It's been burned to the ground by the British during the War of 1812 and targeted by unrelenting alien attacks ever since, but next Tuesday, our nation's capital will face its greatest test yet: the release of Dan Brown's massively anticipated, presumably bad Da Vinci Code follow-up The Lost Symbol, which will feature made-up Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon racing to get to the bottom of some ancient, ridiculous secret conspiracy in Washington, D.C. (we guess, since no plot points have leaked yet). The Washington Post reports today that preparations are currently under way for the inevitable influx of Brown-reading, conspiracy-theorizing tourists.
Most worried are the city's docents, who can expect to begin fielding inane questions as early as next Wednesday, and the Freemasons, rumored to play a role in the book:
"I'm expecting [tourism] to skyrocket," says Heather Calloway, director of special programs for the Masonic House of the Temple on 16th Street NW, which receives about 10,000 visitors a year. She will double the staff of part-time tour guides, if necessary, to handle the crush. "We might have to spend the next 25 years responding to Dan Brown's fiction," says Mark Tabbert, director of collections at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria. "That's what I dread."
Lest you think their concerns are unfounded, consider the terrifying cases of London's Temple Church, where tourists ask every day about the statues of knights with orbs that Langdon finds there in Code ("Knights didn't have orbs. Only kings had orbs," says the church master). Or the poor Roman Colosseum tour guide who had to add a separate tour just for people who kept asking about Angels & Demons. Or the Rosslyn Chapel Trust, the Scottish church where Langdon believed the Holy Grail was located (it's not really):
"Before the book came out, we had about 40,000 visitors a year," [director Colin] Glynne-Percy says. "It went to 80,000. Then to 120,000. Then to 175,000. We had very small facilities. We had only two restrooms. We could survive on that for 40,000 but ... "
So unless you want to deal with hordes of people barking questions about Freemasonry and shitting all over the place, it might be best to avoid Washington for the next 200 years or so.