Hi! My name is Mary El and I'll be your Pentagon tour guide today.
- Construction on the Pentagon began on September 11, 1941 -- 60 years to the day that it was attacked by terrorists. Creepy, right?
- If you chopped off the Empire State Building at its base (let's not) and laid it across the top of the Pentagon, it would not reach from end to end.
- Roughly 23,000 people work in the Pentagon (make that 22,999 come next Monday), so it's set up like a little town. It has its own post office, dry cleaner, barbershop, nail salon, shoe repair (grumpy but does a great job), gym (try not to get distracted by all the hot, muscly men), clinic, CVS, florist, Best Buy, Adidas store and even a DMV (never a line), not to mention lots of dining options (including three Subways and two Starbucks).
- The Pentagon was designed so you could get between any two points in seven minutes or less. The massive building -- supposedly the largest low-rise office building in the world -- has five floors above ground and two below, and it's around 17.5 miles if you walked every hallway.
- You may hear of the "mythical" purple water fountain. It totally exists! Dazzle your coworkers by taking them there. It's in the 8th corridor, mezzanine level. When you walk out of the glass doors, you'll notice a wall painted purple with a water fountain mounted on it -- that's where the purple water fountain used to stand. Turn to the left and wind around the hallway to the right, and you'll come upon it.
- The 9th corridor, 2nd floor houses the Pentagon correspondents from major news agencies. Their offices are narrow and long, and when it's time for them to go on camera they simply push back from their desk and turn on the camera mounted above their computer. The wall behind them is painted, so what you see on TV is actually what is in their office. I especially love running into CNN's Barbara Starr (power woman) and Chris Lawrence (soooo cute).
- There is a bar in the Pentagon. Known by a couple of names, the "Bomber Bar" or "Fighter Mafia" is exclusively open to Air Force pilots, honored guests and hot girls (read: if you are a female and at least try, you are hot). It's somewhere on the mezzanine level around the 7th corridor, and it's open on Fridays after 5 p.m. (aka "1700"). Look for the palm tree, knock on the door across from it, and tell them Fish sent you. (I'm not promising you that will work, but it's worth a shot.) If it's your first time you will be required to take a shot of Jeremiah Weed, the preferred drink of fighter pilots. You'll probably get a migraine afterwards, but it's a small price to pay to say you've been there.
- If you're giving a tour to someone, make sure to visit the Women's Exhibit on the 1st floor between corridors 6 and 7 on the E Ring. It showcases women's uniforms from the Revolutionary War to today, and some of them are really cute. I especially like the wool cape from the 1950s.
- There is one custodian who will freak you out, but he's harmless. He is Asian and will mumble scary sounding words to you if you engage with him. After your first encounter, you'll know who I'm talking about. You'll want to say "Good morning!" if you're a decent person, but trust me, just avoid any interaction and move on. The rest of the custodians are awesome, amazing, lovely people. Get to know them all by name.
- Before you check out a guy, check out his left hand. The tour guides are especially cute, but under those white gloves are a slew of wedding rings.
- If you have to cry (by all means DO NOT do it in front of anybody, especially someone superior to you), there's a room in a hallway in the 4th corridor, 1st floor, D Ring near the Pentagon chapel called the "Navy Reflection Room." It's a memorial to those who died on 9/11, and it's a perfect cover-up for you. People rarely go in there, and if someone does and sees you sitting there quietly crying, they'll leave you alone. I know that sounds horrible, but it can be a lifesaver.
- Stock up on pens at conventions. The pens provided for your use, known by the brand "Skillcraft," are made by blind people. Thank you, U.S. Government, for employing blind people...but these pens are terrible. Every time I use one I think of this scene from "30 Rock":
- When someone leaves your office for another job, take whatever good stuff you can find from their desk. Due to budgetary constraints, those pink Post-Its you want could be wait listed for months. If you work for the Army, blue folders are a hot commodity. Stash in a hiding place and reuse until they are literally falling apart.
- Get outside as often as possible. Most offices lack windows, and -- especially if you're a woman -- your body will miss the Vitamin D.
- When in doubt, address anyone and everyone as "Sir" or "Ma'am." It made me feel like a kid at first, but it's a pretty great trick when you forget someone's name.
- 8:30 a.m. (0830) is considered late. Mass Pentagon exodus begins at 3 p.m. (1500).
- Make friends with the police officers -- you might need a favor (or protection from a crazy person) one day.
- If you're a peon, you are allowed to park on the premises (i.e. the parking lots waaaaaaaaay on the outskirts) five times a month. Metro is your best option. If you need to park, go to the parking office next to the Hall of Heroes and Pentagon Federal Credit Union (or "PenFedCredU," as I like to call it) and have your tag number handy. Get your pass the day before if possible. You will get booted if you don't. And I will never forget my correct tag number again.
- The hamburgers in the center courtyard aren't half bad, and they have the best french fries in the building.
- Facebook is a privilege. It will slow down your computer and crash your Internet Explorer, but be happy you have access to it. (Call your help desk and have them set you up with Firefox, it tends to handle outside websites better.)
- Flirting with the tour guides is only fun as long as they don't ask you out. When they (he) do (did), of course you'll say yes because pickins are slim and they're (he's) hot, but later you may find out they (he) have (has) a girlfriend (let's hope she's not his wife) and you'll feel like a piece of poo. Besides that, a smile and hair flip here and there never hurt anyone (except that one time one of them got distracted and ran into a pole -- sorry!!!)
- When you are in a heated conversation with a man, try your best to maintain the level of your voice. The higher pitched your voice gets, the less he will hear. Lord help you if you end up in one of these conversations with a woman.
- Keep a black blazer at your desk. You never know when you'll get called into a meeting and need to spruce yourself up real quick.
- High heels, good hair and a bright smile go a long way.
- If you keep chocolate covered espresso beans on your desk, your coworkers will forgive just about any offense.
- Make sure you can walk comfortably -- or at least be able to fake it -- in your shoes. A 7-minute walk is a long way in shoes that hurt your feet.
- You will oft see girls in flip flops in the summertime and Uggs in the wintertime. You will be tempted to follow suit. Try to resist -- the servicemembers in uniform think you look ridiculous. (If you must wear either of these, change immediately when you get to your desk.)
- Pay attention to the traffic laws when you do drive in. The cops will pounce on you if you even think about disobeying signs.
- Don't burn bridges with anyone unless he or she is a criminally despicable person. It's all about who you know, and sometimes who your contacts know. Build up a tough skin fast, and try not to take things personally. It's just business.
- Playing dirty only works if you're a non-criminally despicable person. These people will be on top often, and often you will feel incompetent standing next to them. Remember that you are not incompetent because -- guess what? -- you work in the Pentagon. Don't get caught up in the game. Instead, smile and say hello to these people every chance you get, and focus on being awesome at your job.
...or hangin' out with a Medal of Honor recipient...
...or briefing the top ranking general in the Army.
You may get invited to the White House, eat cupcakes shot out of an Abrams tank or gain hoards of new followers on your blog when you write about a non-committal humanitarian who looks really cute in his uniform.
Above all (no, that is not a jab at the epic Air Force #fail of 2008), your time spent at the Pentagon will be one of the greatest honors of your life. Even on your worst day, remember that your work is contributing to our nation's defense and the mightiest military on earth.