I order the Caucus and look around at other diners. I am the only person in the place wearing blue jeans. I seem to be the only person not "taking a meeting" over lunch.
I am an out-of-towner, a nobody, here to rest after a long walk, and to eat something, no matter the name. I'm an unremarkable tourist.
Conventional wisdom says people who work inside the Beltway don't think like the rest of us. It strikes me that they may not think at all, so many are busy talking - on smartphones, in huddled groups of gray suits around posh tables, in unseen meeting rooms.
I suspect that a lot of times they are talking about whether to go out for Indian or Vietnamese, not how to solve the country's problems. Either way, they sure know how to make their talking look important, almost urgent.
Visitors have business, too, but the locals pay us no mind. We tourists in sandals scurry from one monument to the next, reading lofty phrases and feeling pretty good about American things. That's why we come, after all, to renew our faith that democracy works.
The new Martin Luther King monument, for instance, makes us momentarily think that maybe justice finally is flowing like water in a society recently struck colorblind - at least colorblind enough to elect a black president and erect this stone. The King visage emerging from the white rock is blindingly beautiful and dramatic.
But we're eating the hotdogs, not seeing the sausage being made.
Outside the Department of Justice, on this fine spring day with a wind rustling through newly minted leaves, protesters wearing hooded shirts - "hoodies," the kids call them - march up and down, up and down. They insist that justice has not flowed in the case of one dead black teenager, Trayvon Martin, whose cherubic face is on handmade signs everywhere.
I don't know what happened in the sad Trayvon Martin case. But anyone who has worked in a newsroom with a police scanner recognizes the dynamics. A "suspicious person" description crackling over a scanner most often is a person of color out of context, walking through a white neighborhood.
The president has called for soul-searching. The protesters call for justice. The media makes the most of a case that somehow, amongst a thousand others involving man's inhumanity to man, has captured public attention.
Later I will watch as a teenager about the age of Trayvon Martin rushes by the Martin Luther King quotes. He walks with purpose and wears a gray hoodie. On his back are the words "Justice for Trayvon."
What a messy process democracy is. A black president may have only galvanized the racists still among us. Bullets in Florida and Oklahoma echo through this nation's psyche and make a mockery of words and monuments.
Syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson lives near Iuka. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852.