Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pity the Poor Hotel Clerk

The Arlington Hotel
Zamenhof dormis tie.
Sure, an Esperanto Congress is great fun for the participants who get to spend all day talking in the Internacia Lingvo, but did anyone ever consider the plight of the poor clerks at the hotel hosting the congress?

The Washington Herald, as part of their extensive coverage of the 1910 Universala Kongreso, ran a series of brief items under the heading "Esperantograms" on August 19, 1910. Among them was one that looked at the situation at the Arlington Hotel.

I want make a brief digression here on the actual location. After all these references to the Arlington Hotel, I found myself wondering if it were still around. Can an ardent Esperantist stay in the room where Zamenhof slept? (Would there be a plaque reading "Zamenhof dormis ĉi tie"?) No, you can't.

The Arlington Hotel was located, according to a blog post by John DeFarrari, just a block away from the White House, and it its day was (as he puts it), "the swankiest hotel in Washington." From his descriptions, the staff seems professional and hard to ruffle, yet the Herald reported the following:
The hotel clerks at the Arlington are giving away under the strain of the constant questioning in Esperanto. So accustomed are they to the Esperanto query, that when a bona fide American with a Connecticut twang or a North Carolinian slurring of his words asks an ordinary question, they drift off unconsciously into the Esperanto—

"Kio? Kio?"
 According to Mr. DeFarrari, the hotel closed in 1912 (just a couple years after the UK) with the intention of demolishing it and building something even grander on the site. They got demolition done, but then the construction ran into problems. Eventually, the government took the site and put the Department of Veteran Affairs there.

My guess is that you don't want to walk into Veteran Affairs and greet the person at the desk with a hearty "saluton!"
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