Nice takes leading role on D.C. trip

Unlike the fictional Southern belle Blanche DuBois, I have only rarely relied on the kindness of strangers, especially when it comes to travel plans.

For help, I count on guidebooks and online travel sites such as Trip Advisor.

Before a recent trip my husband, Joe, and I took to Washington, D.C., I found You Tube videos by Rob Pitingolo, who runs Trip Hacks DC Tours. I eventually adjusted to Pitingolo’s quirky speech pattern, which GOES something like THIS, paired with robotic hand gestures ADDING extra EMPHASIS.

But Pitingolo knows his stuff, especially when it comes to mass transit, including whether to buy the three-day SmarTrip pass (usually “nope”).

Despite all that research, when it came time to catch a bus to Georgetown, the correct stop proved elusive. We popped into a coffee shop and asked the guy behind the counter if we were close to our goal.

“Yep!” was the cheery response from kind stranger No. 1. He headed out the door with us in his wake. After pointing out our stop, a mere block away, he wished us well and headed back to his day job.

Waiting for us at the bus stop — at least it seemed that way in hindsight — was a young, professionally dressed woman who fielded our next question: Would the bus take cash or would we need to use our SmarTrip cards?

Cash is no problem, said kind stranger No. 2, adding that sometimes the cash machine is broken but when that happens, the driver will just wave you on.

Feeling a bit doubtful, we boarded the bus and heard the driver follow the promised script: “The machine is broken. Just head back to a seat.”

On our last day, we met up with the kindest stranger of all. He was a bus driver seriously invested in making sure we made it to our destination, the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress.

En route, the driver noticed Joe was studying a D.C. map and insisted that he take one of the “better” maps in a nearby holder.

When it was time to exit the bus, we were surprised to see the driver exiting with us and offering additional pointers — “cross here, head up the hill and then bear right” — before casually returning to his patient passengers.

Our no-drama adventure in a remarkable city was a tale of buses and the kindness of strangers. It was just missing a streetcar named Desire.

— Denise Joyce of Hinsdale is a former contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].