Are you new? Your questions answered here

For at least the fall semester, freshmen stand out. To help make your adjustment to life in D.C. a little smoother, The Hatchet compiled a list of questions only freshmen ask. Learn the answers now, so when you return to campus in the fall, you don’t give yourself away too easily.

“Why are people mad when I stand on the left side of the escalator?”

You won’t find any signs proclaiming it, but there is an unofficial rule among D.C.’s commuters. Escalator users remember: if you must stand still on an escalator, do it on the right side. While the rule is most commonly enforced by rush-hour Metro travelers and savvy mall shoppers, it’s good to make it a habit.

The left side should be kept clear, as it is reserved for those in a hurry to get somewhere, or for those who simply enjoy a more active lifestyle.

“Why aren’t there any street signs for ‘Eye’ Street, and where is J Street?”

Just when you think you’ve mastered D.C.’s grid system of number and letter street naming, you may start to wonder how to get to Eye Street and question why some lettered streets are missing altogether.

On many addresses, including some on campus, the street named ‘I’ is often referred to as ‘Eye’ Street. This is an ode to the days of handwritten communication when the letter ‘I’ could often be confused with a lowercase ‘l,’ the number ‘1’ or the letter ‘j.’

Speaking of ‘j,’ there is no J Street on the map of D.C. for the same reason, although you will find it in the Marvin Center when you’re looking for a bite to eat.

“Whose motorcade is driving by?”

Given GW’s proximity to many essential government buildings, it is no surprise that motorcades carrying a variety of politicians and diplomats grace the streets around campus.

So was that motorcade cruising by your bedroom window the president’s? Here are some things to look out for: a string of 20 to 40 vehicles; a long tail of police motorcycles clearing traffic; several SUVs filled with security and intelligence forces; two identical, tinted-window sedans donning a U.S. flag; followed by white press vans and an ambulance.

Is the procession slightly less impressive?

You could be seeing the vice president, secretary of state or countless other high-ranking officials.

“Should I just take a cab instead of walking or hopping on the Metro?”

If you are standing near a street corner looking lost, the taxi drivers honking at you assume you’re looking for a ride.

However, taking a taxi to that swanky Dupont Circle restaurant you’ve been dying to try is probably unnecessary.

That’s not to say that you should never take a taxi. Many students prefer to cab to the center of Adams Morgan, for example, as it’s not easily accessible otherwise. You may also prefer the safety of taxis if you are headed a long way home after the Metro closes.

You’ll waste a lot of money on cabs if you treat them as your personal shuttles. Start working off the “freshman 15” early and walk to places that are within 15 blocks of campus.

“Is a SmarTrip card worth it?”

Absolutely! For rail travel, you save 25 cents every time you use a SmarTrip versus a paper fare card. Even if you only ride the Metro twice weekly during the school year, with the current rates and benefits, you would save upwards of $80 over the course of four years – minus the $5 cost of the card itself. Take into consideration that most students ride the Metro regularly, so the savings add up.

You can load up to $300 on each SmarTrip, and if you register your card, you are eligible to receive reimbursement for the loaded funds if the card is lost or stolen. You can buy one at CVS locations around campus, at the GW Bookstore and at some Metrorail stations.

“What’s the deal with the food trucks around campus?”

If you are new to the D.C. area, you might be curious as to why its residents have succumbed to the food truck craze – what’s the big deal?

Trucks offering fro-yo, pizza, lobster rolls and even mac and cheese provide quick meals on wheels (depending on how long the lines are). Many have loyal followings of office workers and students alike.

If you want to see what all the hubbub is about, keep a lookout for food trucks. To become a food truck connoisseur, follow your favorites on Twitter to stalk their locations.

“Why does the bookstore sell GW Football Team shirts and hippo merchandise?”

Browsing the merchandise aisles of the GW Bookstore, some items might make you wonder if the managers in charge of stocking are confused about the University’s culture.

That T-shirt sporting the term “Still Undefeated” on the back is less of a spirit-boosting measure and more of a joke. If you’re wondering why you’ve never seen GW’s football team playing in a match or seeded in any rankings, it’s because since 1966, we haven’t had one. Technically though, GW holds one of the best Sun Bowl records due to its one-and-only bowl appearance victory, so grab a shirt and cheer on.

“Is the city’s tap water safe to drink?”

In a nutshell, yes. The District purchases its water from a federally-owned aqueduct which collects, filters and cleans Potomac River water collected from two sites northwest of the city. The water quality surpasses federal standards for safe drinking water, and a thorough monthly sampling of water levels ensures continued quality.

But don’t let that clean drinking water fool you when it comes to the overall cleanliness of the Potomac. Swimming in the river is forbidden by D.C. law due to an unsanitary level of bacteria.

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