d u l l e s

[ 17:46 thursday 11 september – washington dulles international airport, virginia ]

i’m sitting with a cup of tea at the end of concourse b, a vast white featureless corridor stretching as far as the eye can see. it’s actually been extended since i was last here and it now takes about twenty minutes to walk from one end to the other. i fear washington dc is a city i will never learn to love. it’s unrelentingly conservative, populated by blandly uniformed people and apparently lacks any iota of experimental culture. people hear wear clothes to go out in the evening that folks elsewhere would choose for the office. that can’t be good, can it?

monday afternoon’s presentation at the network roundtable went rather well. i was launching trampoline’s new technology for analysing and visualising social networks so it was a well-informed crowd. from time to time i sense a buzz in the room when i’m talking and this was such an occasion. the subsequent days were spent meeting various customers. this included my first visits to a couple of intelligence agencies. i was expecting terrifying security procedures but in fact it wasn’t much different from a typical international airport. the most bizarre experience was at the one and only agency that permitted me to bring in my laptop (though not connect it to the internet). here a man was specifically employed to stick a sort of rivet into my laptop’s microphone socket when i arrived and remove it again on my departure.

after an afternoon meeting at fort meade i made an impulse decision to drive out to the maryland coast rather than face the rush-hour traffic battling to get into washington. i picked a random point on my gps and half an hour found myself at the edge of a tranquil creek with neatly- tended lawns descending to the water and chesapeake bay beyond. i sat on the bank and watched the sun set over a power station then drove back into town.

yesterday evening i was walking down seventeenth street when a fellow in a kilt and flat cap strode past in the opposite direction and bid me good evening. i returned the greeting and we both continued on our way. but everything about this encounter was so wildly improbably that after a short while i stopped, stood pondering a moment then turned and ran back the way i’d come. he was walking at a good lick so it took me a few minutes to catch up. when i reached him i told him he was the first person to greet me on the street in the last three days in washington. we walked and talked together for the next thirty or forty minutes. he was kelly, born of irish parents who’d moved to nevada to run a petrol station. he’d come to washington a year earlier when he was kicked out of home.

chance encounters like this do more than anything else to remind me how wonderful the world is.

: c :

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