Haughty and nice

Though most interns are young, work for free and have grand ambitions to learn the ins and outs of Congress, they tend to be the most bothersome to service-sector employees on and around Capitol Hill.

They don’t tip well, ask annoying questions and tend to be the rudest people in the nation’s capital, many employees say.

Usually, most blue-collar employees on Capitol Hill say they enjoy their jobs and feel that lawmakers and staffers treat them with respect. However, they note, some lawmakers have a haughty attitude.

Tony, a bartender at the Capitol Lounge who did not want his last name printed here, said members and staffers generally are the same as people elsewhere in the country.

“Customers are just customers,” Tony said. “Sometimes the air of self-importance is bigger [here].”

A cashier in the Longworth House Office Building cafeteria called her working conditions fairly good. “It’s a pretty decent place to work,” she said, speaking anonymously for fear of getting into trouble if she offered her name.

The employee, who has worked on the Hill for more than 20 years, said she has “plenty” of favorite lawmakers. “They treat us just like their staff,” she remarked.

The cashier said interns were the worst-behaved in the cafeteria. “They don’t really know” how to act, she said.

Overall, she said, there might be two or three instances a week of rude behavior. “It’s not like on a day-to-day basis.”

Said Tony the bartender, “The worst is interns during the summer. They are just learning how to drink. Their parents told them they can drink, but they can’t tip. Since they don’t make anything, we don’t make anything.”

Tony admitted his skin is thick.

“Someone has to be seriously rude to offend me, or for me to even notice. Congressmen are the same as everybody else,” the veteran bartender said. He recalled a time when a lawmaker was offended that he got carded to enter the bar.

“The member couldn’t believe that he was ID’d, because he had his little pin on,” said Tony, who was annoyed, “especially since they’re responsible for the drinking-age laws.”

A food-service employee working in the Longworth cafeteria said that 90 percent of people are nice and that lawmakers tend to be gracious.

“Members are not rude at all. I’ve never met a rude member,” the employee, who has been working on the Hill for 17 years, said. Specifically, she said, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) is very friendly: “That’s my girl.”

Interns are typically the rudest, not regular staff, the employee concurred.

She said her pet peeve is when interns point at food items and rudely inquire about them, though she noted that she has an old-fashioned standard for politeness that some young people do not abide by.

The employee noted that some areas of the Capitol are simply more welcoming than others.

“Longworth is pretty much the most friendly [place] on the Hill,” she said, adding that working in the Capitol building itself was the least pleasant.

The employee said that the work atmosphere has not changed since Democrats took over in January: “It don’t ever change for us. It’s the same amount of work.”

Most people spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal. Many did not want to name members who are known for being rude to their staff or Capitol employees.

One Capitol employee, who did not want to be identified by name or profession, believes that Caucasian lawmakers tend to be more affable than their black counterparts.

“It’s the Caucasian [members] that are more nice than my own,” said the employee, who is black. While she said the majority of members are nice, she called some “uppity,” “bourgeois” and hurtful to their staff. She has heard certain lawmakers call their staffers “idiots.”

There are some members, however, with whom she is close. Some have even invited her to use the gym.
Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) is her favorite. He’s “very, very nice,” she said. “He always stops and speaks to you,” even when he’s with a group.

She said she misses Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), who was “outstanding.”

An Architect of the Capitol (AoC) custodial employee said 90 percent of staff and members are nice. But, he said, “You meet some really rude ones.” He refused to say to whom he was referring.  

An electrician, an air-conditioning equipment mechanic or a painter on Capitol Hill makes between $22,000 and $26,000 a year. An elevator operator’s salary is about $12,000 to $15,000, while a laborer makes between $14,000 and $17,000 a year, according to AoC employment vacancies posted online.

A waiter and bartender at Pour House, who goes by the name Boone, said both interns and lawmakers tip badly.
“Interns are lousy tippers,” Boone said. “Congressmen are lousy tippers. They want to be waited on hand-and-foot. I’ve seen congressmen do whatever they want, take up whatever they want and demand whatever they want,” Boone said. “I have seen some pretty selfish and rude ones.”

Boone recounted the tale of one congressman who had a few too many drinks and began putting his business card in women’s back pockets. Some women were getting annoyed, but not enough to get the lawmaker kicked out.

A long-time Senate subway operator, who also does maintenance on the cars, has no complaints about senators or their staff.  He says that most people are “real nice,” noting that no one has ever been rude to him.

Another Capitol employee said there are some rude people on the Hill, but “a majority of people are nice. My experience is a good one.”

He said he regularly deals with staff members, many of whom are very friendly. Clyburn and Reps. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) are exceptionally nice, he said.

Two laborers, who said they are responsible for fixing just about anything broken, both said, “Everybody’s nice.” When an aide waved and called to them by name, the workers added, “See?”

Paul Meagher, general manager of Hawk’N’Dove, called the Capitol Hill clientele “bright.”

Patrons from “New York or [parts of] the East Coast north of here are better tippers,” Meagher said. “It’s more dependent on where they’re from.”

Interns and younger staff members are inexperienced in ordering. If time is money, he said, the lack of organization and bar experience can be a drain.

“They’re coming from college, where they have a dining hall,” Meagher said. Most people are “nice” and “energized,” he said, adding that it’s “pretty rare” for people to be rude, though sometimes they can be “a little socially clumsy.”

Most of the time people come to the bar straight from work, and it takes them awhile to wind down.

“They come in from work with their game face on,” Meagher said. “If we make them comfortable, they’re happy.”