Friday, April 25, 2008

#15 Pictures of GWB

Happy weekend!

We'll be back next week.

Unless another writer's strike happens.

Friday, April 18, 2008

#14 Hangovers

We have one. See you on Monday.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

#13 Robert Byrd

In the beginning, most Hill People are insecure, lost, and generally confused on account of the fast-paced DC life. They've packed all of their stuff into a U-Haul, moved to a misleadingly named "English Basement", and furnished it with IKEA's fall 2006, which of course far exceeded their means anyway. There's little in this cold and heartless city for a young, impressionable soul to hold on to, so Hill People tend to search for someone they can turn to in a time of need, a person they can count on to be a constant in these scary times. Who is this person you ask?

Senator Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia).

Senator Byrd is an old mofo. Born in 1917 and in the Senate since 1959, Big Bob is the oldest and longest serving member of the Senate. Not only is he good at staying alive (he should go pro), he's good at making lowly Hill People, as well as all of America, laugh their asses off. A Hill Person may be having a crappy day-- one that consists of a grumpy chief of staff, even grumpier constituents, and a Member who keeps randomly disappearing for "lunch dates" just to make their scheduler's life hell. Said Hill Person knows that they can get that little reminder of why they're here, of why they do what they do, and at the same time forget about their pointless and utterly useless lives, just by watching Robert Byrd do what he does best: talk in an an incessantly loud voice.

When Michael Vick accidentally drowned/electrocuted those pets of his who kept losing their dogfights (I mean really, what else are you supposed to do with losers), Robert Byrd was especially pissed. He could be seen on the floor of the Senate, yelling "BARBARIC!" over and over again for an awkwardly long period of time. It went on so long with such lengthy pauses and such sustained volume and fist-pumping, one had to wonder if this was man or robot? If it was man, was he actually aware of his actions, or was he sort of kind of on human auto-pilot?

Hill People often get scared whenever Robert Byrd closes his eyes, because they half expect him not to open them again. In fact, every blink is a glorious surprise and cause for celebration. Sometimes, his eyes stay closed for a few seconds, and the Hill Person starts to wonder, is this the end? Have I lost the meaning of my life? Who will take over Appropriations???

And then, like a college student waking up with his pants on backwards in front of the library at noon on a Tuesday.... his eyes open, he seems slightly confused about his whereabouts, wonders how he got there and what exactly he is currently doing... and he continues to preside over the federal budget markup.

And who can forget the memorable time Harry Reid delivered his emotional speech about 9/11. However, attention was taken away from that wily Nevadan by the image of our hero Robert Byrd sleeping, wait, not just sleeping, full out drooling in the background. Hill People everywhere IMed their co-workers (it was pre-gchat, aka the Dark Age) telling them to turn on channel 8 and wondering whether it was too soon to laugh out loud during a speech on 9/11. Hopefully, for the salvation of the average Hill Person, it wasn't, because otherwise we'll see you all in hell.

But the Hill Person's favorite part about Robert Byrd is the chance encounter with him in the hallway. While trudging through the Capitol to drop off another doomed amendment they spent the last month working on, feeling sad about their lack of impact on the world, they see a flash of white hair, a small man, surrounded by 65 aides but allowing none to help him. Robert Byrd shuffles slowly towards the Senate floor, yelled at the top of his lungs, or at a whisper for all he knows, "MAKE WAY FOR LIBERTY!!!"

Hill People frequently ask themselves questions after an encounter with Big Byrd:

1. Why is he screaming?
2. Why is he referring to himself as liberty?
3. How is he still alive?
4. Does he even know he's alive?
5. OMG Maybe he actually thinks his name IS Liberty!

Suddenly, the Hill Person remembers, this is what it's all about. Despite the obvious senility displayed by the statement, it sheds light on the most fundamental truth of the Hill Person's life. Every day they come into work, slave away for little pay and even less recognition, and endure the wrath of the constituents they spend all day working for, all because they truly do care about "making way" for "liberty."

For the typical Hill Person, Robert Byrd is one of the rare highlights of everyday life. As long as he's alive and kickin', it behooves all Hill People to do what he asks.... and make way for f-ing liberty.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

#12 Fro-yo

There comes a time in every Hill Person's day when work just starts to get to them. Somewhere between the incessant constituent phone calls, the unbearable meetings with borderline retarded representatives of interest groups that probably shouldn't have a voice in the federal governmet, and the constant background noise of interns talking about Baby Suri, the Hill Person starts to forget why they ever took this job in the first place. They start to despair that perhaps it is all in vain, that maybe the naysayers were right when they said an entry-level job on the Hill was about as glamorous as working at a Chinese massage parlor, and paid less too.

Then, they remember the best part of the day (besides their morning glimpse of the Senator on his way to the bathroom). The reason they are able to drag themselves out of bed in the morning, brave the red line crammed with hundreds of unpatriotic drones heading to their meaningless office jobs, and sit at a desk all day pretending to care about the concerns of constituents.


Not only is it delicious and questionably low-fat, but due to the tax-exempt status of items purchased on the Hill, it's cheap enough for the average Hill Person to afford on a daily basis, assuming they didn't splurge on an off-campus meal that afternoon. If you walk into either the Dirksen basement or the Rayburn cafeteria circa 2:30 PM on the average workday, you will see Hill People walking in pairs or groups, casually eating their Fro-Yo and subtly but forcefully trying to prove that they are more up to date on current events than their companion(s). Commons topics include the day's NYT editorials ("Maureen Dowd is, like, totally on Obama's balls"), upcoming votes ("Ugh, F this vote-a-rama! Homie is just going to veto it anyway!") and whether or not McCain is going to live until November 2008 ("Our death pool is up to, like, $300!!")

Another brilliantly useful aspect of the Fro-Yo break is that it allows young, socially awkward Hill People to go on pseudo-dates. Even less legitimate than the lunch date, the (heteronormative) Fro-Yo date usually transpires as follows.

9 AM - 2:30 PM: Male Hill Person nervously works up courage to ask attractive-for-DC female Hill Person to get Fro-Yo.

2:30 PM - 2:35 PM: Hill People walk down to cafeteria together, bitching about their day so far

2:35 PM - 2:40 PM: Hill People discuss flavors. Ugh, it's always double dutch chocolate and vanilla. Remember that awesome day they had peanut butter??? I almost had $2 worth!

2:40 PM - 2:45 PM: Male Hill Person graciously pays for female Hill Person's Fro-Yo (Nice work champ, you spent a whole $1.50 on a girl! You're definitely going to get some now!!) Hill People walk back to office discussing the day's news. Male Hill Person wonders where this relationship is going. Female Hill Person thinks about how she's going to have to spend an extra 30 minutes at Gold's Gym tonight.

2:45 PM - 6 PM: Both Hill People think about how glorious their next Fro-Yo break will be.

Maybe tomorrow they'll have peanut butter. Here's hoping!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

#11 Loving/Hating Tourists

If Hill People were Facebook friends with tourists, their relationship status would be classified as "It's Complicated."

Among the lower echelons of Congressional staff, about 60 percent of a Hill Person's duties involve constituent relations. People who call or write their senator or congressman are not normal people. They're needy, have too much extra time, and often chemically imbalanced. And what do these people often find would be a nice way to spend a week away from work? Why a trip to Washington, of course, where they can harass Hill People at their place of employment!

A Hill Person is often willing (and required by their employer) to answer phone calls, respond to flag requests, and address form letters to lonely constituents looking for meaning in the abyss that is the federal government. But when said constituent decides to hop on a plane and physically visit said Hill Person, the relationship becomes strained. Hill People would much rather sit at their desk and Gchat or read blogs than walk around the Capitol, performing the equivalent of herding cats through the corridors of history. Then again, a tour often gives a Hill Person a chance to get away from their normal workload and conduct themselves with an air of self importance. Hill People aren't used to other people listening to them, and tourists give them a chance to feel loved. Hence, the love-hate relationship.

Despite the provision of Capitol Hill Fun Time by tourists, their presence still causes deep insecurities to bubble up among Hill People. Tourists, with their lemming-like manners, digital cameras, and CIA shirts, subconsciously remind Hill People of what they used to be, long, long ago (aka two months prior when they first moved to Washington, after spending the summer after college backpacking through Europe). After all, when they were new to DC, they didn't know the quadrant system, where the White House is, or that you should ABSOLUTELY NEVER stand on the left side of the Metro escalator. Deep down, Hill People remember this version of themselves, and it makes them absolutely sick. Therefore, they project this self-hatred of their former self on to tourists.

Still, Hill People know (or are constantly reminded) that these tourists are the same constituents whose tax money pays their meager salaries and inject massive amounts of money into the Washington economy. Therefore, they will always walk this tightrope between reluctant acceptance and absolute spite -- very similar to how they feel about their own careers and self-worth.

Monday, April 14, 2008

#10 Fundraisers

Hill People love any event where they receive attention, but their favorite type is the political fundraiser. These shindigs provide the perfect release from the intense emo angst Hill People feel during the day.

Besides the official function of fundraisers (earning money for a reelection campaign), Hill People find several other perks at attending these mind numbing gatherings. The obvious go-to is free food and alcohol, since Hill People barely make minimum wage. Lowly staff assistants feel entitled to every morsel of the feast because the Savior of America (their boss) paid for it, and their very subsistence relies on the nutrition from this food. Hill People are even courageous enough to risk food poisoning and will pack up picked-over salmon that has been sitting out for 2 hours. While very careful to avoid breaking several ethic laws that their BFF Nancy created, they are brave enough to risk taking toxic fish home.

If soda is at the event, that's even better. Diet Coke benders all week! They will also bring home a platter of cookies from a fundraiser to show their friends and roommates who don't care about America (they are paralegals at law firms) that there are some benefits of indentured servitude, besides that warm and fuzzy feeling they get when their boss votes to give money to poor people or authorize an invasion of Iraq.

Fundraisers also allow Hill People to reminisce about their member's random hometown district that no one really cares about. They like to casually mention to a lobbyist that the shitty beer being served is so awesome because it's brewed back home in Minnesota. At this point, the lobbyist's eyes glaze over with pure apathy. But don't worry. The Hill Person can spice up the conversation by recounting the time their boss (not them) met Barack and how super cool he seemed. So he will definitely be a great prez.

This conversation concludes with the Hill Person handing over their business card.

Another plus for a Hill person is feeling superior to the campaign employees, especially political consultants. Brown v. BOE may have helped end racial segregation, but there's no precedent for ending the division between campaign staff and true Hill People. Hill People have sacrificed a real salary to devote themselves to their beliefs, with the help of Mommy and Daddy. People who have decided to raise money or lobby have done the equivalent to selling their souls to Voldemort. This gives Hill People the right to talk down and occasionally give orders to the Deatheaters, er, campaigners. If they need another beer, don't worry they can just order the paid staff to get one for them. Campaigners just don't understand the sacrifices Hill People have made to follow their dreams.

Now, due to legal restrictions, Hill People can't enjoy the fine life of moneyed DC, unless they stand up to eat their meals (Washington is fixed!). Ultimately, the "lobbyist epiphany" will occur around the age of 35, when a Hill Person suddenly realizes they are not making a difference and they can double their salary by taking a job at a lobbying firm. So in the end, Hill People become the very embodiment of the political consultant they held in such condescending contempt back in the day, if they aren't killed by rotten sushi, first. It's the circle of life.

Friday, April 11, 2008

#9 Tortilla Coast

The local hangout is a staple for any desperate group of people yearning for a sense of belonging in the world (Hill People). The lost souls of 90210 had the Peach Pit, those awkward kids from Bayside had the Max, and those six friends who kept having sex with each other and really had no idea what to do with their lives hung out at the Central Perk. Hill People are much like this.

For them, the place to go drown their sorrows and be with fellow useless and depressed people is Tortilla Coast.

"T-Coast", as Hill People so cleverly call it, is located on the corner of First and D Street, SE. It has large windows looking out toward the street so Hill People can sit and judge those walking by, while they attempt to ignore the fact that they're drinking crappy beer at a fake Mexican restaurant.

Tortilla Coast, much like Hill People, is not particularly exciting. The ambience is lacking, the food is sub-par, and the drinks are over-priced. It's the restaurant manifestation of a Hill Person. And Hill People love themselves, so it only makes sense for them to love Tortilla Coast.

Tortilla Coast has two main areas: the bar and the dining room. Most Hill People are too poor to spend their money on an actual meal (Their Parents' Money can only go so far), so they choose to gorge on the free chips and salsa while drinking the famous two-flavored margarita. The few Hill People who decide to spring for the table in the dining room usually order a chicken quesadilla to share with 12 people, while they order beer after beer and endless refills of chips and salsa. The servers who work long hours in cheap blue polo shirts are forced to wait on the typical Hill People who spend little, tip less, and have annoying conversations about how important they are.

It's a scientific fact that Hill People like being around other Hill People. This way, when they complain about "constits" or slutty interns, they'll be met with sympathy and understanding, instead of the soul-crushing mockery they so deserve. In addition, Hill People have been known to use Tortilla Coast as a backdrop for their unfortunate and awkward mating rituals. When young, depressed Hill People are well on their way to yet another episode of, "what the hell happened last night", they tend to convince themselves that the staff assistant they met earlier in the evening, who at 6 PM looked like Fergie mid-crystal meth binge, is actually somewhat attractive. This leads to yet another awkward hook-up, which ultimately forces the participants to ignore each other when passing in the halls of Rayburn.

As long as there is a steady supply of Hill People around to enjoy its tacky d├ęcor and wallow in unconscious self-pity, Tortilla Coast will remain a prosperous establishment and a reliable atmosphere to observe douchebags in their natural habitat.

TGIF mofos!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

#8 Personal TVs

There are a few of things you can expect to find on any Hill Person's desk:

1. A calendar, probably free and from a constituent, featuring some creepy art show back in the district.

2. A computer that takes 45 minutes to turn on, built circa 2004 by the now-defunct Gateway.

3. Pictures of important people in the Hill Person's life, like family, friends, or the Senator and his family and friends.

4. And the most important tool for getting through the day: the personal television.

In most jobs, you are probably not allowed to watch TV at work, because that would "get in the way" of "productivity." There are no such fascist regulations in the federal government. Most Hill People above the rank of staff assistant are given their own personal TV and are released into the wonderfully vapid and utterly mind-numbing world of daytime television.

Officially, personal TVs are supposed to keep Hill People apprised of breaking news and current events so that they can effectively carry out their duties Saving America as the country's lawmakers. And, to be fair, many Hill People do keep their TVs tuned to CNN, MSNBC, CSPAN, or, if they are truly a moron/Brownback staffer, Fox News.

But let's be honest- the only time pertinent news comes from one of those sources is when somebody starts setting fire to Dirksen bathrooms (thanks USCP!) or a plane flies into Capitol airspace (thanks crazy pilot and Oxycontin!)

So, you may ask, what is the use for the personal TV? The internal network allows Hill People to watch hearings, briefings, and votes. Rather than absorbing the substance of these events, though, most Hill People are more interested in which of their fellow staffers make it on camera, who gets to sit behind the Senator, and how fat that committee's previously hot secretary has become. Such a shame, she really had a career ahead of her.

Hill People can also use their TVs to learn the tangible skills they didn't learn at their liberal arts college and probably won't learn on the Hill. Fantasy baseball season has started -- now they can watch EVERY baseball game and really dominate their friends with actual jobs. The Food Network is always good for new and interesting ways to cook beets. The Travel Channel reminds them of all the beautiful places they'll never get to visit on a government salary.

And if all else fails, there are always ever-present Law & Order reruns.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

#7 Blackberries

For the Hill Person, the Holy Grail of metrics to career success is the mighty Blackberry. Not issued to entry-level staff assistant, these life-consuming gadgets are worn on the hip as a badge of honor of the seasoned Hill Person. If the demands of one's job dictate that they need be available outside of normal working hours, a Blackberry is bestowed upon that chosen one, and they are deemed irreplaceable and indispensable (at least among the population willing to work for under $50 thousand a year).

Unfortunately, this telling sign of a Hill Pro doesn't hold the validity that it once did, as younger, less experienced Hill People are now funding their own Blackberry use (with Their Parents' Money). Granted, they may only be able to access their Gmail on these personal Blackberries, as typical offices will not allow internal email to be forwarded to other devices. Still, nothing says importance like a stranger in a blazer, leaning against the bar, drink to the side because he is using both hands to type. Ask him for his business card!

And if you need an example of just how fluid the joys of a Hill Person are, Gchat is available on Blackberries. Trapped on the tunnel train with Chris Dodd? Now you can update your status message immediately ("OMG he coulda been president!") Slow pace of a tour group of senior citizens slowing you down? Take a break and let all your g-friends that you feel "Ugh."

Chatting with friends and checking your personal email never looked so professional. And unlike the damned iPhone, nobody will question your relevance and importance in Saving America with an Blackberry -- because a Blackberry is business up front, and a fun party in the back. Like a mullet.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

#6 Their Parents' Money

Any respectable Hill Person is expected to maintain a certain standard of living in order to be accepted amongst his fellow elite Capitol Hill staff assistants. This requires the following material essentials:

1. Decent housing: Eastern Market, Georgetown, Dupont, U Street, and Adams Morgan are acceptable. Foggy Botttom? Too collegiate/geriatric. Arlington? Um only for divorcees with 8 cats. Columbia Heights? GHETTO (except for Target trips. Other than that, check back in 2 years).

2. Clothing: Banana Republic or J Crew is your threshold. Don't dip below. Gap is okay on Friday. Don't get confused by the Target reference above. Target is only okay for scented candles and kitchen appliances. Clothes, though? Bitch I'm not from the Indiana 8th.

3. Happy Hour/Drinking: A near-daily ritual. Happy hour deals may siphon off some of the expenses made here, but any Hill Person worth their Capitol ID badge has to put in a good couple blackout nights a week, in order to forget the six tours the prior week and the overall douchebaggery of their chosen profession.

4. Other: This includes food and general toiletries.

5. Brunch

The problem with this list is that the high cost of living in Washington, DC, juxtaposed with the possible illegality of of their menial annual salary, could create a negative net worth at year's end (especially after that post tax refund and stimulus check bender trip to Aruba aka Adult Spring Break 2008!). So how do Hill People avoid a life living in the red and fend off the hounds of the credit card companies? Easy. Mommy and Daddy's love, er, monthly allowance.

You see, Hill People, after studying a social science at an expensive elite four-year university, find it easy to convince their parents to help them out. After all, a grand or two a month is only half of what their parents were paying for them to attend a private school for the prior four years, and a Hill Person's parents are often so happy that their little tool of a son or daughter landed a job right out of college, with benefits (holla Blue Cross Blue Shield) and a monthly allowance of its own.

In addition, parents of a Hill Person get all kinds of perks: exclusive behind-the-scenes (read: open to any member of the public) tours of the Capitol Congress, official looking business cards to validate their son or daughter's existence, and the ability to gloss over the lack of importance of their offsprings' employment to unknowing family and friends in Topeka, KS.

Indeed, with a monthly subsidy from Mom and Dad, a Hill Person can increase his or her annual income by about 50 to 100 percent, bringing their yearly earnings to somewhere in the mid-40 thousands (or what others in the Beltway consider "lower-middle class." Ultimately, this can lead to an even higher standard of living, including Whole Foods, studio Yoga, and maybe even Bud Light in the fridge.

Monday, April 7, 2008

#5 Recess

When you were in grade school, you loved recess. It was that time during the day to take a break from work and run around the playground like a crazed pre-adderall maniac. Well, imagine that same situation at your job today, add alcohol which probably wasn't present at your childhood recess (assuming you're not from the South), and you normal people can begin to get a vague idea of how glorious recess is for Hill People.

Recess occurs between sessions of Congress, and is so celebrated by Hill People because there is literally nothing to do. There are no bills to be passed and fewer meetings to be taken. The boss rarely makes an appearance in the office. The official work day is shortened to 5 PM. Even constituents seem less crazy. Hill People have more time to do the things they really came to the Hill to do, like gchat with their friends and take long lunches over margaritas at Tortilla Coast.

Another great part about recess is the more relaxed dress code. For normal people, this means jeans, tshirts, and sneakers. For Hill People, this is their chance to break out the blazer/button-down/jeans combo. Anything less would just be vulgar. You might also be shocked to learn that the average number of blazers owned by a Hill Person is 7. Seriously, look into it.

The best part about recess, though, is that your own personal happy hour starts a full hour earlier, so you're able to actually take advantage of those 5-7 deals that you silently curse when you're still sitting at your desk circa 6:30 PM. Ten cent wings? With an extra hour I can eat 45. $6 Bud Ice pitchers? I don't care that it tastes like stale urine. Two hours means TWICE as many.

If you see a Hill Person in the next few days, and you notice they are a little down, it's probably because they aren't in recess again until May. Eight whole weeks of real work. WTF.

Friday, April 4, 2008

#4 Gchat

Given the utter lack of meaningful work to be done in most junior-level staffer jobs, Hill People have come to be more commonly known as "gchat whores." Gchat has become one of the main instruments for Hill people to spread propaganda about how fierce and important they are.

As gchat has phased out AIM for most of the population over 21, Hill People have taken to thinking they are smoother and more professional because of the camouflage provided by the popped-in chat box. If Hill people decide they want to relive their younger, more carefree years, they can even opt for the pop-out gchat box! Gchat gives Hill People a way to convince themselves that they are way classier than the trashy college students and teens who use AIM.

Because the high level of education most Hill People possess contradicts the mind-blowingly lame work they do every day, they will consistently put off their tasks in order to gchat various friends from college. They will justify their procrastination by occasionally gchatting coworkers about Obama's speech on how being black is awesome.

The politics of one's gchat status sometimes overrides the politics in the SCHIP bill. ("OMG how could Bush veto a bill about kids!?") Hill People are also very attentive to mentioning who they are supporting for president at least twice a day. ("Hillary's my girl y'all!")

One of the main goals of the day for a Hill Person is to say something so witty, yet still politically intuitive, to one of their "cooler" (ie high salaried) coworkers that it makes it to the receiving party's gchat status. Achieving this feat several times a week will solidify their position in the office as being hip and clever and totally justifying why they work on the Hill for some bullshit issue like women's rights. Another use of the Hill Person's gchat status is to post links to various bills they're working on to show their non-Hill friends how relevant their job is to saving America.

Also, the passive aggressive gchat status ("Some people just suck") will help to convey how dismayed a Hill Person is that their random Smith Point hookup from last night didn't call them back. Also, around 4 PM EST, look for most Hill People's statuses to switch to something that illustrates the exhaustion that comes from a tough day of taking constituent calls and giving under-medicated middle school children tours ("Ugh").

The unfortunate downside to being a Hill Person on gchat is that they often get blocked by their non-Hill friends for a variety of reasons, but usually for being a huge political douchebag. If this occurs to the poor soul, they will take out their boredom through any number of creative ways. They may yell at an intern, take a walk around campus to remember how important their job is, or leave the Hill early out of sheer boredom. They will most likely take out their feelings through drinking free alcohol at a reception or going to Tortilla Coast for 50 cent tacos.