Shared Stories: Capitol Capers

Helen Hampton shares a fond memory of an adventure with her late sister Audrey when they “crashed” the Congressional Dining Room on a visit to Washington, D.C.  Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center.  Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns

By Helen Hampton

Several years ago, my sister Audrey and I drove from Virginia, where she lives, to Washington, D.C.  I had never been there before, and of course I did not know my way around.  We wanted to go to the Capitol and take the tour.

After going around and around looking for a place to park, I saw a man move one of the “saw horses” that had been put there so no one could park.  He parked his car and then put the saw horse back.

I told Audrey that if he did it, so could I. She said that they would tow the car away if we did that. There was no place else to park, so I pulled a saw horse aside and parked the car, then put the saw horse back. Audrey was having a fit by then, but we proceeded to the Capitol anyway.

We toured the hallowed halls and had a wonderful time. About an hour later, we smelled the most wonderful aroma coming down the halls. 

I said, “Let’s stop and get something to eat.” We walked into this beautiful, elegant dining room.  The lady at the reception desk asked if she could help us.

I said that we would like to eat lunch there. She said that she was sorry, but this dining room was just for members of Congress.

I peeked past her and said, “Oh, I’m so disappointed. We so wanted to eat in this lovely place.”
I think she felt sorry for us, so she said, “I’ll tell you what. Over there towards the back you’ll see a sign that says ‘Press Only.” You may sit there.” I thanked her profusely, and we proceeded back to the Press section. We found a nice table and sat down feeling very important.

Just as we started to look at the menu, two well-dressed gentlemen came over, sat at our table, and asked us which newspaper we were from. We reluctantly admitted that we weren’t from the media after all – we were just visitors to Washington, D.C. who had to park illegally just to get into the Capital.

They asked us who our congressmen were and several other questions.  Needless to say, Audrey was having even more of a fit by then.

She didn’t know who her congressman was, but I did know the congressman from my area because my daughter went to school with his daughter in Long Beach.  After a very thorough “grilling,” we were finally allowed to order our lunch.

When we left to go back to our car, Audrey said, “If that car has been towed, I’ll kill you!”  But when we arrived at the parking spot, we saw the most beautiful sight – the car was still there!  That made our trip a complete success.