Saturday, March 23, 2013

DC Rambling

Yesterday, I was in Washington for an event at the Ronald Reagan building, a giant structure now filling the hole in the ground that sullied the view of Pennsylvania Avenue when I moved to DC in the summer of 1990.

When I arrived in the city, one of the first things I did was open an account at the Citibank at the corner of 14th and G streets NW, the site of my office. They had an arrangement with my firm that provided low fees and some other perks. The bank secured my loyalty, when, a couple of years later, they offered me $50 to start paying my bills online using a little something then known as the Internet, which looked like it might actually be something.

There was a Citibank in Thessaloniki we used when we were in Macedonia, and there was one at the grand mall in Maadi. Their online services have continued to grown and remain satisfactory, so we haven't seen a need for a local bank in the Triangle, depositing our cheques either by photographing them and doing it online, or, for higher value items, sending them off via mail.

But thanks to G Lo's generosity and prudent estate planning, we have recently come into a cheque that we felt uncomfortable putting it into the mail, so I brought it with me, to deposit at the home branch yesterday.

In the early 90s, banks were doing away with people, and there were never more than one or two in the building, so I was astonished to find two people on the floor, one of whom greeted me effusively.

When I explained my errand, he pointed me toward the teller window, and, not seeing any deposit slips, I got in line. When my turn came, I handed the teller the cheque and my ATM card. She promptly returned the latter to me, showing me the reader on the counter where I was supposed to swipe it.

As the system retrieved my information, the teller looked at me incredulously. "You were last here in 1993," she told me. "Um, yeah," I told her, channeling Luther in 48 Hours, "I've been busy."

We chatted about the changes to the neighbourhood, and, as I was leaving, I asked if the book store on F street was still there, and she assured me that it was.

But it wasn't. The Olsson's was long gone, but there was a giant Barnes and Noble around the corner, whose existence was news to me.

I finished at the bookstore, and, with time for lunch, was delighted to see that Ollie's trolley, one of my favourite lunch spots, was still there. I was too full for an Ollie Burger or a gyro, and they had added table service at some point, but I am glad to report that the fries are as delicious as ever.

It's sad that some things are gone, nice that so many things have changed, and delightful that some remain. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

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