Friday, April 7, 2006

Armchair Traveler

I recently learned that the FBI has indefinitely suspended its public tours "until further notice." Extensive renovations... they said.

So I'll give you the tour: pure Armchair Traveler style.

On a list of the 10 Cheesiest Tours available in these United States of ‘Mairca, I have reached permanence on Graceland, the Stone Mountain train tour, and the FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

My traveling companion thought it would be cool to get her brothers FBI caps (never analyzing whether it was likely that the FBI sold paraphernalia to the public), and that there must be a gift shop at the end of that tour. Bear in mind that there had indeed been such a shop everywhere we’d been in DC, including the Holocaust Museum, so this was not a wild idea.

We sat in line for a group tour for half an hour, then 2 feet inside the door, we knew we were in for a smirkfest. If there is a shortage of brown vinyl furniture, hotel curtains and walnut veneer paneling in your area, it may well be the fault of the FBI.

With serious expressions, our tour guides (all female, people-of-color, or disabled, including combinations of each – how diversified and enlightened is our Bureau!) marched us around, telling us when and where we could use the bathroom, turn corners, touch things, even lean toward or point at display cases. I wondered (aloud) if we had mistakenly waited in the new recruits line.

Our tour guide was Jack – deadly serious in his presentation, which he was memorized well, but when situations required him to stray from it, he got a little flustered. Favorite tour phrase: “To the best of [one’s] abilities.” Also featured – use of the emphatic mood, most successfully employed by flight attendants, and raised to an art form by Graceland Guides. “I would like to point out that we do employ these weapons in a variety of situations, which are monitored by our trainers.”

The FBI presentation is almost performance art in its reverent treatment of such banal artifacts as simulated heroin, and fur coats purchased with drug money . The closing firearms demonstration is also sadly dull, until the demonstrating agent pulls out all the stops by firing his weapon...... UNDER LOW LIGHTING!

Extensive renovations, indeed.

PS: no gift shop.

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