call myself a tourist, as I think “tourists” generally stay in one place for an amount of time longer than it takes one to drive from one end of the city to the other, even if one encounters heavy traffic.

Fun fact! My Danish host family has actually spent more time in Washington, D.C. than I have. Both sides of the cultural exchange agreed that this fact was equal parts amusing and sad. I did not know my nation’s capital, and yet I will likely come to depend on it for employment, however indirectly. But that is neither here nor there.

I will be in Washington, working at the Community Transportation Association of America, a transportation advocacy nonprofit that focuses on expanding transportation opportunities to underserved populations, like suburban and rural areas that experience high levels of poverty. There is much, much more that I will write about the CTAA and my time there (since I’ll be, you know, WORKING there), but the most important thing for any reader of this blog to realize is that I’m REALLY excited about this. Transportation and poverty is what I’ve spent much of my time as a student studying, and this internship (to me, at least) is my opportunity to see the processes that shape and lead to the trends I’ve studied and ranted about on numerous occasions. I will likely be ranting about this subject matter here, so let this serve as sufficient warning to you, dear reader.

As with my Copenhagen blog, I start this blog, which is ostensibly about my time in one location, when I am not actually IN that location. I guess I have an itchy typing finger for this sort of thing. I’m not as far from Washington as I was from Copenhagen when I started my blog, however. I’m in lovely Providence, the fairest of the mid-sized New England cities (suck it, Worcester), sitting in the lobby of my hotel, eagerly awaiting to begin my work at the 2009 Transportation EXPO Conference, which, among other things, will probably involve all the attendees diving into a pit of money given to state transportation departments by the Economic Stimulus Package. Seriously. I helped drain the pool tonight and fill it with twenty-dollar bills. You know every thing those conservative pundits warned us about with the stimulus package? IT IS ALL TRUE. The volcano monitoring system is actually just a really sweet water slide.  I mean, if they’re putting up an intern in a hotel room, who KNOWS what they’ve got planned? (Seriously though, I’m just glad to have a roof over my head. I thought I’d be spending this week crouched beneath an I-95 overpass, because I don’t plan things very well)

So I don’t know what they have planned for me, but I will be here for it all, wearing my car-themed tie (I’m not kidding, I own two) and trying to take it all in. There’s a conference on health care and transportation that I’m particularly interested in…

But before those riveting posts, I offer my readers some words of explanation about this blog. Its title “It’s paradise to me!”, comes from the AWESOME song by the Magnetic Fields entitled, cleverly enough, “Washington, D.C.” There’s a certain irony for me using the song title, since the song is largely about how the singer loves Washington only because her lover lives in the city, not because of the city itself.

But despite this, I couldn’t help but decontextualize the lyrics into a celebration of Washington, the city, because I’m hoping to love the city for the city itself (although I am living with a very dear friend for a month, thank you Jared!). I actually used the song as my anthem for when I first got the internship, walking around the streets of Copenhagen and quietly chanting “W! A-S-H! I-N-G! T-O-N, BABY, D-C!” to myself. I’m sure I looked like a crazy, but whatever. I had a full beard, so at least my appearance fit the part. For the record, I’ve since lost the beard but kept the goatee and moustache. This is my attempt to look professional, but since I have Disney character cookies in my bag, I’m probably not fooling anyone.

The subtitle of the blog comes as a tip of the hat to the man (indirectly) responsible for my internship being a paying internship this summer, and that is the Ringmaster of the Washington Circus, one Barack Obama. Back in 2004, when Obama gave his speech at the Democratic National Convention and put himself on the political landscape, he referred to himself as a “skinny kid with a funny name”. While my name has never been used in a smear campaign against me to connect me to Islam and thus Islamic fundamentalism (man, what a great campaign. I miss those days. That stuff was better than the movies), I figure I’ve had to correct enough mispronounciations in my time to adopt the epitaph as my own.

So will I get lost, despite D.C.’s block system? Probably. Will I sprawl out on the National Mall and unknowingly fall asleep? Probably. Will I try to discover unique aspects of the D.C. cuisine? Probably, although I don’t really know if those exist. Will my nerdy little heart thunder within me when I read over policy papers? Probably. Will I explain these papers in great detail in my blog? Probably not, unless I’m feeling vengeful, but they’ll be mentioned at least in passing.

Follow me, dear reader, as I take on the Capital. And hopefully come across Obama eating a burger, since that seems to make the news like nothing else can.