Two weeks later, I’m back home in Washington, DC. It’s about 9 a.m., and I get on the elevator in my building. There are three other people there, and I say, “Good morning!” as I walk on. They just stare at me, as though I had spoken in Urdu, or was initiating the opening phase of some bizarre and dangerous ritual. Normally, I just give up; nonresponse is pretty common in the land of Edward Hopper, where the citizens are so stressed out that they wall off the world as a reflex. But this morning, still carrying the glow of “Venus” inside me, I don’t want to throw in the towel, I don’t want to accept this profoundly antisocial value system. “What?” I exclaim; “nobody says ‘Good morning’?” Embarrassed, they fall over themselves now to reply to my greeting. For a brief moment, I shocked them into base-level civility. But as I and they well know, it’s not going to last.
There is no doubt about it: I am home!