When I was 22, I decided to leave law school early. That is a long story that ends with the words, “it just wasn’t for me.” Upon arriving at my decision, I found myself in California with no job, no money, and no prospects.
Moving to Washington, D.C. was an easy choice for me at the time. For one thing, staying in San Diego was out of the question. Secondly, I was from Maryland and knew that if I went back to the east coast I would have a support network and a better chance of finding a job. D.C. was the only large city in which I already had friends. And, in D.C. I could easily go back to the social justice work that I was so passionate about in college.
Stupid assumptions made by 22 year-olds with no work experience aside, D.C. was a great idea on paper. After all, there was no fucking way that I was going to move back to my hometown and stay with my parents. When I first moved to the District, I estimated that I would be in the area for about two years.
It took ten full years for me to get out. Ten horrible, no good, very bad years.
So, why did I stay? Blame it on the recession, the type of career I chose, or just plain old bad luck but I was never able to find a job in another city and I couldn’t afford to just up and move without one.
How did I get out? Dumb luck. My office went 100% virtual. All employees got to telework full time and they were gracious enough to let me move to Chicago. Then I found a new, better job and never had to go without a paycheck.
Anyway, back to D.C. Terrible place to live, yadda, yadda, yadda. Here are my top ten reasons why D.C. is one of the most awful cities in America:
1. The Weather
When I moved out of D.C., I found out that people from other areas don’t have a good understanding of what the weather is like there. So, here’s a little PSA: it fucking sucks.
Spring: Two weeks of rain, two days of beautiful weather. Usually occurs sometime in mid-April.
Summer: Week-long stretches of approximately 95 degree temperatures with 90% humidity, punctuated by the occasional rain or “beautiful” 85 degree day with 80% humidity. Begins in mid-April, lasts until October 1.
Fall: Starts with warm days and cool nights, generally thought of as the best season of the year. Begins October 1 and takes a turn for the worse just in time to ruin your Halloween costume. Becomes damp, gloomy and cold around October 30 and lasts until approximately two days after Christmas. (Pro tip: don’t get excited by that dusting on December 21. No white Christmases here, my friend. That first storm will happen just before New Year’s to ensure that you definitely slip and fall on your drunken ass.)
Winter: Moderate cold and damp, interspersed with bitter cold, the occasional freezing rain, and one epic storm per year. When it snows, expect OPM to fuck up their prediction, roads to come to a grinding halt, and the entire Midwest to laugh at you. D.C. snow is completely unpredictable and either amounts to nothing or is incredibly wet, treacherous, and layered with black ice. Lasts from January 1 through March.
2. The Expense
D.C. has been ranked as one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. for quite some time.
From personal experience, I can tell you that it can feel impossible to get ahead. At one point, I had a nice apartment where I could:
A. Live alone.
B. Have one bedroom instead of a studio.
C. Have central A/C, a parking space, and a washer/dryer in the unit.
D. Not fear for my safety.
E. Have access to the Metro.
That apartment was $1,800 per month, came with a 1.5 hour commute (each way) to downtown D.C. and cost me 55% of my salary, after taxes. I have a college degree and had been in the professional workforce for eight years before I could afford it.
3. The Commute
The D.C. metro area boasts some of the worst traffic in the country and a public transportation system that actively kills people on a regular basis. Here’s hoping that your office will allow you to telework.
Remember that 1.5 hour commute I mentioned in #2? I’ve known people with worse. Also, you should check out the tweets from @unsuckdcmetro.
4. The Feds
When most people think of the federal presence in Washington, they immediately conjure up an image of the President and the douchy, self-serving, out of touch, cutthroat pack of animals that comprises our great nation’s Congress. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, folks.
D.C. is also home to many other federal personnel:
The Staffers- See above description of Congress and then imagine them at 21 and actually working.
The Military- The only true Republicans in Washington.
The Peons- A full 14% of D.C.’s workforce. It is generally accepted that these people are paid more than their civilian counterparts and do less. However, they are still to be pitied for having to deal with the futility of their work, miles of red tape, OPM, and the notoriously awful sadists in HR.
The Elites- A small group of brilliant people who have incredibly important, stressful jobs, and work ridiculous hours. They generally stay in D.C. for a year or two and then leave to work for high paying NGOs. (An upper crust section of the transient population described below).
The Lobbyists and Lawyers- The puppet masters. Not feds but worth an honorable mention. You can’t have a post about D.C. without these two.
5. The Transients
In most of the U.S., we think of transients as wanderers. People who work odd jobs for a little while in one town and then make enough money to move to the next. In D.C. the term transient is slightly different.
In the District, (mostly) young workers come to town bust ass for a few years working and partying and then move on to a better city in which they settle for good. Though these people are often smart, hardworking public servants, they are not at all invested in D.C. as a community. They come to town, find a group house, work, party, date, and leave.
You remember that awesome girl? What was her name? Kayla! Yeah, she peaced out six months ago.
6. The Gentrifiers
D.C. is chock full of white people who are one glass of wine away from telling you everything that you never wanted to know about their awesome job, their adorable Frenchie (who probably has its own Twitter account), their amazing trip to Bali, and how they know that the Lululemon trend is out but they just have to have another pair of their favorite spandex shorts.
Snobbery isn’t just for Georgetown and Chevy Chase anymore, ya’ll. It’s busted past Dupont, Bethesda, and Cleveland Park to Logan Circle, the neighborhood now known as NoMA, and 14th Street. Rhode Island Ave, Brookland, Petworth (I know, right?!?!), and H St. are well on their way along with many other neighborhoods.
Not sure how to spot a Gentrifier? You clearly got up too early for brunch. Just start a conversation with someone who looks like they just got a hair cut that very same day. You’ll be able to tell if the first question that they ask you is, “what do you do?” (Meaning, “what do you do for a living?”)
Every now and then you’ll even come by the elusive, Super-Snob: they’ll hear your answer, think about whether or not you’re in a position to get them into a better position, turn up their nose, and then find a reason to walk away.
Author’s note: To all my friends who are still in Washington…I promise this is not about you. Really. And, yes. I know that this label could easily be applied to me. Here is some photographic evidence:
7. The Tourists
Sigh. I already dealt with this once.
Let’s just say that the weather is not the only obnoxious thing about D.C. in the summer. And, that adults look stupid on segues. And, that you should really stand to the right and walk on the left.
And! Please read this article about Metro etiquette.
8. The Team from Washington
I. Just. Can’t. Even.
9. Taxation Without Representation and a Bunch of Other Bullshit
Considering a move to D.C.? You should read this.
You’ll think it’s not a big deal until you find out that your city taxes go to the federal government first, are partially pocketed, and then allocated back to the city. And, that the elected city officials can decide to spend tax dollars on something, like needle replacement programs or gun control policies, only to be told no by Congress. Oh, and don’t forget that first time that you go to the polls and realize that the Congressman from Ohio or Kentucky (or wherever the fuck else) can just overturn your popular vote.
10. Adjacent Counties in Maryland & Virginia
The most annoying parts of D.C. are the alternatives. Debating which is worse is almost as horrible as taking the Red or Orange lines. To go into a lot of detail would require a whole other post so you’ll just need to trust me on this one or read this hilarious battle on Yelp!