What we talk about when we talk about hating DC

Over the past few months I've spent a good deal of time here explaining myself, noting that "I don't really hate DC." It is true that I don't loathe DC the way James or Rusty did. I'm not itching to get out of here, ready to accept some destination such as Columbus, Ohio as superior to the District of Columbia.

That said, though, we all have our reasons to hate DC. Let's be honest, it's not that hard. There's a reason why people read this site, and it's not just because they want to hear my musings on DC politics. There's good reason to hate DC. It's especially easy for the young 'transplants' to hate this city, and most of them end up leaving. Generally, I'm shocked that I've stuck it out here for as long as I have, and by the day it seems I'm well on my way to staying put for the long-haul.

I was in the mood to put together a list, so here's a look at a few common "I hate DC" statements.

I can't find a good job. It's absolutely true. If you moved to DC straight out of college or grad school, you are not going to land your dream job out of the gate. Unless people commonly refer to your father as Senator or Former President, you will not be changing the world before age 25. Deal with it. While you may have gone to Brown (hey, it's a good school, right?) and always been told you will be President one day, that day is not today. Tomorrow doesn't look good either.

You have no friends. You moved here straight out of college, and maybe your friends all went to New York. It's extremely difficult for many people to make friends in this town. Generally, the only people who will speak to you are homeless people, those ACLU canvassers, and maybe someone who is trying to get in your pants. Here's a tip, if you want to make friends in this town get a job in the retail or service industry. I don't care how many "non-profit professionals" meet-ups you go to, you aren't going to come away with a good group of friends.

There are too many homeless people. There is a significant amount of homeless people in D.C. Not only do you have the city's local population, but you also have people (sadly, especially veterans) who come from across the country to the nation's capital. Walk through Chinatown on a Sunday morning and you'll likely have at least one person shove a Veterans' Administration ID card in your face, asking for $14 to buy a bus ticket to Harper's Ferry. Don't worry, the DC Government has added a whopping negative $20 million dollars for homeless services this year. (Yeah, see what I did there, that's called "political communication." Maybe you'll make some friends and land that dream job after you get an MA in it from George Washington University.)

I want a one bedroom apartment close to the Metro for $800/month. Everything in this city is expensive. If you are moving to DC from any other major city in the United States (except maybe New York or San Francisco) prepare to pay amounts you never imagined possible for accommodations you would have previously laughed at. Oh, you had a one bedroom apartment near Wicker Park in Chicago and only paid $900? You want to live near U Street now? Double that and that's about what to expect. If you want to live near anything fun or a Metro station, you'll need a better job.

What do I do with my car? The Metro sucks. If you live in the District, it's going to be a bitch for you to park your car. Especially since you don't want to change your residency to DC, and you live in a group house with six other people and no dedicated parking spots. Also, the Metro likely is far away from where you live and doesn't always go where you want it to. It's also delayed a lot. Get DC tags for your car, and learn about street sweeping schedules. Better yet, ditch the car, and learn the buses. After a few years, you'll likely resign yourself to the fact that you'll spend a whole lot of time waiting.

The government is so corrupt. Again, absolutely correct. The same could be said, likely, for other cities but that's not particularly an excuse. The Government of the District of Columbia has many, many problems and it's unlikely any sort of earth-shattering reform will happen any time soon. It would help if more of the "young, idealistic" types got involved at the local level, but even so that's not enough people to unseat Jim Graham or Adrian Fenty. Only increased demands for transparency and something better will help, and that will take decades. In the meantime we'll continue to shake our heads at the fact that governments are perfectly able to pull money straight out of their asses to pay for all sorts of military equipment, while local jurisdictions have to kick battered women out of shelters because of decreased tax revenue.

There's a lot to hate about DC. It's a cliquish town that's easy to move to but hard to make your home. A good deal of people who gripe about DC are the ones who still consider themselves outsiders. I started reading this site when I was still a student, and I didn't know if I'd stay in DC. It's been seven years now, and I'm still here. There's plenty of things I hate, but with each passing year I begin to understand why people say "if you hate it so much, why don't you move."

It's not that we love DC, but more that we've come to accept it. It's the nation's capital, and in theory, a place full of promise. We were promised a city on a hill but instead ended up with a dream deferred. It's no easy task to make the District of Columbia your home, but when you do, you'd like it if some people could show it just a little bit of respect.

That includes both 'transplants' and 'elected officials.'


  1. dave: read this post by the proprietor of creative dc.

    clearly, you're both writing about the same subject (broadly), and approaching it from very different angles, but it's worth noting...

  2. Great post. There usually does come a point in your life in DC where you need to make a decision about transportation, because you can't have it all. I think an "off-Metro" option with a group house's off-street parking and frequent bus service is the best financial deal, but once you've got a job that can afford you a small apartment near Metro with parking - you've hit the big time as far as I'm concerned. Street parking is for the birds!

  3. Being concerned about being "cool" suggests a lack of authenticity. If you're "cool", then you don't concern yourself with being cool. If you aren't cool, then you tend to over-analyze the situation and try much too hard to be "cool".

    Witness the colorful plastic 80s-style sunglasses and fixed-gear freestyler epidemic in Bloomingdale. Not cool; but certainly putting forth an heroic effort.

  4. Totally. One thing you forgot to mention... there's no one to date.

  5. Prediction ... you won't be happy anywhere unless you hit the lottery. Unlikely, so live with it.

  6. Here's one more. Too many out-of-town fucks that come here from every shit-town in middle America and who actually think anyone should could give a good crap that they were the editor of their college newspaper or that they got a job in congressman smalltown's office.
    Little fish from a littler pond syndrome.
    You can see them on any given Friday or Saturday night puking in the alleys from Adams Morgan, to Chinatown, to Capitol Hill.
    Go home!

  7. It's not to say that your list is entirely inaccurate, but really, is there ANY city (other than, perhaps, Columbus, OH) that would be any better? What could possibly meet the standards of affordability, great jobs, great public transit and good government? Not in this country.

    So it's a city, deal with it. How much do you think a 1 BR apt in NYC costs? And for ANY OTHER CITY that is big enough to have a subway, how much do you think a 1 BR apt close to the subway a neighborhood you would want to live in costs? Good luck with that $800.

    Actually I think DC is far and away one of the most affordable places to live for young people because you can rent a room in a shared house for $500 or so in almost any neighborhood. There are few cities with the kind of housing stock that supports this sort of living. Group-house living isn't for everyone but it's a great, cheap option to live in a much better neighborhood than you could afford otherwise. Almost everyone I know has done it for a few years.

    And seriously, parking a car in DC? As long as you legally register it, this is one of the EASIEST cities to park. With a few exceptions like Adams Morgan, it's just not that hard to park here. I've owned a car for 18 years and street-parked that whole time in Adams Morgan, Mt. Pleasant, Kalorama, Columbia Heights and I have never considered "availability of parking" among the most serious hassles. If it was, I would have gotten rid of the car or paid for reserved parking. Parking enforcement, that's another issue...

    And jobs? The DC area has among the lowest unemployment in the country during right now. Fail. DC proper's high unemployment rate doesn't count - you aren't competing for jobs with the 50% of DC that is below the poverty line.

    At the end of the day I think that while everyone has lots to complain about, and things aren't perfect, what city has a better situation for just about every one of the items you mention? At least among cities that are actually big enough to have a subway. I can't think of any.

  8. why do you need a car in a city where it is so easy to bicycle and the Metro is so extensive?

    You can take a bicycle on the subway after rush hours and it actually goes to many of the places where you can shop for dirt cheap prices. This is one of the only places in North America where living w/o a car is viable- and think of how much money you can save by not having a car?

  9. @Anon, I think you took a wrong turn somewhere around the fiber-optic hub in Dupont Circle, because this isn't Greater Greater Washington. Here, in this place where reality takes precedence over fantasy, not everyone can ride their bike dozens of miles to and from work regardless of circumstances, and either doesn't or can't work and live in a places that are practical to take public transit.

    You figured out how to post a comment anonymously, so you must be reasonably intelligent. Therefore, I bet you can imagine a scenario that might include things like... children, job needs, place of work, place of residence, things you need to do before or after work, physical ability, to name just a few, that might make biking or public transit unsuitable for every transportation need for every single person in DC.

  10. Human beings have successfully raised normal upright & healthy families for millions of years without the need for a car or a suburban lifestyle. If more people in this country lived w/o cars we would be a whole lot better off. DC happens to be one of those places where this can be done. To most people in the world- a car is an extravagant non- necessity, and life can be lived w/o one. Actually- in many ways- a car is a liability in DC- what with all of the moronic Northern Virginian drivers we have here that constantly get lost or get into accidents.Stay off of the roads in a car around here- it just aint safe- is my advice.

  11. "Human beings have successfully done x for x amount of time"

    I love that argument. With logic like that, who needs phones, antibiotics, electricity, er, umm... anything other than a rock to kill stuff??

    Sure you don't need a car to live any more than you need metro. Just go start a self-sustaining farm on your very own plot of land in Saskatchewan and live happily ever after.

    Trouble is people want to do stuff, like drop their kids off at a school that doesn't suck, or go to their job that's nowhere near metro, or run errands that aren't practical, but whatever.

    Not sure why I'm arguing with you. Your car-free lifestyle works great for you. I'm happy that it does. The preponderance of cars means it doesn't for everyone.

  12. I haven't been here for long (since the end of June) so there's that, but I would like to contest some of the points.

    1) expectations are important. I have a great job for just coming out of grad school...its certainly not where I want to be in 1 years or even 3 for that matter, but its working out. And no I don't have a family with connections. hell, my brother didn't graduate hs and my ma nver went to college. oh yeah, and I didn't have a dad.

    2)"you have no friends" I mostly agree with; often times it's difficult to tell if people want you as a connection or a friend, but I meet all my friends at bars or amongst the circles I hangout with (which decidedly is like summer camp year round).

    3) homeless...meh...live in a city and you'll get those. sure it sucks, but I'm not going to live in a small town or the country.

    4) yes expensive...but once again a city thing. group houses are fun! I'd also blame it on zoning laws.

    5) I have no car. I walk or bike everywhere (miles a day)....and we'll see where that gets me in winter. metro does suck....even worse than the CTA in Chicago. not sure you can do a lot to change that without driving up costs.

    6) "the government is corrupt" hmm...compared to Chicago...certainly not. But Daley does get stuff done.

    PS. I like Shelby's point...DC is an ugly city. thats definately the biggest draw-back.

  13. Angela,

    You're different than most in that you had normal expectations coming to DC, and also have had experience living in another city.

    This isn't exactly my own list of peeves. CTA service sucks, due to the horribly aging infrastructure. I'll give it that. But it just feels like it goes more places, or rather, is more aimed towards getting around the city rather than commuting.

  14. I read Angela's comment about DC being an ugly city and was about to disagree until I realized that it was about dating! Um, yeah. But one thing that people seem to forget a lot on the positive side is that by and large DC itself (the buildings, not the people) is a gorgeous city. There are very few places I have visited that have so many beautiful neighborhoods. I don't think I could live somewhere like Seattle that was built largely in the 20th century and is just fugly top to bottom.

    I think DC holds up pretty well overall compared to many cities. Crime and schools aren't even on your list -- those are by far my biggest problems with DC. As per my previous comment, most of your peeves I think are things DC has better than most cities.

  15. Jamie,

    I think thats a great point about the city being great looking. I'm constantly amazed as i walk around at the townhouses or rowhouses and the obvious history. I've recently become a huge fan of walkng around Ledroit Park.

    That being said it seems in the past decade that a lot of "modern" buildings have been put up alongside these older homes without thinking about blending them into the rest of the architecture on the street...not to say they have to be the same old style but post modernism isn't that great. I imagine those will stop being built now.


    you're right that the metro is more for commuting...I find I use buses more often here, yet still highly inconvenient to get to certain places.

  16. Issue: I can't find a good job.
    Answer: That's what you get for majoring in political science.

    Issue: You have no friends
    Answer: Stay away from Adams Morgan, H Street, U Street, Georgetown, Downtown, and any other places crawing with hipster d-bags with graduate degrees making $9/hour. Find the haunts where the locals (the ones you're so terrified of, but believe it or not are not an entirely criminal or poverty stricken element, if you'd bother to look) hang out. There are small lounges, bars, and jazz clubs that no one's ever heard of because the locals want to keep it that way. We don't want another friggin' Marvin.

    Issue: There are too many homeless people.
    Answer: A once paid a passerby homeless crackhead $10 to help me move furniture. He did not get tired, complain, or drop anything. Best $10 I ever spent. I demand MORE homeless.

    Issue: I want a one bedroom apartment close to the Metro for $800/month.
    Answer: I want a girlfriend with beer-flavored tits. Get a non-liberal arts degree and make some decent money so you can live on your own in a place that doesn't suck. Or live in a hippie commune with 9 other smelly Ohio transplants. Your choice. Nobody made you major in journalism.

    Issue: What do I do with my car? The Metro sucks.
    Answer: Buy a motorcycle. Or a bicycle or scooter, if you have a vagina.

    Issue: The government is so corrupt.
    Answer: So?