Thursday, 19 August 2010

Jaywalking with a kite in Washington

Many moons ago, when the world was young and children nonexistent, we had a family outing to Washington D.C. to stay with friends who were living there. I can promise we did not set out to offend, yet looking back, in just two days we managed to get in trouble with military police, risked seriously offending the locals... and committed what surely is an offence with a kite.

The military police episode verges on the farcical. We were driving to Arlington Cemetery and took the wrong turn, driving into the military base next door. So sure was our host of his navigation that we swept past the security gates without a second look (no doubt these days we would have been shot). But having found out we were in the wrong place, on the way out we stopped by military police with big guns, asking what we were doing and how we got there. They couldn't understand how we had got in without being questioned, but eventually took pity on us as foreigners.

As for being offensive, we later visited the Lincoln Memorial, which I think is truly inspiring, one of my favourite monuments in the world. Unfortunately, on the way out, the two wives of the party felt that the broad balustrade at the side of the steps was ideal for sliding down and caused many raised eyebrows and tuttings by doing so.

But the piece-de-resistance was the kite. This was bought from the wonderful Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. We proudly flew our kite down the grassy bit (as I'm sure it is known to the cognoscenti), heading for the Washington Monument. And this is where things got interesting. Knowing jaywalking is frowned on, we waited at a crossing, across the traffic circle in front of the monument. The kite was flying towards the monument, over the traffic at an angle (with our exuberant host at the string). We saw a bus coming. It was just so obvious that its large aerial was not going to clear the kite string. Unfolding into disaster in slow motion, the string wound around the aerial, and the kite headed off down the road after the bus with our friend in tow.

Somehow he managed to sever the string. The kite flew free and started to head towards the Washington Monument, its string dangling a foot or two off the grass. There was only one thing for it. We had to plunge across the traffic or the kite would be lost forever. It was like something out of a movie. Our friend didn't speak for a while after hurling himself at the string and collapsing on the grass.

Interesting place, Washington. But I'm not sure they'd allow us back.

Image from Wikipedia


  1. I bet you were also wearing a Loud Tie in a Built-Up Area. You sinner, you.

  2. It may well have been a loud tie tow-away zone.