Friday, 13 January 2012

Things I understand about the West Wing now: Airports, Dirksen and Valedictorians

I've been meaning for ages to write a blogpost for each West Wing episode, especially for people who have as much knowledge of America and its politics as I had before I became obsessed with both. Problem is, like my other projects - the Donna Moss diary, the list of exterior locations to check out when I am next in DC - it tends to fall by the wayside as I get into the storyline, the writing, and the close-ups of Josh Lyman.

Still, though, I'm going to give it a go with tonight's episode, "Guns not Butter". I love this one, because Donna is my favourite, and she is brilliant here, when she tries - and almost succeeds - to find a Senator to whom the President urgently wants to speak.

In doing so, she walks straight into the baggage claims area of National (Washington National Airport, known by some people as Ronald Reagan Airport, though never by anyone on the West Wing, firstly because Reagan didn't exist in their world and secondly, I would guess, because Democrats only refer to it as "National"). Walk straight into baggage claim! With no passport! No flight to catch! Everywhere I've ever been you go through baggage claim before customs, and only then do you get to come out and meet your enthusiastic placard-holding greeters.

But not on American internal flights. I was very confused by this when I flew into LAX from Dulles. (Sorry, that's me showing off with my "I'm so knowledgeable about America" insider speak. LAX is Los Angeles' main airport and Dulles is one of Washington's.) Baggage claim is a bit of a free for all. Anyone can walk in. Which is one of the many things I found disorientating over there.

At one point, she also tries to call "Dirksen". This is a reference to one of the three buildings where Senators have their offices - Russell and Hart being the other one. And as for Will being an Eaton valedictorian, that means he gave the speech at high school graduation and was probably the highest ranked student in his year. And it's nothing to do with Eton College - it wouldn't have surprised me if Will had been educated there, but I'm glad Aaron Sorkin did not make the mistake of placing an American tradition in a venerable British education.

All clear now? Good.

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